Free Agency Primer: DLsTuesday, February 24, 2009
The defensive line market is going to be busy. Not only are there 10-12 strong DLs available for the start of free agency, scheme change has increased the need for 3-4 linemen in Green Bay, Denver, Kansas City, Arizona, San Francisco, and perhaps Detroit. There is also a shortage on 3-4 specific defensive ends in this year's draft, with only Tyson Jackson
(LSU) and Jarron Gilbert
(San Jose State) surefire first-day prospects at the position. There will be some good values, but others are destined to be overpaid. Let's have a look.Other Previews Rosenthal: Quarterbacks
Silva: Wideouts and Tight Ends
Wesseling: Defensive Backs
Unrestricted Free Agents
Best Available: Albert Haynesworth
Word at the Scouting Combine was that Haynesworth misplayed his hand by not accepting the Titans' four-year, $36 million offer and will be disappointed when the market opens. Don't buy it. Defensive tackles that occupy 2-3 blockers a play and push the pocket like Haynesworth are the rarest commodity in the NFL. One -- maybe -- emerges from college each year and this April only B.J. Raji comes close to fitting the profile. Raji will be gone by the ninth pick in the draft. Everyone noticed the instant impact Shaun Rogers made in Cleveland last year, and Haynesworth is better. While signing Haynesworth carries risk in terms of cost, his snap-to-snap effort, and a somewhat shaky injury history, he's worth it. Conservatively listed at 6'6/320 with 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons, Haynesworth will be the league's highest-paid defender by March 5.
Prediction: Buccaneers - seven years, $34M guaranteed
"Only" Second Best Award: Chris Canty
A beast of a 3-4 end in Dallas for the last four seasons, Canty is not a dominant pass rusher but is hard to move and offers exceptional length. A former fourth-round pick out of Virginia, Canty likely would've gone in the first had he not needed eye surgery leading up to the 2005 draft. Canty is 6'7/300 and could switch to defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme to play a John Henderson-like position. He wants Tommy Kelly money and will get it. Just don't believe the Miami rumors.
Prediction: Redskins - seven years, $20M guaranteed
The Motor Boat Award: Igor Olshansky
The Chargers are letting Olshansky leave because they viewed him as an underachiever whose motor ran hot and cold. While it's a red flag that respected DL coach Wayne Nunnely couldn't get more out of him, Olshansky's potential remains. The 26-year-old Russian boasts outstanding strength and goes 6'6/310. Now in Denver where the Broncos are switching to a 3-4 and desperate for big-bodied linemen, Nunnely could give Igor another try at the right price.
Prediction: Broncos - three years, $8M guaranteed
Best Bang for the Buck: Ronald Fields
Fields' market value would be a lot higher if Mike Nolan had ever decided what defense to run in San Francisco. Constantly shuttled between a 4-3 left defensive tackle, "zero" technique, and "five" technique in Nolan's 3-4 hybrid, Fields never got comfortable enough to capture his potential. But the man is only 27, 6'2/321, and was a difference maker when he got to play full time down the stretch in 2006. With quick hands that let him dictate the line of scrimmage, Fields could flourish under a masterful line coach like the Titans' Jim Washburn.
Prediction: Titans - four years, $6M guaranteed
Bust Alert: Antonio Smith
Smith was outstanding in the playoffs, but Super Bowl players often get overpaid because losing GMs think "winners" can right the ship. Smith's done his fair share of losing too, however, and is a 'tweener at 6'4/280 with marginal pass-rush ability. Playing in a hybrid scheme opposite Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett, the 2004 fifth-round pick consistently saw single teams yet generated only 3.5 sacks in 16 starts last season. Smith is a system player and could end up as this year's Antwan Odom.
Prediction: Chiefs - five years, $12M guaranteed
Best of the Rest
1. DT Colin Cole - Best when shooting gaps, but at 6'1/330 he's built well enough to run plug too. The Packers are pushing hard to retain him.
2. DT Rocky Bernard - Peaked with nine sacks in 2005, but Bernard's career-best 55 tackles last season show he still comes to play. At 30, he should be cheap.
3. DE Demetric Evans - He's overvaluing himself. Evans is an effective role player and offers versatility, but isn't a good enough blitzer to play every down.
4. DT Jovan Haye - Undersized three-technique tackle's sack count fell from six to zero last season. He's not as good as his 2007 numbers.
5. DE Chauncey Davis - Can stop the run on early downs and play inside in passing situations, but he isn't scheme diverse and is replaceable.
Others of note: DE Josh Thomas, DE Bertrand Berry, DT Shaun Cody, DT Tank Johnson, DE Michael Montgomery, DE Corey Smith, DE/DT C.J. Mosley, DT Grady Jackson, DE Kevin Carter, DT Kenny Peterson, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DT Darrell Reid, DE/DT Mike Wright, DE Jerome McDougle, DT John Thornton, DT Darwin Walker, DT Ellis Wyms
Restricted Free Agents
1. Cardinals DT Gabe Watson - Played in a rotation last year, but likely being groomed to take over as Arizona's full-time nose tackle in 2009. We'll know more about the team's thinking when Watson is tendered.
2. Redskins DT Anthony Montgomery - Lost his starting job to Kedric Golston last season, but Montgomery's athleticism-to-size (6'5/312) ratio is hard to find.
3. Cowboys DE Stephen Bowen - Probably will get a second-round tender and replace Chris Canty in the starting lineup.
4. Vikings DT Fred Evans - Nick Saban saw potential in Evans once and he could get a second-round tender. If he doesn't, Evans (6'4/305) could intrigue 3-4 clubs as an end.
5. Redskins DT Kedric Golston - High-energy guy's best bet is to sign Washington's one-year tender and improve his sack total in a contract season.
Others of Note: Gary Gibson, Victor Adeyanju, Otis Grigsby, Montavious Stanley
Potential Cap Casualties
Dolphins DE/DT Vonnie Holliday, Redskins DT Cornelius Griffin and DE Jason Taylor, Texans DE Anthony Weaver, Chiefs DT Alfonso Boone, Raiders DT Gerard Warren, Bears DE Adewale Ogunleye, Lions DE Jared DeVries and DT Chartric Darby, Saints DTs Brian Young and Hollis Thomas