NFL Offseason 2012 Part VII: Defensive Linemen
February 21, 2012 Leave a Comment
As the New York Giants proved this season, a great pass rush can alter the scales and put you over the top in terms of being a championship contender.
This free agent class may not have the same depth as the wide receiver position, but there are players out there that can certainly make an impact for a team, if the team is willing to spend the money.
Lets get right to it!
Robert Mathis, Defensive End:
Among the plethora of Colts free agents, this is their most important one. Mathis is a complete stud and a nightmare for offenses to plan for. However, it is rumored the Colts are moving to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chuck Pagano.
If this is true Mathis could find himself playing elsewhere, unless he is willing to move to outside linebacker like Mario Williams did this past season. If Mathis hits the open market, I look for him to cash in big time.
Cliff Avril, Defensive End:
Avril has drawn a lot of attention regarding his comments on free agency as of late. Avril knows he will be highly sought after if he hits the open market and he wants a long-term deal. The Lions should keep him. Avril has been one of the catalysts in the turnaround the Lions have experienced under coach Jim Schwartz over the past two seasons.
I look for the Lions to tag him and then trade him for value. Avril wants a long-term deal and I do not see the Lions dishing out that much money especially with Stafford and Calvin needing pay days in the near future.
Mario Williams, Defensive End:
I know Williams played outside linebacker last season, but he is a defensive end at heart. Williams could not have a worse year for a player in his contract year. Williams had 5 sacks in 5 games, than suffered a season ending injury. What makes this even tougher for Williams is that the Texans defense played GREAT without him.
Also if the Texans were to franchise tag Mario Williams, they would be investing $23 million. Williams is a good player, but he is not worth that type of money just yet.
Therefore, it is up to the Texans to work out a long-term deal with Williams and that seems unlikely. Williams will be heading to the open market and will be highly pursued. It will be interesting to see which team decides to go after him.
Calais Campbell, Defensive End:
The Cardinals have a very young defense that began to gel towards the end of the season last year. Campbell is an instrumental part of that defense and I look for the Cardinals to use every resource possible to keep Campbell a Cardinal.
Campbell is 6’8, 300 pounds and a great athlete for someone his size. I look for Arizona to franchise him so if he does leave, they can acquire talent for him. Campbell also said he would not fight the franchise tag if it was used on him.
Antonio Garay, Nose Tackle:
The Chargers know how valuable it is to keep a solid nose tackle, especially when you run a 3-4 defensive scheme. However, Garay had a sub-par year this past season and may not warrant the contract he thinks he deserves.
If San Diego were to get in a bidding war for Garay, I imagine them bowing out pretty quickly. If the Chargers can not re-sign Garay, look for them to fill their need at nose tackle through the draft.
John Abraham, Defensive End:
Abraham is aging, yet he is still the Falcons best pass rusher. However, I seriously doubt the Falcons will pay him the $8 million he was paid last year. Abraham’s production will be tough to replace for the Falcons, yet I see them letting Abraham walk if both sides can not agree on a reasonable number.
Also, take into consideration the Falcons other free agent they must resign, corner back Brent Grimes. Grimes will command a lot of money, so keeping him might come at the expense of letting Abraham walk.
Jason Jones, Defensive Tackle:
Jones is one of the better interior rushers in the NFL. However, the Titans moved him to defensive end last season and he struggled. If the Titans plan to keep Jones at defensive end, than I see the Titans letting Jones go into the open market.
If the Titans wish to keep Jones in the middle of their 4-3 defensive scheme, than I can see the Titans trying to keep him. The Titans have been excellent in their evaluations of defensive lineman in the draft and then letting them walk when they have maximized their talents (Albert Haynesworth).
Sione Pouha, Nose Tackle:
The Jets have very little depth in their front seven and keeping Pouha should be a high priority. Before this team can make outside acquisitions to better themselves, they MUST retain the certain players they NEED.
Continuity is EVERYTHING for a Rex Ryan defensive scheme. Pouha has excelled in this system and I look for Rex to do the right thing and sign Pouha. Unless of course Pouha becomes selfish (which is possible with the Jets locker room). Interior defensive line play is crucial for the Jets and the way they play defense and Pouha was a big part of that.
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Stay Tuned for next Article: NFL Offseason 2012 Part VIII: Linebackers