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Defensive Front Seven FA's

Jeremy Jones

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Evan Silva


Free Agency Primer: Front 7

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PRINTER FRIENDLY Offseason Low Down Archives

Three more players (Jordan Gross, Dallas Clark, and Terrell Suggs) were officially franchise tagged Tuesday, further shrinking the pool of elite free agents who'll be available on February 29. Nnamdi Asomugha and Albert Haynesworth will get the tender on Wednesday. Still, plenty of quality defenders are hitting the market. Let's have a look.

Unrestricted Free Agent Linebackers

Franchised: Karlos Dansby (Cardinals), Suggs (Ravens)

1. OLB Lance Briggs (Bears) - The quintessential 4-3 weak-side 'backer. The Bears are making one last push, but it'll be worth it for Briggs to see what's out there. He should be the NFL's richest linebacker by early March.

Prediction: Redskins - 7 years, $63 million ($21 million guaranteed)

2. OLB Calvin Pace (Cardinals) - Had 5.5 sacks on the strong side last year. A 2003 first-round pick and college end, Pace resurrected his career as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He's 27 and athletic enough to rush at 272 pounds with his hand up.

Prediction: Jets - 5 years, $28 million ($10 million guaranteed)

3. ILB Zach Thomas (Dolphins) - Carries injury baggage (migraines, concussions), but still effective from sideline to sideline and a legitimate run stopper. Going on 35, Thomas is only a two-down linebacker any longer, but will want to start on a good team.

Prediction: Saints - 2 years, $9 million ($4 million guaranteed)

4. OLB Kawika Mitchell (Giants) - Flourished on the weak side in '07 after playing MLB for the Chiefs. Mitchell should stay outside, but brings added versatility. He is athletic and well built at 6'1/253.

Prediction: Giants - 3 years, $18 million ($7 million guaranteed)

5. OLB Clark Haggans (Steelers) - Pure strong-side linebacker is declining, but understands the zone blitz and can still hurry the passer. Haggans could help a team transitioning to the 3-4 with young players.

Prediction: Bengals - 3 years, $13 million ($4 million guaranteed)

6. OLB Victor Hobson (Jets) - 6'0/252-pound 'tweener took a big step back last year after a 100-tackle, six-sack campaign in 2006.

7. OLB Landon Johnson (Bengals) - Young (26), highly productive, and versatile but not a traditional run stuffer.

8. OLB Brandon Chillar (Rams) - SAM linebacker not a big playmaker, but smart, only 25, and coming off a career best year.

9. OLB Demorrio Williams (Falcons) - Has intriguing ball skills, athleticism, but nearly lost job on the weak side to day-two pick Stephen Nicholas last year.

10. ILB Dan Morgan (Panthers) - Pro Bowl talent isn't over the hill, but coming off Achilles surgery and has a history of concussions. He visited the Saints Tuesday.

Others of note: ILB Al Wilson (Broncos), OLB Chaun Thompson (Browns), OLB Boss Bailey (Lions), ILB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings), OLB Reggie Torbor (Giants), ILB Teddy Lehman (Lions), OLB Keyaron Fox (Chiefs), ILB Mark Simoneau (Saints), ILB Tedy Bruschi (Patriots), ILB Derek Smith (49ers), OLB Danny Clark (Texans), OLB Caleb Miller (Bengals), ILB Junior Seau (Patriots)

Restricted Free Agent Linebackers

1. OLB Michael Boley (Falcons) - New Falcons' management smartly views Boley as a building block. He'll get the first-round ($2.017 million) tender.2. ILB Channing Crowder (Dolphins) - Should succeed Zach Thomas as Miami's "MIKE" linebacker, but will need at least the second-round tag ($1.417 million).

3. OLB Darryl Blackstock (Cardinals) - Low tender ($927,000) would likely keep this disappointing former third-round pick around for one more year.

4. OLB Heath Farwell (Vikings) - Relentless special teamer lacks size, speed to be realistic long-term answer on the weak side.

5. ILB Adam Seward (Panthers) - Utility linebacker with little upside.

Unrestricted Free Agent Defensive Linemen

Franchised: Jared Allen (Chiefs)

Will Be Franchised: Albert Haynesworth (Titans)

1. DE Justin Smith (Bengals) - Every-down 4-3 end had only two sacks in 2007 while wearing franchise tag. Still, players of Smith's caliber are rare, and his numbers weren't for lack of effort. Smith had 78 tackles, just three shy of his career high. He's a Missouri native and his agent is based in St. Louis.

Prediction: Rams - 6 years, $50 million ($18 million guaranteed)

2. DT Corey Williams (Packers) - Prototype 4-3 gap shooting tackle, but at 6'4/313, could probably play end in an aggressive, Wade Phillips-style 3-4. Williams has 14 sacks in his last two seasons and forced three fumbles in 2007. He is not a nose.

Prediction: Saints - 5 years, $27.5 million ($8 million guaranteed)

3. DE Antwan Odom (Titans) - Only 26 and coming off a breakout eight-sack season, but not proven as an every-down player. He had only 21 tackles in 2007. Odom also has a long history of injuries. Someone will overpay.

Prediction: Lions - 6 years, $38 million ($14 million guaranteed)

4. DT/DE Tommy Kelly (Raiders) - Coming off ACL surgery, so he'll be cheap. Kelly is a high-motor performer and just turned 27. He is 6'6/300. Kelly should take a one-year deal, rehab his value (and knee), and re-enter the market in 2009.

Prediction: Raiders - 1 year, $3 million ($2 million in incentives)

5. DT Isaac Sopoaga (49ers) - Has ideal build for a 3-4 nose at 6'2/332. Sopoaga, a fourth-round pick in 2004, was considered a disappointment before 2007. However, because nose tackles are so hard to find, he's a lock to find a starting job.

Prediction: Dolphins - 5 years, $21 million ($9 million guaranteed)

6. DE Bobby McCray (Jaguars) - 17 sacks 2005-2006. Three in 2007. That's not what he or the Jags were hoping for in a contract year.

7. DE Marques Douglas (49ers) - Undersized 3-4 end but relentless. Could also play three technique in a 4-3.

8. DT Brian Young (Saints) - Productive when healthy, but age (31 this summer) and wear and tear may be catching up to him.

9. DE Josh Thomas (Colts) - Has been buried behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, but plays the run well at left end and has experience inside.

10. DE Chris Clemons (Raiders) - Eight sacks were fluky in 2007, but he'll get paid. Could play weak-side OLB in a 3-4.

Others of note: DT Darwin Walker (Bears), DT Spencer Johnson (Vikings), DT Rod Coleman (Falcons), DE/DT Tyler Brayton (Raiders), DE John Engelberger (Broncos), DT Randy Starks (Titans), DE/DT Darrion Scott (Vikings), DE Ebenezer Ekuban (Broncos), DT Grady Jackson (Jaguars), DE Travis LaBoy (Titans), DT Kindal Moorehead (Panthers), DE/DT Jimmy Wilkerson (Chiefs), DT Ian Scott (Eagles), DE Mike Rucker (Panthers), DT William Joseph (Giants)

Restricted Free Agent Defensive Linemen

1. DE Chris Canty (Cowboys) - A rising star in Dallas' 3-4. Will at least get first-round tender.

2. DT Jovan Haye (Bucs) - Had six sacks in his first year as a starter. A former sixth-round draft pick, Haye should get the second-round tender.

3. DT Colin Cole (Packers) - Versatile 325-pounder can play both interior positions. Cole was originally undrafted, so Green Bay will need to tender him high to keep him.

4. DE/DT Mike Wright (Patriots) - Also a former undrafted FA. Versatile and mostly reliable.

5. DE Chauncey Davis (Falcons) - Almost strictly a run-stopping end. Davis should be safe if tendered low. He was a fourth-round pick in 2005.

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