4 Teams That Can Revive Shawne Merriman's Career
Shawne Merriman, fortunately, is still young enough to still play.
"I didn't fit the 4-3 (defensive) system. I'm more of a 3-4 guy," he said.
Yes, Merriman may be more of a 3-4 player—as he was with the San Diego Chargers as well—but in playing just 23 games the past four seasons he needs to go where needed.
The Bills have a lot of great young talent and their rotation is deep enough without Merriman. His best odds at suiting up again will be with a defense that can use him: regardless of whether it runs a 4-3 or 3-4 front.
Merriman is not a coverage linebacker and specializes at pass rushing and stopping the run. Therefore, those hoping to improve in one or both of those areas throughout 2012 must consider his services.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The Indianapolis Colts have much potential for 2012 and adding Shawne Merriman wouldn't hurt.
For one, the Colts run his 3-4 style and need some more experienced talent in the front seven. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the obvious starters and pass-rushing specialists, but are ages 32 and 31, respectively.
Merriman would simply help in the rotation and give Chuck Pagano some depth to work with.
Plus, Indianapolis ranked No. 29 against the run in 2012 and allowed an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Merriman, when healthy, has the speed and instincts to track down ball-carriers from the backside and react well the ball comes playside.
Facing a division where there are excellent running backs like Chris Johnson and Arian Foster, the Colts can't afford to lack in the trenches this season.
Eric P. Mull-US PRESSWIRE
No, the Cleveland Browns don't run a 3-4, but Shawne Merriman would be a great contributor for them.
At this point, the Browns need all the help they can get and Merriman's best opportunity to see the field often is in Cleveland.
The Browns ranked No. 30 against the rush in 2011 and allowed 4.4 yards per carry. In addition, Cleveland also defended the second-most rushes (534). Only the Colts defended more with 540.
Although Merriman will likely have to play more of the traditional 4-3 outside 'backer, his size and power does transition well onto the edge of the line. Merriman can also remain in his two-point stance, which then gives Cleveland a 4-3 Over/Under look.
To some extent, a 4-3 Over or Under is eerily similar to a 3-4 but it's a linebacker shift with the defensive line bumping down a technique (or gap depending on the defensive coordinator's philosophy). Either way, it puts Merriman in a more comfortable rushing position without having to totally revamp the defensive front.
With a decent secondary as well, the Browns have to improve at controlling the line of scrimmage. The AFC North is the most physical of divisions and Merriman's physical play is a good match.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
A move back to the AFC West with Oakland fits well for Shawne Merriman.
The Raiders have the personnel to switch consistently between a 4-3 and 3-4 front, and Merriman only enhances the dynamic.
Last season the Raiders ranked dead last in allowing 5.1 yards per carry and only recorded 39 sacks. Well, the potential still resides as veteran Richard Seymour proved his dominance when part of New England's 3-4/1-5-5 from 2001-2008.
Since joining Oakland, Seymour has remained a stud but his production would receive a boost with Merriman rushing opposite. Plus, adding the pass rush specialist gives the Raiders a competitive advantage when facing division rivals.
The AFC West has some impressive running backs, and with Merriman having played in San Diego for his first six seasons, the transition back would be a win-win situation.
Oakland needs to add natural talent in the front seven and Merriman's presence alone will take pressure off the secondary as well.
St. Louis Rams
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The St. Louis Rams are a team where Shawne Merriman can standout.
Ranking No. 31 against the run in 2011 and allowing 4.8 yards per carry, St. Louis won't enjoy much improvement in 2012 without continuing to upgrade.
The NFC West presents tough running backs like Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, so the Rams must get better at winning in the trenches. Considering that the rest of the division also made upgrades to the passing game and St. Louis needs to get additional quarterback pressure at a higher rate.
Chris Long accounted for 13 sacks last year, which was exactly one-third of the Rams' total sack number (39). Putting Merriman opposite him in a 4-3 Over/Under look with Robert Quinn just inside and the Rams' front seven will shutdown more consistently against the run to help those in coverage.
And the Rams' secondary does have promise with guys like rookies Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and veterans Cortland Finnegan and Quintin Mikell.
If it can present a more formidable pass rush, Jeff Fisher's defense will turn some heads in 2012.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.