Which contenders should sign Bruce Irvin?

Oakland Raiders

Bruce Irvin is set to be available after being waived by the Oakland Raiders, so which contending teams could use him to bolster their pass rush?

After trading Khalil Mack and watching him do his thing with the Chicago Bears for a few games, Jon Gruden lamented how hard it is to find pass rushers. The Oakland Raiders have a league-low seven sacks, led by three from Bruce Irvin, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from being waived on Saturday.

Irvin played just nine snaps in Oakland’s latest loss last Thursday night, a 34-3 drubbing by the San Francisco 49ers. Gruden tried to explain that reduced role as not being a fit for a change in defensive scheme, as well as Irvin being an edge rusher and the Raiders not playing with the lead. That’s flimsy reasoning to be sure, but a 31-year old slated to make $9 million next season is not a fit for the clumsy rebuild being started in Oakland.

Irvin had 15 sacks over his first two seasons with the Raiders in 2016 and 2017, and he had at least six sacks twice in four seasons (2012-2015) with the Seattle Seahawks. So he’s got value as a pass rusher, but the transaction to release Irvin reportedly won’t be official until Monday afternoon.

A team that claims Irvin off waivers would assume his contract–the remainder of the $8 million he’s due this year ($3.7 million) and the aforementioned $9 million next year. If he clears waivers the price would go down, and probably include a new team not committing beyond this season.

There are contending teams out there that can use some pass rush help, and where Irvin would fit. So which of those teams should be in the mix to sign him?

New England Patriots- The Patriots entered Week 9 with 12 sacks (fourth-worst in the league), and they have the cap space to take on Irvin’s contract as is for the rest of this year and next. Their waiver priority is not high, but Irvin to New England can’t be ruled out.

Los Angeles Chargers- The Chargers entered Week 9 in the bottom half of the league with 18 sacks, and they got four more against Russell Wilson on Sunday. The return of Joey Bosa would help, but after some earlier optimism he’d play on Sunday when the Chargers came off a bye he seems likely to miss a few more weeks. Claiming Irvin off waivers would put the Chargers just over the salary cap for the rest of this season, barring some other maneuvering, so they would hope he clears before being a suitor.

Atlanta Falcons- Atlanta’s defense has a whole has struggled this season, and they had just 14 sacks (28th in the league) entering Week 9. Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinator for two of Irvin’s seasons there, so the broader scheme fit is there along with some familiarity. The Falcons can take on Irvin’s $3.7 million for the rest of this season, with $6.2 million in cap space (via Spotrac), so once the transaction to waive him is official a claim seems likely.

Chicago Bears- The Bears don’t need a ton of help, but Mack has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and he has accounted for six sacks of their now 24 sacks this season. Adding Irvin to balance things out on the other edge would re-create the duo Oakland had, and Chicago has just enough cap space to take on his salary for the remainder of this year ($5.2 million, per Spotract).

Pittsburgh Steelers- The Steelers aren’t really struggling to generate pass rush. But if they hope to get over the hump and reach the Super Bowl, another piece might be nice. The Le’Veon Bell situation lingers over the cap space they have right now for this year, so Pittsburgh would be waiting for Irvin to clear waivers and then hoping he’d take a very cheap deal.

Miami Dolphins- With two wins over the New York Jets now, and another over the Raiders, the Dolphins are a flimsy contender at 5-4. But they are in the playoff hunt, and their lack of pass rush has been clear (11 sacks on the season before sacking Sam Darnold four times on Sunday). Miami can claim Irvin and take on his salary for the remainder of this season, with just a shade over $8 million in cap space (via Spotrac).

Next: Fantasy Football Week 9: Who to start and sit

Irvin may be hoping to clear waivers, so he can choose his landing spot and probably narrow in on playoff contenders. But any team seriously considering claiming him probably should be a contender, so it may become a moot point beyond any financial considerations or ramifications from the mechanics of it.

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