IT’S FINALLY OVER! The NFL owners and players have agreed to a new CBA that lasts for an unprecedented 10 years without any chance of an opt out clause & I for one could not be happier. As a personal aside however, working off the timelines being thrown out last week I thought I would have all week to do my next column on the best defensive free agents and write it on weaker cold tablets. Since free agency is essentially going now, I offer up this slightly rushed abbreviated breakdown of the best defensive free agents left on the market to follow up the offensive free agents. However, I can honestly say, it’s an inconvenience that I am more than happy to deal with.
4-3 Defensive Lineman: Ray Edwards – 2010 Team: Minnesota Vikings
Initially this was going to be Charles Johnson from the Panthers but since I began writing this he agreed to do his part to help the Panthers reach the salary floor. Edwards has several question marks against his name most notably the size of his mouth leading to stupid predictions as well as being the 4th best player on that Vikings defensive line behind the Williams Wall and Jared Allen but his effort on the field can never be questioned. Due to the 2010 CBA quirks Edwards was a restricted free agent last season missing out on his chance at a big payday however this year he hits the open market ready to make a splash.
3-4 Defensive Lineman: Cullen Jenkins – 2010 Team: Green Bay Packers
Evaluating the true value of a 3-4 defensive lineman is never easy considering their job consists largely of holding up as many people as possible and taking up space. However there must be a reason that Jenkins is proving to be a top name for many linemen needy teams. Jenkins has a great pedigree as the younger brother of Kris Jenkins, however he also has the same sort of injury luck playing in only 11 games last season.
D-Line/Linebacker Mix: Mathias Kiwanuka – 2010 Team: New York Giants
Kiwanuka presents an interesting case as he has experience playing as an end and linebacker in the Giants 4-3 system. I realise as a Patriots fan I am never supposed to like a Giants player after Super Bowl XLII but I like what I see when he is on the field and he potentially could be a great contributor as a 3-4 rush linebacker for a certain team based in Massachusetts (take note coach Belichick).
4-3 Linebacker: Barrett Ruud – 2010 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even when the Buccaneers were down in the doldrums, Ruud represented a major bright spot for that defense since he came into the starting lineup fulltime in 2007. Ruud has always set a good example for his teammates on the field missing only one game in four seasons and managing to top 100 tackles each year. His pass coverage skills have proven to be a major asset however his apparent struggles against the run mean he would not be suited to a 3-4 system.
Cornerback: Nnamdi Asomugah – 2010 Team: Oakland Raiders
First it was rumours and now it’s reports that the New York Jets are leading the race to sign the other best corner in the league behind Darelle Revis. Frankly if that plays out and he does sign with the Jets, that defense would officially leave me scared s***less. Asomugah has been such a highly regarded player around the league, opposing quarterbacks only targeted his assigned receiver 27 times in the season (less than twice a game) and he only allowed 10 completions, none of which were touchdowns. At age 30 and given his publicly stated interested to have another public career after the NFL, Asomugah may not be anything more than a 3 or 4 year option but if he can continue playing as well as he has any team would be lucky to have him.
Safety: Roman Harper – 2010 Team: New Orleans Saints
Roman Harper was part of the hard-hitting Saints defense that contributed to their ultimate success in 2009 lifting the Super Bowl trophy. Generally regarded as durable and reliable on the field for the Saints, the 28 year old presents a great value option for teams in need of a strong safety who can cover and hit.
Later this week when more signings become official, I will offer up some teams that I think have really helped themselves.