Picking up players from the NFL IR: Defense

What if players on the immense injured reserve list became free agents this year?

After 15 weeks, the NFL season has been full of surprises, especially with teams like the Jaguars, Rams, and Saints coming out of nowhere to be division leaders. Yet the biggest surprise so far is how many marquee players have suffered season-ending injuries. With that in mind, imagine what the league would be like if all these injured players became free agents? Which player would fit best on which team?

You saw the offense here, now let’s move onto the defense:

JJ Watt – Bills

As one of the premier pass-rushers and overall good guys in the NFL, it was devastating to see Watt go down with a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg. All 32 teams would love to sign him, but  with Watt on the Bills would bolster a team still alive in the playoff hunt and is in the bottom of the league in total sacks. I can’t really imagine JJ fitting in with Bills Mafia, but I’m sure he’ll learn how to jump through a table sooner or later.

Haloti Ngata – Patriots

Ngata was beginning to turn it on with two sacks in his first five games with the Lions before a torn biceps ended his season. His ability as a run-stopper would make him a starter for any team. We’ll have him sign with the Patriots, as he would provide a great boost to an underwhelming D-line and he just seems like another one of those veteran players who  makes a big play in the Super Bowl for the Pats after Bill Belichick revives his career.

Arik Armstead – Titans

Armstead was a first round pick of the 49ers in 2015 and had slowly progressed his way to becoming a breakout player this year before breaking his hand. While he doesn’t yet have the talent of Ngata, he’s not far from it. If the Titans signed him, they would have a scary middle of the D-Line with him and Jurrell Casey. The Titans just choked away a game against the 49ers that puts their playoff chances in jeopardy, so they can use ALL the help they can get.

Cliff Avril – Chiefs

Avril has long been a force to be reckoned with 11.5 sacks last season, clearly proving he is a top pass-rusher in the NFL. Kansas City already napped Carson Wentz earlier on, and a pass rusher to improve their defense that struggles to get to the quarterback. Avril would provide a boost in that number, and an overall improvement of a defense that needs to be near perfect with their current offense.

Dont’a Hightower – Falcons

Hightower showed his worth in an absurdly clutch performance in Super Bowl LI, and was duly compensated this offseason. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending pectoral injury in Week 7. While the Falcons don’t necessarily need Hightower, we saw how their pass rush melted down in the Super Bowl, and how Hightower destroyed the Falcon’s O-line. There’s a good chance that Hightower ends up just being a spy for the Pats, but it’s worth the risk. Also, the 28-3 jokes if his new teammates give him any problems would be legendary.

Jordan Hicks – Chargers

Hicks had been racking up tackles for the NFL’s top team, the Philadelphia Eagles, before suffering a torn right Achilles in Week 7. Adding Hicks to an already impressive pass rush featuring Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram gives the Chargers a recipe for success that not even Philip Rivers’ devastating late game interceptions could ruin.

Whitney Mercilus – Jaguars

With all the stars on the Texans’ defense, Mercilus is bound to go unnoticed at times. Yet his season-ending torn pectoral has created a noticeable hole. Mercilus has long been an underrated pass-rusher and would help create a ridiculous linebacking core on the Jaguars, with him, Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny and Myles Jack. Also, why not continue his streak of AFC South championships and first-round exits with the Jags?

Richard Sherman – Raiders

One of the top shutdown corners in the NFL, the ringleader of the Legion of Boom tore his achilles a few weeks ago. The Raiders are certainly surging in the AFC and for a defense that got their first interception in Week 12, Sherman would certainly help Oakland if he signed there. Putting Sherman on the same team as Marshawn Lynch would give the Raiders a great chance to win the Super Bowl in 2014.


Eric Berry – Eagles

It only took one game of the NFL season for a top player to suffer a season-ending injury, which Berry did by rupturing his achilles against the Patriots. After getting lit up by Eli Manning and a bunch of no-name receivers, the Eagles can use all the help they can get.

Malik Hooker – Browns

Hooker entered the league as an untested yet highly touted first-round pick of the Colts. He compiled three interceptions through seven games before tearing his ACL in Week 7 against the Jaguars. To be fair, I’m saying the Browns will sign him if he’s a free agent. Why? I feel bad for Cleveland and it’s only fair to give them some defensive help, or at least some defensive hope.

Jason Verrett – Ravens

The Chargers have had a lot of tough losses so far this season, and I don’t just mean score-wise. Verrett, their top cornerback, lasted one week before being placed on IR with a knee injury. Verrett signs with the Ravens, and provides great improvement to a team starting Brandon Carr and Lardarius Webb and missing Jimmy Smith. The more cornerbacks this team has, the scarier their defense becomes, and we’ve seen the Ravens achieve great success with scary defenses even when Joe Flacco is not playing elite. Yeah, I’m talking to you PFT Commenter.

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