The free agency season has begun and soon players switch teams at a furious pace. Consider this the NFL’s version of spring cleaning. Free agency is a vital part of the NFL’s economy as it shows the value of players and at times raises the price of obtaining a free agent of similar caliber in future offseasons.
The Top Available NFL Free Agent Defensive Linemen
Defensive linemen are an interesting breed. While many come at gigantic sizes of over 300 lbs., they rarely get the credit they deserve for disrupting a good offensive scheme. Players such as Bruce Smith and Reggie White are the exception as they are all-time great pass rushers. While today’s defensive linemen are called upon to sack the quarterback, it is the little things that define their career. Stuffing a run gap, pressuring a quarterback and controlling the line of scrimmage are just a few things which the average spectator typically ignores. This is due to the defensive backfield as well as the linebackers who make the big plays out in the open where all can see. So with this importance recognized, let’s take a look at some of the top defensive linemen hitting the market this year.
Poe had an excellent career in Kansas City and even played as a “wildcat” quarterback. The Chiefs had him line up in the shotgun, receive the snap and throw a jump pass for a touchdown. This is similar to what Tim Tebow did at the University of Florida. The Chiefs also used him as a fullback in certain goal-line situations. He has been to two Pro Bowls and has been a force in the trenches his whole career. At 6’3” 346 lbs., he has the perfect size for a nose tackle in the NFL. He will be 28 by the 2018 season meaning he has room for a long-term contract. Given his big-play potential and previous contracts, he should be given a five year $35 million contract. The Atlanta Falcons, his last team, would be foolish to let him test free agency. He fits perfectly in their defensive scheme and can be a real playmaker in the trenches.
Lotulelei has been a star in the trenches since he was drafted. While he does not get many sacks, he has a number of assisted tackles and is a force against the run. Still, he has not been selected to any Pro Bowls, a fact which will surely affect his standing in contract negotiations. The Carolina Panthers, his previous team, should offer him a five year $25 million contract. If he had been to a Pro Bowl or two then his salary would be higher but not all star players are acknowledged with a Pro Bowl invitation. His value lies in the trenches and against the run. The Panthers pride themselves on all-around good defense and would be foolish to let him go in free agency.
He is not much in rushing the quarterback but he is a tackling machine. He had his highest total in 2017 with 52 tackles. At 6’2” 315 lbs., he is an excellent run stuffer and should be paid as such. Given his value against the run and relatively lesser known name, he should be given a five year $25 million contract. By having him under contract until his mid-thirties, a franchise will enjoy five years of productive defense. Five million a year is a bargain and a team can use the extra cap space to build around him.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the best fit for him. Last season, they showed how good they have become on defense. The problem is that a number of their defensive linemen are starting to get older. Logan is in the prime of his career and can help immediately against the run. While the Jaguars are a dominant defense, it would not hurt to bolster up their defensive line against the run.
At 6’5” 275 lbs., he is a great physical specimen. He entered the NFL with not much football experience but when he learned the mechanics, he blossomed into a ferocious pass rusher. He had 12 sacks in 2017 and appears to be making the leap into the upper echelon of modern day pass rushers. Seeing how the NFL values sacks, he should be given a five year $45 million deal. He is just getting warmed up and it should be exciting to see how great of a pass rusher he can become.
It is clear that the Detroit Lions, his last team, was not a great fit for him. They are a directionless team which does not pride itself on defense. Ansah would do well in the NFC South with all of the teams having elite quarterbacks along with excellent left tackles. However, not even this is the best place for his talents to shine brightest. That would be with the San Francisco 49ers. They have been building through the draft the past three seasons and already have excellent run stuffers on the defensive line. All they are missing is an elite pass rusher. The 49ers are a team on the rise which prides itself on defense. This is the team that can exploit his potential the most.
Each of these players have shown their potential in the NFL. They are all in the prime of their careers and can immediately help a team needing talent on the defensive line. While it is not guaranteed if these players can live up to their potential in 2018, their work up to this point in their careers has led them to a big payday. Who knows, maybe one of these players is the last piece for a team to win a Super Bowl.