Top 10 Free Agent Defensive Linemen Still Available
Top 10 Free Agent Defensive Linemen Still Available
Finding good defensive linemen used to be simple. All you had to do was find the biggest, strongest guys around and line them up. If they could hold their ground in the trenches against their offensive big men counterparts, you were doing alright.
But not anymore. Today, defensive line is the most important position on that side of the ball. They not only have to be the front line of your run defense, but more and more stopping the opposing team from scoring hinges on whether or not you can get pressure on their quarterback.
Instead of just using your biggest, strongest defenders on the line of scrimmage, teams are now using their best all-around athletes. Sack masters like Julius Peppers or Justin Tuck are some of the best athletes in the NFL. They can push around strong offensive linemen, then on the same play run down speedy ball carriers on the sidelines.
And that's made finding good defensive linemen one of the hardest tasks NFL personnel people face today. The good ones go early in drafts and are rarely available in free agency. But rarely doesn’t mean never.
There are still some good ones out there this year that could help your favorite team. Mostly they're either veterans who weren’t deemed worth the price tag or journeymen types who haven’t found a permanent home, but they all have something to offer. Some could be game-changers, most are good value plays, but they can all help teams this fall.
These are the 10 best free agent defensive linemen that are still available.
10. Sione Pouha
Sione Pouha is a nose tackle who’s spent his entire seven year NFL career with the New York Jets.
A big body, he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 325 pounds, and can take up plenty of space and eat up blocks in the middle of a defense.
Able to step right into a role with a team that runs a 3-4, he could also be a more long-term project for a 4-3 team.
9. Justin Bannan
Justin Bannan, a big-bodied defensive lineman known for his run stopping ability, has spent time with four teams during his 12 years in the NFL.
He’s played in 160 games over those twelve years, starting 72 of them. Now in the twilight of his career, he can bring veteran depth to a defensive line unit.
8. Antwan Applewhite
Injuries kept him off the field for all but five games last year, but he can still hold his own on the defensive line. If he can stay healthy, he can find a spot as a backup defensive end in the league.
7. Amobi Okoye
Amobi Okoye, a former first-round pick of the Houston Texans, has had a disappointing career so far in the NFL. Well, disappointing only considering the expectations of being a first-round pick.
Okoye has been a solid contributor since entering the league in 2007, with over 100 tackles and 16 sacks on his resume. He may not ever live up to the hype of being a first-round pick, but he can add depth to a roster.
6. Shaun Cody
Shaun Cody, originally a second-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2005, spent four years in Detroit, then the last four years playing for the Houston Texans.
A versatile inside defensive lineman, Cody can stop the run and eat up blocks.
Now that he’s heading into the veteran stage of his career, he can bring leadership and experience to a team looking for depth on the defensive line.
5. Ma'ake Kemoeatu
At 6-foot-5, 345 pounds, nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu brings added bulk to any defensive line. And when you’re talking about a group that never lacks for big bodies, that’s saying something.
He does his best work as a nose tackle in a 3-4, but has also spent time as a two and three-technique guy in a 4-3. He brings size, versatility and depth to any team.
4. Casey Hampton
Big Casey Hampton. You know you’re a good defensive lineman when your nickname is simply “Big”.
Hampton, a run-stuffing nose tackle built to play in a 3-4 system, has spent his entire 12 year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was one of the early adopters of the 3-4 scheme and getting the benefits of a big body like Hampton taking up space in the middle, but more and more teams have gone that way in recent years.
That explosion of the 3-4 defense means there are teams out there that could benefit from an old veteran at nose tackle like Casey Hampton.
3. Richard Seymour
Remember when Richard Seymour was one of the best defensive linemen in the league? Yeah, I know, that was a long time ago now. Maybe I’m the only one who still thinks he can be a really good player, but I do. I think a team could really upgrade their defense by adding Seymour to their defensive line rotation.
And apparently Seymour does too, since he’s said he will consider retirement if he doesn’t get the kind of offer he’s looking for this summer. Chances are that’s just a negotiating tactic, but it goes to show that he thinks he should still be a starter in the league, and paid like it too.
2. Kyle Vanden Bosch
Kyle Vanden Bosch might be the biggest surprise still on this list. A very productive player, Vanden Bosch has 15.5 sacks in the three years he spent with the Detroit Lions.
But, as it always does in the NFL, his salary cap number became too much for the Lions to take. When he was owed a $2 million roster bonus and a $5 million base salary for 2013, the team let him go to save the money.
He might not be worth that much as nothing is more valuable in the NFL then cap space, but if he’s willing to work for less, he would be a starter on most NFL defenses.
1. John Abraham
The best defensive lineman available, John Abraham immediately upgrades the pass rush of whatever team wants to sign him this summer.
Abraham, yet another salary cap casualty, has 122 career sacks since being the first-round pick of the New York Jets in 2000. That means he has plenty of wear on his tires, but he is still going strong with 10 sacks last year.
Like many veterans, he’ll have to accept that teams aren’t willing to invest big money in older players. But when he does accept that, he’ll make a great addition to whatever team he ends up with.