Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 Free Agency Top Fives: Defensive Tackle

A team looking for a defensive tackle won't be short of options this offseason, as there are plenty of big names and talented players on the free agent market.

Whether you need a dominant nose tackle for the 3-4 or just your regular 4-3 interior lineman, there are plenty of players to be had.

These are my top five impending free agent defensive tackles:

(Note: This series of lists only includes unrestricted free agents, as those are the only type that can be signed without giving up compensation. Restricted free agents—especially the best ones—will cost valuable draft picks.)

Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots

One of the league's most dominant nose tackles for a long time, Wilfork may finally get his chance to his the open market if the Patriots don't apply the franchise tag.

Wilfork has lots of years left and lots of talent, and will be on the radar of plenty of teams in need of that impact nose tackle for the 3-4.

Aubrayo Franklin, San Francisco 49ers

An extremely underrated player in this league, Franklin has gone from being a fifth-round pick and reserve lineman with the Ravens to one of the most productive nose tackles in football.

Everyone likes to fawn over Niners linebacker Patrick Willis, and for good reason, but not everyone realizes that Franklin is one of the biggest reasons Willis is able to be so productive.

Unfortunately for team in need of a 3-4 nose tackle, the 49ers are almost guaranteed to put the franchise tag on Franklin if they can't work out a long-term deal.

Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders

Seymour was a defensive end for most of his career in New England's 3-4, and stayed out there quite a bit despite changing schemes in Oakland.

That being said, Seymour is a prototypical 4-3 defensive tackle and could be highly productive in that scheme, contributing as both a run stopper and pass rusher.

Ryan Pickett, Green Bay Packers

Pickett never really established himself as a first-round pick with the Ram, but he found a home in Green Bay and has been one of the league's better nose tackles.

Despite picking B. J. Raji in the first round of last year's draft, the Packers would wisely love to retain Pickett's services, and other teams would definitely like to nab him as well.

Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh Steelers

Pretty much a household name as the long-time anchor of the Pittsburgh defense, Hampton isn't on the same level as the other 3-4 nose tackles on this list.

He's got experience, has played at a high level in the past, and still has a few years left at 32, but he's not going to be a long-term answer for anyone at nose tackle.

Beyond the Top Five
  • Justin Bannan, Baltimore Ravens — Bannan has been a reserve 3-4 end/4-3 tackle for most of his career with the Bills and Ravens, and that's about all he offers at this point.
  • Dwan Edwards, Baltimore Ravens — Edwards has been a 3-4 defensive end for his entire career, but he's capable of playing defensive tackle and could deserve a shot at starting somewhere.
  • Jason Ferguson, Miami Dolphins — Still a very solid nose tackle, Ferguson is 35 and has had trouble staying healthy in recent years. He's worth looking at as a short-term fix or backup and probably wouldn't cost much, but he can't be relied upon to play 16 games.
  • Vonnie Holliday, Denver Broncos — A September signing by Denver, Holliday was one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in 2009. He's got plenty of defensive tackle experience as well and still has the ability to be a productive player in a rotation.
  • Tank Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals — A sub-par player with a history of character issues, Johnson really isn't worth picking up at this point, even as a backup.
  • Cory Redding, Seattle Seahawks — Redding has played plenty inside in his career and had eight sacks with the Lions in 2008, but he doesn't offer much more than a backup now.
  • Fred Robbins, New York Giants — The Giants are likely to let Robbins walk after a mediocre season, and it looks like he 32-year-old veteran is just about out of gas.
  • Hollis Thomas, St. Louis Rams — Thomas has bounced around the league in recent years, and is no longer an effective player. He could get one or two more chances if teams have injuries during the season, but he won't be near the top of anyone's wishlist.

Who are your top five free agent defensive tackles? Share your thoughts on the forum here!