It’s never too early to start talking about NFL free agency. If your team is like mine and you have already packed in the season eight games in here is your hope. Our seven part series highlighting the top free agents by position should give you some hope. Here’s a look at the defensive linemen:
The Defensive Linemen
Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals
I don’t think there is a chance Arizona lets Campbell walk. He has been a consistent force on an underperforming defense. He will just turn 26 at the beginning of next season and is emerging into a Pro Bowl caliber player. Campbell would fetch a pretty heavy ransom on the open market and Arizona will have to pony up cash to keep him in Cardinal uniform.
Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are going to have tough decisions to make come free agency. Mathis has expressed his discontent with the lack of a long term contract extension with the Colts. Given the amount of free agents and the state of flux in Indy, Mathis could be the odd man out. He will be 31 next season and will be looking for one more big contract.
Antonio Garay, NT, San Diego Chargers
Garay has bounced around the NFL and finally found a home in San Diego. He will be 33 next season and is probably looking at a short-term contract (3 years) to stay in San Diego. The Chargers haven’t had a force in the middle since losing Jamal Williams. They will look to lock up Garay as Cam Thomas hasn’t worked out as a long-term option.
Cliff Avril, DE, Detroit Lions
Avril will only be 26 next season and is just now learning to be a more complete defensive end. He can get to the QB as evidenced by his 5 sacks in eight games. Given the resources inside on the Detroit defensive line they may choose to surround Suh, Williams, and Fairley with a cheaper option in the hopes of similar success. With the attention the interior of Detroit’s defensive line, it’s hard to say if they couldn’t get similar success from a cheaper option. Avril may cash in on his strong 2011 season.
John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Abraham will be 34 next season but still shows an ability to get to the QB. Given his age and the amount of money wrapped up in Ray Edwards the Falcons could look at going a younger, cheaper route. Abraham may choose to find greener pastures…literally.
Jason Jones, DT, Tennessee Titans
Jason Jones is an undersized DT that is often injured. He’s ultra productive when healthy but he will present risk for a team willing to give him a long-term contract. Jones has an explosive first step and will only be 26 next season. Jones may be the ultimate risk vs. reward pick in free agency.
Sione Pouha, NT, New York Jets
Pouha isn’t going to be a guy that gets a ton of sacks but can eat space in the middle. At 33, his best option is to stay in New York for one last run at a short-term contract.
Matt Roth, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Roth has bounced around from Miami to Cleveland to Jacksonville. He has been relatively productive at each spot but hasn’t found a way to stick anywhere. Roth is still relatively young and has proven to be effective in both the 3-4 and 4-3. That versatility will prove to be important if Roth hits free agency.
Adam Carriker, DE, Washington Redskins
Carriker has been solid thus far in 2011. He underperformed in St. Louis after being a first-round pick but has looked more solid as a five-technique in Washington. Carriker may look to re-sign with the Redskins given his success.
The Best of the Rest:
Aubrayo Franklin, DT, New Orleans Saints
Kroy Biermann, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Israel Idonije, DE, Chicago Bears
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Aaron Smith, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Paul Soliai, NT, Miami Dolphins
Kelly Gregg, NT, Kansas City Chiefs
Red Bryant, DT, Seattle Seahawks
Kendall Langford, DE, Miami Dolphins
Jonathan Fanene, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Chris Hoke, DE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pat Sims, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Marcus Benard, DE, Cleveland Browns
Wallace Gilberry, DE, Kansas City Chiefs
Dave Ball, DE, Tennessee Titans
Amobi Okoye, DT, Chicago Bears
Brodrick Bunkley, DT, Denver Broncos
Kedric Golston, DE, Washington Redskins
Jarvis Moss, DE, Oakland Raiders
Derrick Harvey, DE, Denver Broncos
Shaun Rogers, DT, New Orleans Saints
Letroy Guion, DT, Minnesota Vikings
Shaun Ellis, DE, New England Patriots
Cory Redding, DE, Baltimore Ravens