2012 NFL Free Agency: Defensive Big Board

Since the end of the 2011 season has wrapped up, attention now turns towards the combine, the draft, and free agency. Though a team cannot be built through free agency, it can be strengthen and holes can be quickly filled with proven players.

Today I wanted to focus on the best free agents on the defensive side of the ball. Though this class isn't as star studded as the offensive free agents, there are still some good young players who can help many teams tremendously.

The Rams have many needs on defense. Defensive tackle and outside linebacker are spots that must be addressed. Also, cornerback is a position that has uncertainty surrounding it. The top three corners, Bartell, Fletcher and Murphy are all coming off season ending injuries. The Rams could be interested in bringing in a more certain option.

After the jump, my defensive free agent big board.

DEs/Pass rushing OLBs

1. Mario Williams- He tore his pec and missed last season, but he is still one of the premier defensive players in the NFL.

2. Robert Matthis- he has been overshadowed by Dwight Freeny his whole career, but he still is a tremendous pass rusher. He is a player who depends on speed and explosiveness, and now at 30 years old, he will probably have to settle with a short term contract.

3. Anthony Spencer- Though he hasn't been a great pass rusher in his career, he is a very effective run stuffer from the 3-4 SLB spot.

4. Cliff Avril- Avril topped double digit sacks for the first time in his career last season with 11. At the young age of 25, he will get a good contract soon. One of our community members had a post earlier discussing why he thinks the Rams should be interested in him.

5. John Abraham- He isn't close to what he used to be at age 34, but he can still help a team in a specialized pass rusher role.

3-4 DEs/DTs

1. Calais Campbell- He is one of the best 5 techniques in the NFL. I don't see a way the Cardinals let him walk and they will probably use the franchise tag if it comes down to it.

2. Jason Jones- he is a good pass rusher from the inside. Being a former Titan, many have speculated that the Rams would be very interested in signing him. They may not get that chance. Ryan reported earlier that Jones and the Titans have enter preliminary discussions for a new contract.

3. Antonio Garay- The Chargers NT had a breakout year in 2010, but a bit of a disappointing year in 2011. At age 32, he can still be an effective run stuffer, but likely will have to play in a limited role.

4. Sione Pouha- he's in the same boat as Garay. He was a late bloomer, who at the age of 33 is looking for his first big contract.

5. Cory Redding- He is a solid 5 technique for the Ravens. At age 31 he still has a couple of years of good production left.

LBs

1. Curtis Lofton- he was fifth in the NFL in tackles in 2011. He is a great young player for the Falcons and it's unlikely they will let him hit the market.

2. D'Qwell Jackson- he was second in the NFL in tackles last season. At age 28 he still has a lot of football left in him.

3. Stephen Tulloch- A former Titan who left them to sign with Detroit for one season. He was very impressive for the surprising Lions. The Fisher connection can't be ignored when trying to gauge the Rams interested in his services. Another one of our great community members laid out a post about the Rams signing him.

4. Dan Connor- he is a player who can be very successful at either MLB or SLB in a 4-3 defense. Considering the other great LBs on the Panthers, it's likely he will be looking for a new team with a starting position.

5. David Hawthorne- he is a very solid OBL and at age 26, he is just entering the prime of his career.

CBs

1. Cortland Finnegan- His whole career has been overshadowed by his dirty tactics, mostly a fight that he had with Andre Johnson, but he has been a top ten corner for the majority of his career. Evan Silva said on Twitter, that the Rams will court Finnegan and might cut Ron Bartell if they sign him.

2. Standford Routt- The Raiders signed him to a 5 year 54 million dollar contract last August, but they just recently released him. He is already being courted by the Bills and the Titans and will be a very popular man over the next month or so.

3. Brent Grimes- he has quietly been a great corner over the last couple of season. He outplayed the Falcons big free agent signing of last offseason, Dunta Robinson and he will be looking for a contract in that same money range.

4. Carlos Rogers- he was All-Pro quality last season for the 49ers, but he was never impressive in Washington. At age 30 he will be looking for a long term deal, but I struggle seeing a team giving him one.

5. Brandon Carr- He is a young, 25 years old, tough physical corner. The Chiefs will be looking to do all they can to keep him in KC and may franchise him if they can't get a deal worked out.

Safeties

1. Dashon Goldson- He had a breakout year on the niners defense in 2011. I don't see a way they let him get to the open market and they will probably use the franchise tag if they have to.

2. LaRon Landry- he is one of the better safeties in the NFL, one problem though; he's always injured. Still at age 27 with all that talent, he will get a good deal.

3. Tyvon Branch- At only age 25, he has had three strait years with over 100 tackle at SS for the Raiders. He is great in run support, but average in coverage. The Raiders will be looking to retain him, but I don't think it's too the level of using a tag on him.

4. Michael Griffen- at his best he is a pro-bowl quality player. The problem is he can never stay at his best. He is a very inconsistent player, but with the talent he possess at age 27, he will get a good deal.

5. Thomas DeCoud- he is an above average safety at a relatively young age, 26. Not overly impressive but solid in run support and in coverage.

Thanks for reading. Be on the lookout for the FA Big Board offensive edition!!

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