NFL Free Agency 2012 | Best Defensive Players Available
The NFL feeding frenzy that is Free Agency begins shortly; while all the talk is Peyton Manning at present, many teams have more pressing needs to fill on the defensive side of the ball. There is good young talent available as well as some quality veterans in their 30′s. Here are the best at all three levels on the defensive end for 2012:
Mario Williams, DE (HOU, 27)
While he was listed as a linebacker in 2011, Williams is a Defensive End. He can excel as a 4-3 end or as a pass-rushing “linebacker” in a 3-4. Coming off the torn pectoral muscle that ended last season after 5 games, Williams will have to regain his form and remain healthy, not an easy task with an injury that is prone to recurrences. Even with the question marks, Williams is the best defensive player available.
Paul Soliai, NT (MIA, 28)
A pure Nose Tackle at 355 lbs, Soliai is the immovable object. He was a key reason why the Dolphins defense ranked third against the run in 2011.
Red Bryant, DE/DT (SEA, 28) Can play in or out, and is a beast against the run. He also blocked four kicks last season. He even had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown.
Israel Idonije, DE/DT (CHI, 31)
An extremely effective stunt-rusher who can play anywhere on the defensive line. Idonije had 13 sacks over the last two seasons, but he will have to prove his success wasn’t the product of playing with Julius Peppers.
John Abraham, DE (ATL, 34)
If he was younger, Abraham would be higher on the list. He’s a speed rusher who will give you around 10 sacks per season, but for how many more years?
Jeremy Mincey, DE (JAX, 28)
More effective as a run defender, Mincey posted eight sacks in 2011. He’s a versatile end in his prime.
Jason Jones, DT/DE (TEN, 26)
At his best as part of a rotation. Quick and energetic, Jones can play inside and out effectively.
Marcus Thomas, DT (DEN, 26)
There is a chance for Thomas to breakout in the next couple seasons. He is young and has shown flashes, but will have to play his way into a bigger pay day in the future.
Stephen Tulloch, ILB (DET, 27)
A stout inside guy who is entering the prime of his career, Tulloch was had fairly cheap last season by the Lions. He will demand more this year; deservedly so.
David Hawthorne, ILB (SEA, 27)
Played through a nagging knee injury in 2011, but still performed at a high level. Like Tulloch, Hawthorne is just reaching his prime.
Erin Henderson, OLB (MIN, 26)
Best suited to play on the weak side, Henderson put together a good 2011 campaign. There is room to improve and every reason to think he will.
Dan Connor, ILB (CAR, 26)
Too talented to play behind Jon Beason anymore, Connor will make a very good starter elsewhere. He is young with good upside.
Curtis Lofton, ILB (ATL, 26)
Initially thought to be a lock to be re-signed by the Falcons, Lofton seems to be in limbo after the signing of Lofa Tatupu. If he plays 2012 with a chip on his shoulder, he could be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Jarret Johnson, OLB (BAL, 31)
Even though he is an OLB in a 3-4 defense, Johnson does not generate much pass rush. He is excellent against the run and is still able to hold his own in pass coverage.
London Fletcher, ILB (WAS, 37)
Somehow Fletcher keeps holding back Father Time. While it seems unthinkable that he would be sporting a different jersey in 2012, anything is possible.
Manny Lawson, OLB (CIN, 28)
To get the most out of Lawson, he needs to be playing the strong side in a 4-3 scheme. He does not play the pass very well, so is most likely going to be a two-down player.
Brandon Carr, CB (KC, 26)
While playing in Kansas City, Carr stayed under the radar. However, there are few corners in the NFL that can effectively play press-man coverage with no help over the top…Carr is one of them.
Carlos Rogers, CB (SF, 31)
Most likely, the 49ers will not let Rogers walk. He can play on the outside in base packages, then slide inside to cover the slot in nickle situations.
Tracy Porter, CB (NO, 26)
Classic “high-risk, high-reward” type of corner. He will make big plays and give up a few, too. He is comfortable without safety help and has the confidence needed to be a number one corner.
Cortland Finnegan, CB (TEN, 28)
Gritty and feisty, Finnegan will not fit in with all defenses. He is better as a zone corner.
Terrell Thomas, CB (NYG, 27)
An ACL tear in August ended Thomas’ 2011, but he was widely regarded as the Giants best cover corner. Coming off the injury will mean he can be picked up a little cheaper. If he returns to form, he could be the steal of free agency this year.
LaRon Landry, SS (WAS, 27)
He may look like the Hulk, but he lacks discipline in pass coverage and gives up more big plays than he makes.
Richard Marshall, CB (ARI, 27)
The hard working corner is at his best covering the slot receiver. He can move up and fill in as a starting corner, but he is not the answer full time.
Aaron Ross, CB (NYG, 29)
Has experience playing inside in nickle and dime packages, but is better suited to play outside, where he is good at using the sideline and his height to his advantage.