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Ranking NFL's Top 10 Pass Rushers Over 30

Khalil Mack’s six sacks in the Los Angeles Chargers’ win against the Las Vegas Raiders last Sunday headlines what is shaping up as a banner season for pass rushers who are 30 years old and beyond.

Even 34-year-old safety Harrison Smith got in on the act as he blitzed his way to a career-high three-sack game for the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. Smith’s third-quarter strip sack of Carolina Panthers' QB Bryce Young that was returned for a game-changing touchdown (by D.J. Wonnum) might have saved the Vikings' season.

But Smith, a six-time Pro Bowler who now has 19.5 career sacks (along with 34 interceptions), doesn’t make my list of the top 10 pass rushers over 30 playing in the NFL. 

Top 10 Pass Rushers Over 30

Carolina Panthers Justin Houston

10. Justin Houston, Carolina Panthers

Age: 34

Justin Houston is the elder statesman of this group at 34 (two months older than Von Miller). He’s had tremendous longevity as an outside linebacker, defensive end and edge rusher for four teams over 13 seasons. He has 112 career sacks with Kansas City, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Carolina.

He spent his first eight seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was a third-round pick in 2011 and earned four Pro Bowl selections. His best season was in 2014 when he led the NFL with 22 sacks, just 0.5 sacks shy of the NFL record held by Michael Strahan and T.J. Watt.   

Houston is coming off an impactful season in Baltimore, where he had 9.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits as a rotational pass rusher. He’s starting for the Panthers at OLB and has 0.5 sacks and three quarterback hits after joining the team midway through training camp. His track record says he’ll be more impactful rushing the passer as the season progresses.

Jadeveon Clowney

9. Jadeveon Clowney, Baltimore Ravens

Age: 30

While 30-year-old Jadeveon Clowney has never quite lived up to the hype with which he entered the NFL in 2014 as the first overall pick of the Houston Texans, he remains a productive pass rusher when healthy.

He’s never achieved double-digit sacks in a season. Still, he is helping the third-ranked Baltimore Ravens defense this season as an edge rusher/outside linebacker with 1.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and 10 tackles thus far. 

Clowney was a three-time Pro Bowl player from 2016-2018 in Houston when he registered 24.5 sacks before bouncing around the league at Seattle, Tennessee and Cleveland and then landing in Baltimore this year.

He had nine sacks in 2021 with the Cleveland Browns before a tumultuous end to his Cleveland tenure last season when he made critical comments about his usage. The Ravens’ 28-3 win in Cleveland last Sunday had to please Clowney.

After making $11 million in his final year with the Browns, he’s playing this year on a one-year, $2.5 million deal with $3.5 million in possible incentives.

Demarcus Lawrence

8. DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

Age: 31

While superstar Micah Parsons gets most of the attention among defenders on Dallas’ second-ranked defense, DeMarcus Lawrence remains a big contributor at defensive end. He has two sacks, three quarterback hits and four tackles for loss this season.

His career total is up to 56.5 sacks in 10 years with the Cowboys, who he joined as a second-round pick in 2014. Lawrence is now 31. He had six sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 65 tackles last season while earning his third Pro Bowl selection.   

Denico Autry

7. Denico Autry, Tennessee Titans

Age: 33

The undrafted Denico Autry is a late bloomer who began his career in 2014 with the Oakland Raiders. He hit his stride as a pass rusher from 2018-2020 when he had 20 sacks and 32 quarterback hits while playing defensive tackle and defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts

Autry has achieved his greatest career success as a 3-4 DE with the Tennessee Titans. He's had 17 sacks and 37 quarterback hits in the past two seasons. The underrated 33-year-old already has four sacks this season and eight quarterback hits. He adds a big body who has 14 tackles to help the Titans’ fourth-ranked run defense.  

Leonard Floyd

6. Leonard Floyd, Buffalo Bills

Age: 31

With Leonard Floyd, Miller and Donald rushing the passer for the Rams in 2021, it’s no surprise they combined for seven sacks of Joe Burrow in the Rams’ Super Bowl win. Floyd chipped in one sack along with five tackles that day and followed up with nine sacks for the Rams last season before becoming a salary cap casualty and winding up with the Bills, where he has rejoined Miller. 

The 31-year-old was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears in 2016 and spent four productive seasons there before being released and signing with the Rams. He produced 29 sacks over three seasons in Los Angeles. 

Floyd is off to a great start in Buffalo with 3.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits. He’s on a one-year, prove-it deal for $7 million plus $7 million in potential incentives. So far, so good.   

Javon Hargrave

5. Javon Hargrave, San Francisco 49ers

Age: 30

The 30-year-old defensive tackle hit the jackpot in free agency this year with his four-year, $84 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers after his excellent 2022 season. He helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the NFC title by contributing 11 sacks and 60 tackles. 

Javon Hargrave was a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers out of small-school South Carolina State and spent his first four years in Pittsburgh before signing with the Eagles in 2020 free agency. He made the Pro Bowl in 2021. 

Hargrave has three sacks and six quarterback hits for the undefeated 49ers’ fifth-ranked defense, and he’s taking some of the pressure off Nick Bosa, who led the league in sacks last season. 

Khalil Mack

4. Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers

Age: 32

Mack’s career day with six sacks on Sunday (one shy of Derrick Thomas’ single-game record) came against the Raiders, who drafted him fifth overall in 2014. The Chargers needed him to step up with Mack’s fellow edge rusher, Joey Bosa, out. Mack also had 10 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles in the victory as he earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. 

The 32-year-old edge player is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro. After his first four seasons in Oakland, he spent four productive years leading the Chicago Bears pass rush before being traded to the Chargers last year. He had eight sacks in 2022, and after Sunday’s tour de force performance, his career total stands at 90.5.

Matthew Judon

3. Matthew Judon, New England Patriots

Age: 31

Unfortunately, there’s a trend with these first three outstanding pass rushers dealing with injuries. Matthew Judon tore his biceps last Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys but hopes to return later this season. It’s a huge loss for the New England Patriots' defense, as Judon had four sacks and nine quarterback hits in the first four games after his terrific 2022 season with 15.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits. 

The 31-year-old Judon was a fifth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and joined the Patriots in 2021. He’s been selected to four straight Pro Bowls and has had his best years as an edge rusher/OLB in New England (32 of his 66.5 career sacks have been in Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense).

Aaron Donald

2. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Age: 32

At 32, Aaron Donald is coming off a season where an ankle injury cost him the last six games, and he dropped to a career-low five sacks. He’s come back with a vengeance and has led the Rams' defense (ninth-ranked after 19th last season) in the team’s surprising 2-2 start. 

Donald has 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, 15 tackles and four tackles-for-loss in the first four games. A first-round pick of the Rams in 2014, Donald — like his former teammate Miller — is a future Hall of Famer who is considered one of the best defensive players of all time.

He is a nine-time Pro Bowl DT and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. His sack totals are more impressive since he’s a defensive tackle who faces constant double teams inside. Yet, he produced five straight double-digit sack seasons from 2017-2021, including an amazing 20.5 quarterback takedowns in 2018. 

With two sacks, three quarterback hits and a pressure on Joe Burrow on the game-sealing play, Donald led the Rams' defense in their Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Von Miller

1. Von Miller, Buffalo Bills

Age: 34

Von Miller hasn’t played since he tore his ACL last year on Thanksgiving in Detroit, but he still tops this list of elite pass rushers over 30. He’s 34 and was playing at a high level before the injury, with eight sacks in the first 11 games of 2022 for the Bills after producing 13.5 sacks in 2021 (including four sacks in the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl run). 

Miller is a sure-fire future Hall of Famer as an eight-time Pro Bowler looking for his third Super Bowl title after winning with the Denver Broncos (where he was the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft) and the Rams. He was named Super Bowl 50 MVP after having 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in the Broncos' triumph over the Carolina Panthers. Miller had five straight double-digit sack seasons from 2014-2018 in Denver.

He’s now in the second year of a $20 million per year deal in Buffalo. Miller has returned to practice and says he wants to play in London on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Whenever he returns, he will further improve the Buffalo Bills’ sixth-ranked defense and their pass rush tied for the league lead with 16 sacks.

  Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffdiamondnfl.