2012 NFL Free Agents: Defensive Vets Who Should Remain with 2011 Teams
With the NFL currently in the midst of another pass offense-oriented era, a defense provides itself with the best chance to keep pace by retaining its own veteran players.
Now, these vets need not be considered the best on the market at their respective positions, but they still have proven track records with their franchises.
So to that end, here are some notable vets who should re-sign with their 2011 teams.
Marcus Trufant, CB
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Easily one of the most consistent shutdown corners over the past decade, Seattle's Marcus Trufant saw his 2011 season cut short due to injury.
He is, however, only 31 years old, and with Brandon Browner emerging as a solid and reliable corner himself, the Seahawks can really lock it down in 2012.
In 2010, prior to his injury, Trufant recorded 80 tackles and defended eight passes. And that was after another season cut short in 2009.
Still, Trufant is one of the best man-coverage defenders in the game and has good size at 5'11", 197 pounds to take on any No. 1 receiver. Considering that Seattle finished 2011 with a 5-3 record and ranked No. 9 in total defense, getting a healthy Trufant back for 2012 would be a significant boost.
He can defend well against the run and is arguably even better in zone coverage. So, with the offense improving and the defense missing one piece to really become complete, it's smart for Trufant to stay.
Otherwise, both he and the Seahawks will see disappointing campaigns next fall.
Anthony Spencer, LB
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Although he's one of the better free-agent linebackers this offseason, the Dallas Cowboys must retain Anthony Spencer.
In addition, Spencer should really consider remaining in Big D because lining up opposite of DeMarcus Ware allows him to make more plays on a consistent basis.
The 2011 season was also arguably Spencer's best yet.
Last year, he recorded six sacks, 66 tackles, four forced fumbles and seven run stuffs. Yes, the Cowboys' defense was horrendous at defending the pass, but manning up underneath isn't Spencer's forte.
He's basically a No. 2 pass-rusher that is capable of winning any one-on-one situation and has the speed to beat right tackles off the snap. At times, we will see Spencer drop underneath like Ware, but in a pass-happy league, applying pressure is a defense's best bet.
That being said, when you have two guys like Ware and Spencer, it's important to keep them playing together.
Rashean Mathis, CB
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Struck by the injury bug for the better part of the last four seasons, Jacksonville's Rashean Mathis will be 32 years old before 2012 kicks off. And he definitely must prove to be 100 percent by early September, otherwise, it wouldn't be surprising to see him get released.
Fortunately for Mathis, arguably the best aspects of his game are his instincts and experience.
After going through two seasons in 2008 and 2009 that ended shortly after mid-season, Mathis had a respectable 2010 season during which he played all year. In addition to remaining healthy, he recorded 57 tackles, forced one fumble, recorded a pick and defended six passes.
That then lead off to a strong start in 2011 before Mathis was injured once again. The Jaguars, though, need to retain him since there's a new head coach (Mike Mularkey) and key veterans to step up and help with the transition.
Also, perhaps the most impressive part of Mathis' game is changing the field position after an interception. He has a career average of over 17 yards per interception return and has taken three back for touchdowns.
Jacksonville needs to keep its defensive playmakers on board, because the offense has a ways to go before catching up.
Adam Carriker, DE
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Adam Carriker is certainly not the most appealing free-agent defensive lineman on the market, but he is an important role player for the Washington Redskins' defense.
After a disappointing beginning to his career with the St. Louis Rams in 2007 and 2008, Carriker missed all of 2009 and ended up with the Redskins in 2010. There, Carriker began to turn his career around and made a single-season best 37 tackles.
He then increased production in 2011 with 5.5 sacks and 34 tackles while playing on a sound defense. Last season, the Redskins finished 13th in total defense and they're only going to improve with other guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and London Fletcher (if they re-sign him).
Washington has one of the better front sevens in football, and if the offense can make marginal improvements this offseason, the Redskins have an outside shot at the postseason. Lest we forget, Washington began 3-1 last season but then proceeded to lose six games by eight points or less.
However, the Redskins did sweep the Super Bowl champion Giants, so the ability to compete is definitely present. Retaining Carriker, though, whose career is on the rise, must be a priority.
John Rozum on Twitter.