NFL Tacklers Leader: Roquan Smith Primed for Big Year
Edwards, Okereke Among Top Tacklers to Change Teams in Offseason
NFL Tackles Leader Preview: Jacksonville’s Foyesade Oluokun and Kansas City’s Nick Bolton aren’t household names, at least when compared to the NFL’s marquee quarterbacks. That said, both linebackers were very well known within NFL circles last NFL season after finishing first and second, respectively, in total tackles.
Who might challenge them as the NFL tackles leader in 2023-24? Here are some of the top candidates.
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LB
The 12th-year linebacker is the active NFL tackle leader with 949 solo stops. He had 124 tackles last season (80 solo), matching Devin White for the team-high.
Without a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, Tampa Bay may struggle to score. It’s why the Buccaneers’ projected win total is just 6.5, second-fewest in the NFC behind Arizona (5.5). The defense, however, should continue to produce strong NFL results, especially with head coach Todd Bowles still at the helm.
Notably, White is a +10000 longshot to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
T.J. Edwards, Chicago Bears, LB
One of Chicago’s big-ticket acquisitions, Edwards was seventh in NFL tackle leaders last season. He had 159 stops (99 solo) for the Philadelphia Eagles, including six in Super Bowl LVII. The fifth-year linebacker — who inked a three-year deal for $19.5 million, including $12.5 million guaranteed, in free agency — should make a suitable replacement for Roquan Smith.
C.J. Moseley, New York Jets, LB
The 30-year-old linebacker continues to be a tackling machine. He had 158 stops (99 solo) for the Jets last season and was named Second Team All-Pro for the fifth time in his career. Moseley has the sixth-most solo tackles among active players with 593.
Moseley — priced at +15000 to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year — remains a cornerstone on the Jets’ much-improved defense.
Bobby Okereke, New York Giants, LB
Needing to add speed on defense, the Giants signed Okereke to a four-year, $40 million contract, with $22 million guaranteed, in March. The 26-year-old linebacker is coming off a strong season with the Indianapolis Colts, in which he posted a career-high 151 tackles, including 99 solo stops.
Okereke thrived in both run and pass coverage for Indianapolis. He will primarily play middle linebacker for Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, bolstering a unit featuring defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Jalen Pitre, Houston Texans, S
Pitre, the 37th pick in the 2022 draft, made a quick impression defensively for Houston. The rookie safety notched 147 tackles (99 solo), most of any non-linebacker last season. He also intercepted five passes.
Houston improved its defense this offseason, trading up with Arizona to select Alabama defensive lineman Will Anderson third overall in April’s draft. Anderson, the two-time Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner, should improve a unit that allowed the sixth-most points per game (24.7) last season. Pitre, a +15000 pick for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has to be biting his chops.
Roquan Smith, Baltimore Ravens, LB
Acquired from Chicago at last season’s trade deadline for second- and fifth-round draft picks in 2023 and linebacker A.J. Klein, Smith became an instrumental part of Baltimore’s defense. Smith had 86 tackles in nine games with the Ravens, showcasing the speed and versatility that made him a top-10 pick out of Georgia in 2018. Only two players — Oluokun (184) and Bolton (180) — finished with more tackles than Smith’s 169. He also had 4.5 sacks and three interceptions, earning First Team All-Pro honors.
With a full offseason to work with defensive coordinator Mike McDonald, Smith is now taking on more responsibility. Smith will be wearing the green dot as the signal-caller on defense. At +3300, he offers strong value for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. It will be interesting to see who becomes the NFL Tackles Leader for the 2023/2024 NFL season.
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