Today is arguably one of the best days of the year. It is the day the NFL's year officially starts so that means teams (that have cap room) can start to attempt to make their teams better.
It is no secret here that i'm a huge fan of defense, seriously it wins championships, and there is a lot of recognizable names hitting the market this year. Combine that with a good handful of teams with significant cap room and that my friends is a recipe to have one hell of a interesting free agent period.
I am going to go over some of the top defensive players that are going to hit the free agent market. Some of the guys you may have heard of and some of them are the no name players that just do their job and make teams better without getting their names in the paper, but believe me they are going to get PAID in the next couple of days.
Cliff Avril, Defense End - Avril has been one of the league's best pass rushers coming off the left end for the Detroit Lions. Avril is without a doubt going to see a big pay day when free agency opens. One of Avril's biggest strengths is his versatility, even though he lined up at DE for the Lions Avril played line backer in his collegiate days at Purdue. Places I think Avril will end up will be Indy, Tampa or even Cleveland. If Tampa could somehow land Avril that D will automatically become draft-able in fantasy football.
Paul Kruger, Outside Linebacker - Kruger has created a lot of buzz lately. Multiple teams are going after the 27 year old outside linebacker. Kruger was the 3rd potato on a deep Baltimore line backing crew but his 13.5 sacks last year (4.5 coming in the playoffs) definitely helped Kruger make himself known throughout the league. I believe Kruger will end up in a 3-4 system that allows him to play more outside the tackles. Early favorite to land Kruger is Cleveland.
Sean Smith, Cornerback - At 6'3" 218 pounds, Smith is more known for his ability to cover the larger WR in the NFL. The way the times seem to be going a guy that can run with a Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson is becoming more and more of a mandatory thing that a luxury. The only knock on Smith is his ability to stay with the speedier guys in the league but that is something that can be worked on and improved. Tampa Bay (they need it) and New England have both been linked to showing interest in Smith.
Dashon Goldson, Free Safety - Personal opinion on Goldson.....He is a BEAST at safety. I believe Goldson would be an instant upgrade for most NFL teams. Only problem with Goldson is he won't be cheap especially after everyone saw the money Eric Weddle got in San Diego (8 mil per year). 3 INT's 2 forced fumbles and 55 total tackles don't really reflect how valuable a guy like Goldson is to a team. Goldson has been dubbed by many NFL writers as one of the league's premier cover safeties. San Francisco didn't tag Goldson and the front runners for his services are believed to be Detroit, New England and Philadelphia.
Desmond Bryant, Defensive Tackle - Recent legal trouble might hurt the 6'6" 311 pound "high motor" DT. Bryant was high on a couple of team's free agent lists, but it should be interesting to see if teams are still eager to sign the big fella with his off the field issues. A couple of teams that have shown interest in Bryant are Seattle and Philadelphia
Derek Cox, Cornerback - The biggest thing with Derek Cox is his ability to stay healthy. Cox has missed some significant time during his tenure in Jacksonville but when healthy Cox has shown he has the skill set to be a team's #1 CB. Last year Cox had 4 INTs in 12 games played. Washington and Tampa Bay are a couple of teams that seem to be willing to roll the dice on Derek Cox.
Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End - Osi has racked up 75 sacks in his 9 years in the NFL and at the age of 31 he will be looking for a multiple year deal where ever he ends up. Osi is a force on the D-Line and has shown time again he has all the skill to make QB's lives a living hell. If I had to say something negative about Umenyiora is as the years have gone on he has become less effective vs. the run and is now more of a pass rush specialist. The Titans have been rumored to look to ink Osi as well as the Atlanta Falcons. Interesting side note Osi recently has been quoted to saying "I'm shooting for defensive player of the league this year." (Quote from USA Today Sports)
Ed Reed, Free Safety - Honestly what can I say about Ed Reed besides the fact he is in the discussion for greatest safeties of all time. At 35 Reed is definitely "on the back 9" of his NFL career but he continues to be an elite ball hawk in the defensive backfield. There is a lot of chatter about the Colts going after Reed and the Colts have the cap space to "make him an offer he can't refuse." It should be interesting to see how the Ed Reed free agency plays out.
John Abraham, Defensive End - Abraham had 10 sacks last year putting the league on notice that there is still something left in the tank. No way Abraham plays every down for a team but he can still be effective as a pass down rusher. John will most likely get a one or two year deal where ever he ends up. Seattle, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco have all been linked to showing interest to "Big" John Abraham.
Alright I'll stop the list there. I'm very excited to see what teams make moves to make their defense better this year. If you noticed teams like Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Seattle, Cleveland and Philadelphia came up a lot on this list. Look for those squads to make some serious defensive moves this off season.
If you are looking for a little offensive to go with your defense check out these free agent outlooks