Top Defensive Linemen
Justin Smith, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals
Smith is an intriguing player. He’s consistent, experienced, and has a powerful motor. With 81 total tackles and 7.5 sacks in ’06, Smith showed that he was a high level end, and that he was coming into his own as a defensive leader on the Bengals. He was unable to have similar success this season, with just two sacks to go with his 78 total tackles. It didn’t help that the defense around him was porous. He won’t command elite dollars, but he could be valuable to a handful of teams and may find a suitor willing to open the checkbook a little bit.
Predicted 2008 Team: Buccaneers – He can be a starter on a competitive team known for its defense.
Mike Rucker, UFA, Carolina Panthers
Rucker is somewhat talented, there’s no doubt about that, but he has had the benefit of playing alongside one of the league’s best defensive players in Julius Peppers. Peppers had a down year and so did Rucker. There is probably a connection, but Rucker may still be pursued. While Rucker posted just three sacks on the ‘07 season, he’s had as many as twelve sacks in a season previously. His play—at least numbers-wise—has tailed off in recent seasons, but if a team is convinced that he can return to form somehow, he might get a decent contract offer.
Predicted 2008 Team: Panthers – Rucker wants to stay and but he may have to settle for a reduced role.
Tommy Kelly UFA Oakland Raiders
The Raiders may work to extend Kelly’s contract, but the team is also giving other players a shot at challenging for the starter’s role next season. Kelly was a solid presence through seven games, before suffering a season ending torn ACL. There’s a chance that Oakland lets Kelly walk over injury concerns and as they shift talent and bring in new talent. Kelly would have brought strong interest from some teams, but with his injury, only a few teams will likely be serious about acquiring him.
Predicted 2008 Team: Raiders – Warren Sapp’s retirement gives Kelly a larger opportunity to start.
Other Free Agent Defensive Linemen
Jordan Carstens UFA Carolina Panthers
Ebenezer Ekuban UFA Denver Broncos
Sam Rayburn UFA San Francisco 49ers
Paul Spicer UFA Jacksonville Jaguars
Randy Starks UFA Tennessee Titans
Renaldo Wynn UFA Washington Redskins
Continue with top free agent LB