Nothing sells tickets in the NFL quite like an elite quarterback and explosive offense. But Super Bowl LVIII is recent evidence that defense still matters greatly in the hunt for a Lombardi Trophy. Perhaps more than even Patrick Mahomes, Steve Spagnuolo's Kansas City Chiefs defense helped propel the third title in five years for this generation's NFL dynasty.

With that in mind, all 32 teams figure to explore this year's veteran market for defensive upgrades. And 2024 free agency, which begins later this month, actually has quite a few starting-caliber pieces to offer.

(To check out the top 25 offensive free agents, click here).  

Here's an early look at 25 of the best defenders set to be available:

Honorable mentions: Chiefs DE Mike Danna, Eagles DE Brandon Graham, Colts DL Grover StewartPatriots OLB Josh Uche, Buccaneers LB Devin White, Seahawks LB Jordyn Brooks, Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner, Broncos LB Josey Jewell, Chiefs LB Willie Gay Jr., Texans CB Steven Nelson, Colts CB Kenny Moore II, Rams S Jordan Fuller, Lions S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, former Seahawks S Quandre Diggs

25. Dolphins OLB Andrew Van Ginkel

On a Miami Dolphins roster loaded with speed and celebrity, Van Ginkel emerged in 2023 as more of a rugged breakout, logging a career-high six sacks, plus 19 QB hits, as a part-time starter. Couple that with three other years of solid rotational work, and he's primed for a bigger gig moving forward.

24. Bengals DL D.J. Reader

He turns 30 this summer, and he's missed extensive time due to injury in two of his last four seasons. But Reader is a mammoth-sized gap-plugger who's been rock-steady when healthy for both the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans. His impact goes well beyond the numbers, particularly as a run defender.

23. Ravens DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney

Did he finally find a new level at age 30, or did he just benefit from the Baltimore Ravens' stellar scheme and setup in 2023? There's probably some truth to both. Clowney is the definition of a short-term rental at this stage, but he's proven in different cities and different systems that he can be an imposing edge presence.

22. Browns DE/OLB Za'Darius Smith

Playing across Myles Garrett helped in Cleveland, but Smith has always been a fairly steady rusher when healthy and given opportunity. He's topped 20 quarterback hits in five of his last six seasons, so consistency is the name of the game here.

21. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner

Age is just a number to Wagner, mostly. Obviously, going on 34, he no longer boasts the kind of sideline-to-sideline speed that bodes well for lockdown help in pass coverage. But if you need a short-term plug-and-play leader for the middle of a defense, he's still got it. The question is, will he want to start fresh outside of Seattle yet again?

20. Former Dolphins CB Xavien Howard

Released to save money, Howard has an all-star resume that's probably a bit shinier than his actual 2023 tape. He'll also be 31 at a notoriously volatile position. But he's shown before he can be a ball magnet in the secondary, so he'll be worth someone's gamble.

19. Eagles DL Fletcher Cox

After a multiyear lull, Cox returned to starting-caliber form on an otherwise shoddy Philadelphia Eagles defense in 2023. At 33, he's still best suited in a rotational role, no longer the every-down stud of his prime. But if he doesn't retire or re-sign in Philly, he should have suitors as an interior chess piece.

18. Texans DL Sheldon Rankins

Will Anderson Jr. gets most of the love along Houston's front, where DeMeco Ryans oversaw a quick turnaround by the Texans. But Rankins does a lot of things well in the trenches, and he's been above-average for three different teams during his career.

17. 49ers DE/OLB Chase Young

The former No. 2 overall draft pick is probably the biggest mystery on the rundown, if only because his reputation towers over his career production. It's true the ex-Washington Commanders standout had a strong Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, but his value comes much more from the upside of his freakish physical tools than a consistent, durable track record.

16. Panthers LB Frankie Luvu

The former New York Jets reserve has quietly carved out a niche as the Carolina Panthers' top off-ball blitzer, totaling 12.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits since 2022. His speed to the ball gives him great appeal even at a devalued position, and he's only two years into his opportunity as a full-time starter.

15. Ravens S Geno Stone

There are few veterans better positioned to capitalize on a single season of production than Stone, whose seven picks in 2023 made him an unlikely star of a loaded Baltimore Ravens defense. While he projects as more of a No. 3 center fielder than do-it-all starter, his knack for finding the ball in pass coverage can't be denied.

14. Commanders S Kam Curl

If Geno Stone is the safety market's boom-or-bust playmaker, then Curl is the steady, if unspectacular, prototype. While Washington's struggled to field a respectable pass "D," he's still logged four straight years of generally reliable play on the back end, hitting a career-high 115 tackles in 2023.

13. Cowboys CB Stephon Gilmore

His highs are super-high, which makes sense considering he's earned Pro Bowl nods with three different teams. Even at 33, Gilmore had a few vintage lockdowns for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023. The concern, however, is that he's not getting any younger and will likely be joining his fifth different defense in as many years.

12. Commanders CB Kendall Fuller

Like fellow free agent Kam Curl, Fuller often gets overlooked for playing on a forgettable Washington Commanders defense. But he's mostly been steady as a cover man, and that dates back eight years, which he's split between D.C. and the Kansas City Chiefs. You could do much worse on the perimeter.

11. Former Broncos S Justin Simmons

Released days ahead of free agency to clear much-needed salary-cap space, Simmons is no spring chicken going on 31, but he's still one of the smartest back-end players in the game, giving Denver year after year of ballhawking production. If any safety's going to break the trend of a regressing market at the position, it just might be him.

10. Buccaneers LB Lavonte David

David continues to defy Father Time as the rock of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, topping 120 tackles for the fourth time in six years at 33. It's just hard to find him out of position, and he still brings a physical edge. It's difficult, however, to envision him playing for a team other than the Bucs.

9. Giants S Xavier McKinney

Injuries -- both on and off the field -- robbed him of extended action twice in four years with the New York Giants. But when active, the Alabama product has been a splashy tone-setter for the secondary.

8. Texans DE Jonathan Greenard

Will Anderson Jr. won Defensive Rookie of the Year in the Houston Texans' trenches, but Greenard quietly set the stage for his pass-rushing efficiency, leading the club with 12.5 sacks in 2023. Injuries robbed him of 16 games from 2021-2022, but when active, he's been one of the Texans' steadiest starters.

7. Bills DE/OLB Leonard Floyd

There might not be a more underrated pass-rushing journeyman than Floyd, who's now eclipsed nine sacks and 18 QB hits in four straight seasons between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. He's a plug-and-play starter who thrives on pinning his ears back on passing downs.

6. Jets DE/OLB Bryce Huff

The stocky, high-effort New York Jets reserve is one of Robert Saleh's favorites, and his efficiency as a situational rusher justifies that, especially coming off a career 2023 season (10 sacks, 21 QB hits). He's got the explosiveness of a future Pro Bowler, provided he can stay durable with more snaps.

5. Seahawks DL Leonard Williams

Dealt from the New York Giants during the 2023 campaign, Williams is no longer necessarily the game-wrecker he briefly was at the peak of his Giants and New York Jets tenures. But even going on 30, he remains a big, versatile pass rusher capable of moving around the trenches.

4. Ravens LB Patrick Queen

The former first-round pick finally lived up to his pre-draft hype once Roquan Smith arrived to assist the Baltimore Ravens linebacker corps in 2022. Still just 24, he's only now entering his prime, fresh off a dynamic 2023 that saw him headline one of the game's stingiest defenses with 133 tackles, six pass breakups and multiple takeaways.

3. Vikings DE/OLB Danielle Hunter

Two years after missing almost a full season due to a serious injury, Hunter was back to MVP-caliber for the Minnesota Vikings defense in 2023, logging a career-best 16.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. Going on 30, he remains one of the most imposing, unblockable edge rushers in the game.

2. Dolphins DL Christian Wilkins

Through thick and thin, the Miami Dolphins have been able to count on Wilkins up front. The former first-rounder has played in 81 of 83 possible games since entering the NFL, logging at least 10 tackles for loss in each of his last three seasons. He does everything well as the anchor of the defensive front.

1. Chiefs DL Chris Jones

A beast of an interior pocket-disruptor at the heart of the Kansas City Chiefs' championship lineup, Jones is one of the top five defensive difference-makers in the NFL, primed to command a contract in the ballpark of $30 million per year. He's already hinted at a return to K.C., where the Chiefs should prioritize an extension after his latest postseason stardom. If, somehow, he manages to hit the market, plenty of clubs would rush to make him one of the highest-paid players in the game.