4 possible landing spots for Saints free agent DE Trey Hendrickson

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John Sigler
·4 min read
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Trey Hendrickson is on track to be one of the most-coveted free agents in the 2021 offseason — New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis certainly expects him to draw plenty of attention. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end broke out in a huge way for the Saints in 2020 with 13.5 sacks, tying Aaron Donald for the second-highest total in the league. And now he gets to cash in.

But will the Saints be able to match his price? The bidding for star pass rushers typically starts at a rate of roughly $1 million per sack created, and while that stat isn’t the end-all, be-all of evaluating players, it is one of the most significant plays in the game. Sacks are drive killers, between the loss of a down and the yards that set back the offense — Sportsradar found that, in 2018, offensive drives including a sack allowed ended with a score just 23.8% of the time.

So let’s assume that Hendrickson is on his way out, even if that isn’t a sure thing just yet. Maybe the Saints can work some magic and re-sign him, or his market isn’t as open as expected. Anyway: here are four teams that need pass-rush upgrades and have the funds to pull off a big signing in 2021.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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2021 cap space: $73.0 million (league-leading) 2020 sacks total: 18 (second-worst) Josh Allen (the other one) didn't make as big a splash in his second year with the Jaguars, notching just 2.5 sacks in 8 games after he earned a Pro Bowl nod as a rookie with 10.5 takedowns in 2019. Other highly-drafted Jacksonville pass rushers also fell off, like Taven Bryan and K'Lavon Chaisson (1.5 sacks combined). Hendrickson would immediately be their best presence off the edge. In other words: if the Jaguars want Hendrickson, they can offer him more money and more opportunities than almost any other team. And as an Orlando native who studied at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, he'd probably relish the opportunity to move closer to home. The question is whether they'll be interested in investing so heavily in a one-year breakout player like him as opposed to higher-profile free agents around the league.

New York Jets

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2021 cap space: $63.4 million (third-most) 2020 sacks total: 31 Moving from New Orleans' even fronts to Robert Saleh's odd-numbered looks would involve a learning curve, but nothing too difficult for Hendrickson. He'd still be a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher much like Nick Bosa (6-foot-4, 266 pounds) and Kerry Hyder (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) were for Saleh with the San Francisco 49ers. The Jets have an anchor inside in Quinnen Williams and several rotational edge rushers in John Franklin-Myers and Tarell Basham, but Hendrickson would be a good headliner for the trio working in next to Williams. He could make a passable pass rush into one of the league's better units.

New England Patriots

2021 cap space: $58.5 million 2020 sacks total: 24

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The Patriots defense was a mess without linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who opted out from the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic (no team had more opt-outs than New England). His return should help out in many areas, but the Patriots still need more juice up front. They have a few pieces in defensive linemen Chase Winovich (5.5 sacks) and Adam Butler (4.0) but haven't hit on recent draft picks like Derek Rivers (released after 8 games) or Josh Uche (just 9 games played as a rookie). New England should look for upgrades on offense first and foremost, but they're a team to watch on Hendrickson, too.

Cincinnati Bengals

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2021 cap space: $32.6 million 2020 sacks total: 17 (league-worst) Few teams need a heavier talent injection than the Bengals, who only had three defenders notch double-digit sacks last season: Carl Lawson (5.5), Sam Hubbard (2.0), and Jordan Evans (2.0). They didn't get much of a return on their investment in nose tackle D.J. Reader after a midseason quad injury, but that signing ($53 million over four years) suggests they'll be aggressive again in adding playmakers up front. They could also reunite Hendrickson with safety Vonn Bell, who was voted a team captain after his first training camp in Cincinnati. Bell was part of the same effective pressure package in New Orleans with Hendrickson for several years before the Bengals signed him in free agency.

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