2012 NFL Free Agents: Defensive Studs Your Team Desperately Needs

Wes ODonnellFeatured ColumnistFebruary 29, 2012

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 09:  Outside linebacker Mario Williams #90 of the  Houston Texans reacts after a big defensive stop in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

It isn't often that a former No. 1 overall pick at the age of 27 with two Pro Bowls under his belt is made available in the free agent market, but this year will be one of those rare years.

The Houston Texans can't afford to pay Mario Williams' $22 million franchise tag tender, and they won't be able to work a deal that will bring him back either. They actually made the playoffs and had one of the best defenses in the league last year without him anyway, so expecting the Texans to break their backs to re-sign him is out of the question.

The 6'6", 283-pound defensive end will be a free agent this offseason, and he's not the only defensive stud set to hit the market, either.

Mario Williams, DE

Williams is more a true 4-3 defensive end than a 3-4 edge rusher, and chatter has already begun about the Seattle Seahawks being the front-runner for his services. Coach Pete Carroll's team has a good young nucleus of players and has a good chunk of change to spend in free agency to boot.

It isn't the flashiest of places, but Williams would be a great fit in that defensive front, and the Seahawks would have a legitimate chance at winning that division with him on the field.

Robert Mathis, DE

We continue to see teams with elite pass rushing succeed in this league and even at the age of 31, Mathis is still one of the best.

The overhaul in Indianapolis isn't something the veteran players want to be a part of, so it would be surprising to see Mathis take a pay cut to stay.

He won't receive a huge deal or a five-year contract, but he'll make a huge impact for the right team.

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 1: Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars fumbles the football after being sacked by Robert Mathis #98 of the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on January 1, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Jaguars defeated the Col
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Like Williams, he's better suited in a 4-3 and will have plenty of suitors.

Cortland Finnegan, CB

One thing that helps a mediocre pass rush is a good secondary, especially in today's NFL where passing is more a part of the game than ever. Finnegan has a reputation that borderlines on being a "dirty player," but he's a solid cornerback with good experience and still on the right side of 30 years old at only 28.

He's a great fit for what the Titans like do, especially in terms of physicality, but there are a number of teams that could use upgrades in the secondary.

He's not the best available talent on the market, but he's quietly a solid addition who could be one of the missing pieces for a team looking to contend in the postseason.

Terrell Thomas, CB

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19: Terrell Thomas #24  of the New York Giants breaks up the pass intended for Jeremy Maclin #18 of the Philadelphia Eagles at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laha
Nick Laham/Getty Images

More commonly known as TT, the Giants corner missed the entire 2011 Super Bowl season with injury. He isn't nationally known, but the former USC Trojan is one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the entire league and a key contributor to any defense. 

He was arguably the Giants' best cornerback prior to the injury and had a knack for making plays in big moments.

He won't be too expensive because of his injury, and the 27-year-old could be a steal this offseason.