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10 DEs the Colts should target in free agency

The Indianapolis Colts have some promise in their young defensive ends but adding an impact player at the position or competition that can provide depth should always be considered.

All three of the starting edge rushers will return in 2024 with Kwity Paye, Samson Ebukam and Dayo Odeyingbo all under contract for the upcoming season. Adding to the position via free agency still would be a wise idea.

We should note that we understand a handful of these players won’t even hit the market, but we’re working under the hypothetical scenario that they hit they become available, regardless of how slim the chances are.

If Chris Ballard decides to add to the position group via free agency, here are 10 players that the front office should target.

Josh Allen

(AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)
(AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

Previous Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

The odds of the Jaguars letting Josh Allen test the market seem slim but if that were to play out, then Chris Ballard can try to lure an impact player from the division rival. Allen is coming off the best season of his five-year career where he had a career-high in sacks (17.5), QB hits (33), and TFLs (17). If there is a chance to sign Allen it would be interesting to see if Ballard puts money into him and passes on giving an extension to Kwity Paye or Dayo Odeyingbo.

Brian Burns

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: Carolina Panthers

Similarly to Josh Allen, is another young edge rusher who can be an impact player for the defense if he hits the market. Since 2021, he hasn’t had a season where he’s finished below 50 tackles, 13 TFLs, 18 QB hits, and eight sacks. Burns has been on the cusp of having his breakout season and maybe a change of scenery can help make that happen. He would be in that tier of edge rushers where Chris Ballard would have to choose between investing money from the market or saving that cap space for the in-house talent.

Danielle Hunter

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: Minnesota Vikings

Danielle Hunter might not be as young as some of the edge rushers on this list but the eight-year pro is coming off the best season of his career. He set career highs in tackles (83), TFLs (23), sacks (16.5), and forced fumbles (four). Hunter will likely be seeking one more big payday so he will come at a cost if Chris Ballard elects to go after a proven veteran edge rusher to add to the trenches. 

Bryce Huff

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: New York Jets

Bryce Huff is an underrated edge rusher that could be available on the market. The fourth-year player is coming off a career year despite only playing 42% of the defensive snaps for the New York Jets. He had career highs in tackles (29), TFLs (10), sacks (10), and QB hits (21). It will be interesting to see if his play turns into a big payday or if a team like the Colts can get him on a friendly deal. 

Jonathan Greenard

(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Previous Team: Houston Texans

Another edge rusher who can be hitting the market that doesn’t have the name recognition on this list is Jonathan Greenard. He also is coming off his best season in his fourth year in the league. Greenard had career highs in tackles (52), TFLs (15), sacks (12.5), and QB hits (22). He’s set himself up for a nice payday join the players above if Chris Ballard wants to invest money on this part of the roster outside of the ones that are already on the team.

Chase Young

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: San Francisco 49ers

The former No. 2 overall pick hasn’t lived up to the billing he had when he entered the league but Chase Young can offer a team the potential to be an impact player. Because of injuries and effort concerns, he likely won’t be getting that payday a first-round pick seeks in their first time on the market so Chris Ballard could look to sign him to a prove-it deal. The addition of Young can add competition to the defensive front without the long-term commitment.

Denico Autry

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: Tennessee Titans

If Chris Ballard wanted to bring back a familiar veteran for his trenches then he could look to sign Denico Autry. The former Colt is coming off his best season in his 10th year in the NFL. Autry had a career-high in tackles (50) and sacks (11.5) while also grabbing 12 TFLs and 17 QB hits. The benefit of bringing back Autry is his versatility to play on the edge or inside.

Leonard Floyd

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: Buffalo Bills

Another veteran that Chris Ballard could look to add to the defense while creating some competition for his young edge rushers is Leonard Floyd. The eight-year pro has reached at least nine sacks in his last four seasons and in 2023, he tied his career-high with 10.5 sacks. Floyd can also add some veteran leadership for the defensive front.

Jadeveon Clowney

(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

Previous Team: Baltimore Ravens

A mercenary route that Chris Ballard could go is with Jadeveon Clowney. He put together one of the better seasons of his 10-year career with the Baltimore Ravens in 2023. He tallied 43 tackles, 9 TFLs, 19 QB hits, five pass defenses, and tied his career high with nine-and-a-half sacks. The concern with Clowney would be his effort and whether he would fit into the locker room culture. 

Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Previous Team: Dallas Cowboys

Dorance Armstrong Jr. is a player I like who can come as the backup to Samson Ebukam in the LEO role in Gus Bradley’s defense. He had a career-high in tackles (38) in 2023. He’s had at least seven-and-a-half sacks the past two seasons and at least 12 QB hits the past three years. Armstrong Jr. can be a solid addition to the rotation on the edge. 

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire