Top Free Agent Landing Spots For DE Carl Lawson

Former Jets DE Carl Lawson seemed to be on the brink of becoming a star in training camp ahead of the 2021 season. He had just signed a big three-year deal with New York in the offseason and was destroying practices. Unfortunately he tore his Achilles and has never quite been able to get his career back on track. 

Carl Lawson

Lawson missed the whole 2021 season rehabbing the injury. He returned in 2022 and played all 17 games, but wasn’t quite back to his former explosive self even though he recorded seven sacks. 

In 2023, Lawson agreed to a pay cut to preserve his roster spot and play with Aaron Rodgers. But nothing went to plan for the Jets last year. Rodgers had an Achilles injury of his own, and Lawson was made obsolete by the rise of DE Jermaine Johnson. He was phased out of the rotation and played just six games. 

It’s fair to question how much Lawson has left in the tank at this point but the veteran is still on the right side of 30 in the eyes of the NFL and does have some flashes of production over the past few years to point to. Lawson’s best fit is as a base end in a 4-3 scheme where he can maximize his 6-2, 265-pound frame. He makes sense for a team looking for a veteran to bolster its edge rush rotation. 

Lawson, 28, is a former fourth-round pick of the Bengals back in 2017 out of Auburn. He played out the final year of his four-year, $3.05 million contract and was testing the open market for the first time in his NFL career when he signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Jets in 2021. 

Lawson was entering the final year of that deal and set to make a base salary of $15 million in 2023 when he agreed to a pay cut. He became an unrestricted free agent this off-season.

In 2023, Lawson appeared in six games for the Jets and recorded five tackles and no sacks.

We have him included in our Top 100 Available Free Agents list. 


The Raiders have one of the best defensive ends in football in Maxx Crosby. He’s a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2024 and has been in the mix for the award for the past two seasons. Malcolm Koonce will probably start across from him after a breakout 2023 season with eight sacks. Last year’s No. 7 pick, Tyree Wilson, will push for a lot of snaps too. 

There’s room for another veteran to round out the room, however, and Lawson should be considered a compelling candidate. The Raiders wouldn’t sign Lawson to be a starter but he would add another layer of depth to the pass rush, which at this point is the best way for the Raiders to compete with the rest of their division and conference. 

He also plays with a mean and violent streak that embodies exactly what Raiders HC Antonio Pierce wants the identity of his team to be. The Raiders want to be bullies and Lawson is a bully of a player when he’s at his best. 

Past connections are important when sussing out player fits too, and the Raiders would check that box. One of Pierce’s key advisors is former Bengals HC Marvin Lewis, who drafted Lawson in Cincinnati and served as defensive coordinator in one of his seasons. 


On paper, the Cowboys are in a good spot at edge rusher with Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence bookending the pass rush with young guns like Sam Williams, second-rounder Marshawn Kneeland and 2023 fourth-rounder Viliami Fehoko coming off the bench. Dallas probably wants to give the young trio behind Parsons and Lawrence a chance to assert themselves. 

However, if they need more seasoning there’s an opening for a veteran like Lawson to bolster the rotation. He’s unlikely to cost much, which is a major consideration for the Cowboys this season. And there’s a notable scheme fit and connection with defensive run game coordinator Paul Guenther, who was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals in Lawson’s rookie season which was one of his best. 

Cowboys DC Mike Zimmer held the same role with the Bengals for several years, and while he never overlapped with Lawson, there were schematic principles and prototypes that the Bengals kept after Zimmer left. To me, the fit for Lawson with Zimmer and Guenther is notable enough to potentially outweigh the crowded depth chart in Dallas. 


The Falcons waited on taking a pass rusher in the first round and instead opted to address the position in Round 3 with DE Bralen Trice. That puts them in the potential market for a veteran to try and put a patch on a weakness in a hopeful contending year.

Lawson has some similarities to Trice in that he’s short and doesn’t have a lot of length to work with. He’s a much more powerful player, however. 


Edge rush depth remains one of the needs for the Jaguars with the offseason mostly in the books. Jacksonville has a good starting duo with Josh Allen and Travon Walker, more than enough for new DC Ryan Nielsen, but behind him the Jaguars will be relying on Trevis Gipson, Yasir Abdullah and seventh-round developmental rookie Myles Cole

Lawson’s power and size make him a potential fit for what Nielsen, a former DL coach, looks for at the position, even if Nielsen typically prefers more length than what Lawson brings to the table. 


Carolina completely retooled the edge rushing group this offseason after trading Brian Burns. The Panthers signed Jadeveon Clowney, D.J. Wonnum and K’Lavon Chaisson and will look to get more out of 2023 third-rounder DJ Johnson — who set the bar low as a rookie. 

They could continue that overhaul and add Lawson, who brings something a little different as a power rusher. He might not be a good scheme fit since the Panthers run a base 3-4 that requires their edge rushers to drop into coverage at times. However, he did overlap with OLB coach Tem Lukabu in Cincinnati in 2019. 

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