Blog Entry

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Posted on: February 27, 2012 1:08 pm
It sounds like Houston isn't remotely interested in letting Williams test free agency. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the defensive ends.

Most of the categories in our 2012 free agent rankings are fairly straightforward. Running backs are running backs. Tight ends are tight ends. Quarterbacks are quarterbacks. But when it comes to the defensive line, the category gets a little blurry.

Some defensive ends also play defensive tackle. Defensive ends in a 3-4 scheme oftentimes line up as an outside linebacker. That makes ranking them in a single list a bit more complicated. Though some of the following players won’t always line up as a defensive end, the idea that each of these players will be asked to rush the passer remains the same. So, we list them as defensive ends.

1. Mario Williams

Breakdown: Williams quickly caught on to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme where he played as more of an end/linebacker hybrid and recorded five sacks in the only five games in which he participated last year. Williams likely will return to terrorizing tackles and quarterbacks on nearly every snap if he leaves Houston and signs with a team that uses the 4-3. True, Williams is coming off a pectoral muscle injury that sent him to the IR list, but he says he’s healthy and the former No. 1 overall pick is going to be expensive. That said, Texans general manager Rick Smith continues to say that re-signing Williams is one of the teams’ top offseason priorities, though there’s a real question whether Houston has the cap room to do so. Even though Williams has failed to reach double-digits in sacks for the past three years, he still could win the richest defensive player contract of all time if he leaves Houston.

Possible Landing Spots:Texans, Jaguars, Seahawks, Titans
Avril made a name for himself in 2011. (Getty Images)

2. Cliff Avril

Breakdown: Although he’s not as well-known as teammates Ndamukong Suh or (probably) Nick Fairley, Avril emerged as one of the nastiest ends in the league this year. His 11 sacks were a career high, and he even managed his first career interception. The problem on Avril’s end is that there’s almost no chance Detroit will let him get anywhere near free agency. The Lions and Avril are working on a long-term deal. General manager Martin Mayhew said that while he doesn’t want to franchise-tag Avril, he’s also not willing to lose him. If that occurs, Avril -- who has hinted at holding out -- will have to decide if he wants to be on time for training camp.

Possible Landing Spots: Lions

3. Calais Campbell

Breakdowns: The past three seasons, Campbell has been consistent, and he has consistently improved, increasing his tackle totals every season and notching a career-high eight sacks in 2011 for the Cardinals. But like Avril, he’s got very little chance to test himself on the free agent market, because it sounds like if Arizona can’t come to terms on a long-term contract, the Cardinals will tag him. But unlike Avril, Campbell said he’s OK with that scenario. Besides, if he is tagged and makes close to $11 million for 2012 and puts forth another career-best performance, he’ll have the chance to set himself up with a huge contract.
Possible Landing Spots: Cardinals

4. Robert Mathis

Breakdown: Since he’s spent his entire nine-year career in Indianapolis, it’s hard to imagine Mathis in a non-Colts uniform -- almost as tough, I suppose, as imagining Peyton Manning in something other than blue and white. The potential problem, though, is new coach Chuck Pagano seems intent on installing the 3-4 scheme, and that will be a transition for somebody who’s always been a 4-3 end (it’s worth noting that’s Pete Prisco doesn’t seem concerned with the Colts turning Mathis into a pass-rushing linebacker). The Colts have said they want to keep Mathis in Indianapolis, but Dwight Freeney will cost $19 million against the salary cap. Another possibility for Mathis is the Colts placing the franchise tag on him, but considering Mathis is 31, the delaying of a long-term contract isn’t necessarily a great option for him.

Possible Landing Spots: Titans, Falcons, Colts

5. John Abraham

Abraham believes he's worth $12 million a year, even though he'll turn 34 before next season. (US Presswire)

Breakdown: Although Abraham will turn 34 before the start of the 2012 season, he still should draw plenty of interest throughout the league, simply because he continues to be one of the elite ends around. He’s durable, playing at least 15 games per season in the last five years, and he continues to churn out double-digit sack totals on a near-annual basis (his 9.5 sacks in 2011 just missed the cutoff). Can he command a long-term contract? Probably not, because of his age. Is he still a top-10 defensive end? Probably, yes. But is he worth $12 million? According to Abraham, the answer is: absolutely. “Check out the five top ends,” Abraham told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Everybody is getting 12-plus. I made $8 million last year. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, he’s so greedy.’ How am I greedy when I’m just trying to get paid the same thing they are getting paid?” The chances of Abraham getting $12 million? Slim to none.

Possible Landing Spots: Giants, Buccaneers, Patriots

6. Cory Redding

Breakdown: He had a rough year in 2009 in his only season with the Lions, but since moving to Baltimore and playing with the Ravens for the past two seasons, Redding has returned to being a solid end who can stop the run and who occasionally can muster a sack (he’s got 7.5  combined in the past two seasons). But Redding will turn 32 next season, and he had injuries at the end of last year that slowed him a bit (even though it was one of the best seasons of his career). He’s probably not a great long-term value for most teams in the league, but the Ravens are a fan of him, particularly since he took on a leadership role when linebacker Ray Lewis missed four games. Redding just seems to fit in well with Baltimore’s defense. But remember, Pagano lurks to the west in Indianapolis.

Possible Landing Spots:Colts, Ravens

7. Jeremy Mincey

Breakdown: Mincey certainly picked the best time to have a career year. In his contract year, he recorded 57 tackles, eight sacks and an interception. Considering he didn’t combine for those numbers during the first five seasons of his career, that should tell you about Mincey’s mindset entering 2011. Or, it should tell you that last season was simply an anomaly (or, I suppose, you could say that it just took Mincey a long time to develop). Either way, Mincey is looking to get paid -- he’s on record saying he won’t give Jacksonville a hometown discount -- and though it appears the Jaguars would like to keep him, they’ll have to figure out where he fits in with the team’s finances (it should be noted that Jacksonville has plenty of room under the salary cap).

Possible Landing Spots: Jaguars, Bills

8. Israel Idonije

Breakdown: He obviously doesn’t get the love that’s reserved for teammate Julius Peppers, but Idonije notched a career-high 52 tackles last season (along with five sacks). Even better for Chicago, Idonije seems intent on returning to the Bears. “I want to be here,” Idonije said earlier this month. “I have an incredible relationship with the coaching staff, and I understand the system. So my No. 1 focus is to stay.” He even intimated he would give Chicago a hometown discount. He probably won’t command an expensive long-term deal, and he’ll probably be worth it for the Bears.

Possible Landing Spots: Bears

9.  Mark Anderson

Breakdown: Anderson is a strange case, because as ESPN Boston pointed out, he only played 47.6 percent of the Patriots snaps last year. Yet, he still managed 10 sacks. Also, he played all but one snap in the team’s final two games after Andre Carter suffered a quad injury.  Carter also is an unrestricted free agent, but reportedly, Anderson is a better bet to be re-signed by New England.

Possible Landing Spot: Patriots, Dolphins

10. Honorable Mentions

Unrestricted: Kendall Langford, Raheem Brock, Red Bryant, Andre Carter

Restricted: Phillip Merling, Michael Bennett

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Since: Jan 28, 2007
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:53 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

The bottom line is Abraham does not deserve 12 millions dollars a year!!! As for knowledge I would love anyone to test my knowledge on the Atlanta Falcons history! Any takers feel free to step to the plate! Thank you and have a nice day... ;)

Since: Dec 4, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:41 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

You guys know what the girl meant from "since the beginning", so stop playing the sarcasm game here. It makes you look stupid and juvenile. If one can use solely raw stats - particularly sacks as if sacks were the only metrics to measure a DE success - to make a point, then I would recommend you to: 1) actually watch the games again and take notes of what you see in terms of pressuring, hitting and sacking the opponent QB and/or 2) look for other meaningful performance indicators before judging a player (changing your sources of information might be helpful). To my knowledge, Abe was a Top 5 player in Pass Rush Productivity, meaning that he did the job of pressuring the QB in all plays he was involved and that's exactly what somebody in his position is supposed to do. On a game per game basis, and if you want to put the Jaguars and the last Bucs game aside in your analysis, he had great performances playing against the Bears, the Saints (game at the Georgia Dome), the Texans, the Titans and the Panthers, regardless of the outcome. If he's young or old, if he's worth the money or not, I'll leave that for Falcons fans to discuss.

I agree that Robert Mathis should be on that list, though.

Since: Jul 14, 2008
Posted on: February 28, 2012 2:50 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Lets start this over. Abe has been here since the start of the rebuild after the quiter and dog fighter left. Abe is worth up to 7 mil a year. He is one of the best defensive players on the team and now that we have a real "D" coach that knows how to use him better you can expect more. 2008 16.5 sacks, 4 FF  2010 13 sacks , 2 FF 1 int  2011 9.5 sacks 4 FF. He's not worth 12 mil but man i would want him back. Ray Edwards on the other hand can take a walk. I think Grimes probably should get the franchise even though i think it is a little high of a price for such a small guy and he's coming off knee surgery that he never recovered from last year. Lofton is the one that will be on the fence with Spoon playing so well last year. I just don't know how smart Spoon is. Sometimes he looks dumb as rocks out there. I would like to see all 3 come back but i don't think that will happen. Def. need some O line help and some secondary help. Mario is a pipe dream but i'll keep smoking till we get him.

Since: Jan 28, 2007
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:52 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

How has John Abraham been here from the begining? The begining of the Falcons franchise? The begining of the Matt Ryan, Dimtitroff, Mike Smith era? Are you stating that he has been here since the begining of his career if so go do some more homework on that one! Abe has also been here since the end then! Since the Bobby Petrino dibacle, and the Michael Vick dog fighting scandal and the end of the Warrick Dunn era! Like all of them his career is coming to and end so it's time for the Falcons to move on from a 34 year old defensive end whos play count has been reduced to passing downs only. He's injury prone, old, and doesn't have much left in the tank considering he had 4.5 sacks against two teams last year, The Jaguars, and Bucs both of who sucked really bad and had given up by the time the Falcons played them! So yea lets pay 12 million a year for a aging defensive end who only plays 50% of the downs and will only register 5 sacks a season that makes sense! Lets watch Brent Grimes walk and Curtis Lofton as well and lets just forget about trying to protect Matt Ryan in the process since there will be no cap room left to sign anyone of significance to protect him. Lets spend all of the cap room to get Abraham around I could see the LOGIC and COMMON SENSE in that one! I understand he's probably your favorite player or something but it's time to cut ties. If I am the Falcons I offer 6-8 million a year at most and if he and his agent decline don't let the door hit ya well you know the rest!

Since: Jun 6, 2011
Posted on: February 28, 2012 9:38 am

The beginning??? As in 1966??

Some of us Falcons fans want him to stay, he's been here from the beginning........

Even more of a reason not to keep John Abraham. 

A 66 year old defensive end isn't worth 1/10th of the salary cap

Since: Jun 22, 2010
Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:58 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Leave Cindy alone you meanies...

Abe is the truth!!!

Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:50 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Biggest factual error in the whole article:
it’s worth noting that Pete Prisco doesn’t seem concerned with the turning Mathis into a pass-rushing linebacker)
Pete Prisco's concerns and lack thereof are never worth noting.

Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posted on: February 28, 2012 8:46 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Well, if Mario somehow gets snapped up by Green Bay, cancel the 2012 season. Of course, they won't - he's too expensive - but if they did, it would be cheating. I'd like to see the Texans hold onto him; only inuries kept Houston out of the Super Bowl, IMHO. They were the most well-rounded team perhaps in the entire NFL (and yes, I'm including the Giants).

Since: Jul 29, 2010
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:57 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

Does anyone proof read their "facts"?  Cory Redding was with the Lions for 6 years, then with Seattle for 1 (which was 2009).

Since: Jan 5, 2012
Posted on: February 28, 2012 7:02 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End Rankings

@ Cindygotti, speak for yourself
I AM speaking for myself......You all do realize ....YOU aren't the only fans of the team, right.........YOU aren't the only ones that can post here right..................Last time I checked it's on OPEN forum, you have your opinions & I have mine.  Some of us Falcons fans want him to stay, he's been here from the beginning........YOUR opinions are not the only ones.  BUT hey, thanks for stopping & trying to set me "straight" Mkay

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