Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 All Free Agent Team - Defense

A look at the top unrestricted free agents available at each position. By "top," though, I don't mean the best in terms of raw ability or talent level, but in overall value, taking into consideration factors such as age and cost. Of course, it's early yet—free agency hasn't even started—and so some of these players could very well be resigned and never hit the open market. As that becomes the case, I expect I will update this "team." The offense was posted last Sunday.

DE: Jared Allen (Kansas City Chiefs)
Coming off of an All-Pro season, Allen isn't flying under anyone's radar. He has four seasons of solid production. The big reason he makes it here: he's still young, turning 26 in April. Yes, he has had some off-field issues that should temper what he gets paid at least a little bit, but he deserves to be among the league's top-paid defensive ends.

DE: Antwan Odom (Tennessee Titans)
Free agency doesn't offer a lot of solid options at defensive end this year. If you're running a 3-4, then San Francisco's Marques Douglas is a solid player, but turns 31 soon, and seemed to wear down as the 2007 season wore on. Odom benefitted from lining up next to defensive MVP Albert Haynesworth for most of the season. But at 26 he's reaching his peak years and should be a solid signing so long as a team doesn't overpay for his services.

DT: Corey Williams (Green Bay Packers)
Williams has provided good production from the inside for Green Bay the last two seasons. At 6'4" and 313 pounds, the 27-year-old Williams could also be a nice fit at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. He should get a five-year deal and I'm sure he'll make whatever team signs him happy they did so.

DT: Tommy Kelly (Oakland Raiders)
Coming off an ACL injury, Kelly will have some question marks going into 2008. But he just turned 27 and with the right kind of contract he'll be a great addition for a team as either a 3-technique DT in a four-man line or as an end in a 3-4 scheme.

OLB: Calvin Pace (Airzona Carinals)
With fellow Cardinals free-agent linebacker Karlos Dansby likely to be franchised or signed to a long-term deal, it seems likely Pace will get a chance to test the market. Pace would be a natural piece of the puzzle for a team looking to transition to a 3-4 like the Dolphins or, if they choose to do so, the Rams.

OLB: Victor Hobson (New York Jets)
Hobson is a solid player who seems miscast as an outside linebacker in the Jets' base 3-4 defense. He should be a nice fit on the strong side for a traditional 4-3 team, or he might be better as an inside backer for a 3-4 team.

MLB: Kawika Mitchell (New York Giants)
Unless I'm overlooking somebody, this year's free agent class offers pretty much nothing for a team looking to fill a middle linebacker spot. I'm giving Mitchell the nod here as a guy still under 30 who, like Hobson, I think could be an asset on the inside in a 3-4 scheme.

CB: Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders)
Asomugha is the best cornerback in the league. I'll be shocked if the Raiders don't franchise him, so I'm probably going to have to replace this spot sooner rather than later.

CB: Asante Samuel (New England Patriots)
Although he wouldn't have received my vote as All-Pro last season, he made the cut in 2006, and I still view him as one of the league's top-five cornerbacks. Having recently turned 27, Samuel should have a couple of years left at his peak before beginning to steadily decline as most CBs do. A five-year-deal for top-dollar should be money well-spent.

FS: Gibril Wilson (New York Giants)
The Giants' struggles in the secondary have seldom been the problem of Wilson. New York's improbable play-off run means Wilson has received a little more notice than he might otherwise have, but he should still come at a decent price and he will help shore up some secondary somewhere if the Giants don't re-sign him.

SS: Yeremiah Bell (Miami Dolphins)
Although Bell has only logged four seasons, he's already going to be 30. He's also coming off an injury. But he showed enough in 2006 that I believe he'll be a great value signing in a year when the draft and free agency have very little to offer in the way of safeties. As a strong safery Bell should be able to play another three or four seasons of quality football, making him an excellent stop-gap for a team looking to fill a hole in their starting lineup.

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