Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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The 2011 Defense Market

Saturday, June 04, 2011

5. Ike Taylor, cornerback

Scouting Report: Taylor has never been to a Pro Bowl or intercepted more than three passes in a season, so he's rarely talked about among the league's elite. He's also 31 years old. Taylor offers rare size (6'2/195) at the position and gives big receivers fits with physical play at the line of scrimmage. He's also a top-notch tackling corner with experience in both man and zone coverage, depending on Dick LeBeau's play call. Though not a true shutdown corner, Taylor is well rounded and exceptionally durable. He's played in 107 straight games, including playoffs.

Availability: Pittsburgh writers consider him a lock to re-sign, but a Profootballtalk report and recent comments from the player strongly indicate that Taylor would prefer to test the market. "I need that market value," Taylor said on May 18. "I feel so unappreciated, so underrated at my position. I feel like it's time to get my worth, in whatever city that's in." It will probably come from a team that falls short in the Asomugha bidding. Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's scheme is an offshoot of LeBeau's, and Washington is expected to be aggressive in free agency.

Prediction: Redskins on a four-year, $30 million contract.

6. Jason Babin, defensive end

Scouting Report: Babin was the 27th overall pick in the 2004 draft, but he didn't meet expectations until his fifth team in the NFL. Sitting on a career high of 5.0 sacks entering 2010, Babin busted loose for 12.5 in his first season with the Titans. Babin is a speed rusher at 6-foot-3, 260, and benefited from lining up wide of the formation in now-former Tennessee line coach Jim Washburn's scheme. Babin has been tried as an outside linebacker in 3-4 defenses before, but those experiments failed. He's a pure hand-in-the-dirt edge rusher best utilized in a wave rotation.

Availability: Under new line coach Tracy Rocker, the Titans want to get bigger in the front four. The team's new philosophy means Babin will only be viewed as a situational pass rusher in Nashville. Babin will likely try to parlay the big year into the best contract he can get. Because of his age and spotty track record, teams will and should be wary of overpaying Babin.

Prediction: Lions on a three-year, $14.5 million contract.

7. Quintin Mikell, safety

Scouting Report: Annually among the NFL's top tackling defensive backs, Mikell also quietly earned high marks in coverage as the Eagles' strong safety. Pro Football Focus has rated Mikell as a top-eight cover safety in each of the last three seasons, and he was No. 1 in the league last year. Mikell has created 16 turnovers during that span and missed just one game. He turns 31 in September, however, and Philadelphia's blitz-happy front seven tends to make safeties look better than they are. And it may be telling that the Eagles have already moved on from Mikell.

Availability: Mikell won't be back in Philly after the team drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett with the 54th pick. Coaches on the Eagles' staff while Mikell was there include Ron Rivera, Steve Spagnuolo, John Harbaugh, and Pat Shurmur. At least three of those have needs at strong safety on their current rosters, and Mikell will be appealing because of his familiarity and effectiveness.

Prediction: Rams on a four-year, $20.8 million contract.

8. Barrett Ruud, linebacker

Scouting Report: Incredibly productive, Ruud has ranked fourth, second, and 18th in the league in tackles over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, Ruud's tackle numbers don't translate to stout defense, as the Bucs have ranked 19th, 32nd, and 28th against the run. Ruud is a gifted athlete with sideline-to-sideline range, but the majority of his tackles occur downfield. He is a three-down linebacker with cover skills. It's possible that Ruud's best position would be on the weak side, where he could worry less about run plugging and just let his athleticism take over.

Availability: Ruud, 28, is an unrestricted free agent and available to the highest bidder. While Raheem Morris has toed the company line by saying the Bucs want Ruud back, the team's actions speak louder than their words; they drafted middle linebacker of the future Mason Foster with the 84th overall pick. Ruud is likely to land elsewhere, and the Jaguars make sense as a linebacker-needy team that could use a reliable young tackler in the middle or on the weak side.

Prediction: Jaguars on a five-year, $34 million contract.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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