NFL Free Agency 2013 primer: Defensive line


The Jaguars will be moving to a hybrid defensive front and could use some free agent pieces.

Now that the NFL franchise tags have been handed down and we know which free agents will actually hit the open market, we can begin looking at the players who are going to be available. The Jaguars will be moving to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive front going forward, so that actually opens up the pool of players the team can pull from.

If the Jaguars are going to be active in free agency, as far as volume wise, it's likely the defensive line will be where they pull from the most.

Tier 1, Expensive

Cliff Avril, DE - Avril is arguably the biggest name on the open market, as far as defensive ends, but he's actually coming off a down year since the Lions franchise tagged him last season and likely speaks to why they decided to let him walk. Even so, Avril can be a good pass rusher off the edge and reportedly has drawn interest from some 3-4 teams as an outside linebacker. Avril is likely going to command a heavy dollar and won't be on the Jaguars radar.

Michael Bennett, DE - Bennett sounds like that guy who everyone pegs as an "under the radar" type free agent, but if everyone is calling him that he's not. After struggles in the first couple of weeks for the Buccaneers, Bennett seemed to flip the switch and had a solid season. The 27-year old picked up nine sacks on a Bucs team who was banged up at the end position and some would argue that Bennett is the best 4-3 defensive end on the market.

Paul Kruger, DE/LB - Kruger had kind of a quiet season, that is until he turned it on during the NFL playoffs and put on a show for everyone to see. He has experience playing with his hand on the ground and standing up in Baltimore's hybrid defensive front, but he will likely command a high dollar pay day from a 3-4 defensive team. He's already been linked to the Browns, who are making the switch to a 3-4 and have tons of cap room.

Desmond Bryant, DT - Despite his recent DUI arrest, Bryant is likely going to get good money on the open market as a pass rushing defensive tackle. If you can be disruptive and collapse the pocket from the inside, you're going to give quarterbacks a hard time. The 27-year old notched 4 sacks and 20 hurries on the season.

Conner Barwin, DE/LB - I think someone like Barwin would actually fit quite well with what the Jaguars are doing defensively, but the 26-year old linebacker is likely going to get some big money from a 3-4 team. Many will knock Barwin for his sack total dropping from 11.5 to just 3 in 2012, but he's not that premier pass rusher people thought he was in 2011. He's kind of a "jack of all trades, master of none" 3-4 player. He's young, athletic, and versatile, however.

Mike Devito, DE - A true under the radar type free agent because he plays a selfless position in the 3-4 is Devito. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but he can set the edge with the best of the 3-4 defensive ends and is a building block on any team making the switch to that style of defense.

Tier 2, Moderate

Alan Branch, DT - Branch played both the one-technique and the three-technique for the Seahawks in their hybrid front and is actually someone I expect the Jaguars to pursue heavily in free agency. He's a stout run defender but doesn't offer much as far as a pass rush. Branch can be a building block in the new hybrid front that is familiar with both Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash.

Jason Jones, DE/DT - Jones, like Branch, is someone I could see the Jaguars going after because of his versatility and familiarity with the new coaching staff and scheme. Jones can play both the five-technique and three-technique and offer some pass rush while setting the edge at defensive end. He does have a big injury history though, so that might limit him to short-term type deals.

Chris Canty, DT - Canty has been linked to the Jaguars already in free agency and is a short-term veteran type of player that the team might look for at a handful of position. Canty would fit in the new hybrid front, being as he has played in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme. He can offer some pass rush from the interior three-technique position.

Sammie Hill, DT - Hill has been buried on the Lions depth chart behind two high first-round pick defensive tackles, but is a young interior pass rusher who should get some play in free agency. He would fit best on the Jaguars defense as the three-technique defensive tackle.

Terrance Knighton, DT - Knighton is a classic one-technique defensive lineman who also has some ability to collapse the pocket from the interior when he's on. The problem is that Knighton has had weight issues in the past that have made him taper off late in the year and was recently benched in a contract year following an off the field incident injuring his eye.

Clinton McDonald, DT - McDonald is a restricted free agent for the Seahawks who was with Seattle the past two seasons. He's another player linked because of his familiarity with the defensive scheme and coaching staff, but with two other pending free agents on the defensive line I would guess Seattle will tender him to keep him on the roster.

Tier 3, Budget

Vance Walker, DT - Walker was a rotational interior pass rusher for the Falcons, but it appears he's going to hit the free agent market and likely won't be too expensive. New Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell should be familiar with Walker coming from Atlanta and he's a player who would fit at the three-technique role.

Ricky Jean-Francois, DE - Jean-Francois is your classic 3-4 defensive end who could fill the five-technique role for the Jaguars in their new hybrid front. He's also been cross trained as a one-technique somewhat by the 49ers so he can also slide inside on more traditional 4-3 looks.

Daryl Tapp, DE - Tapp is an undersized pass rusher who might be able to fit into that LEO role should the Jaguars want to bring in some veterans to compete for a roster spot. Tapp played one season under Gus Bradley in Seattle before he was traded to the Eagles so there is a bit of familiarity there.

Lawrence Sidbury, DE - Sidbury is a player who doesn't appear to being headed back to Atlanta this offseason and looked as if he was poised for a breakout season in 2012 in the pass rush rotation, but just couldn't see the field. New general manager David Caldwell should know the book on Sidbury, so like Tapp he could be a player to keep an eye on to come in and compete.

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