Defense wins championships. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens, who used a goal-line stand to fend off the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII last month.
So don't be surprised when NFL teams spend big bucks in free agency this offseason in order to bolster their D, adding shutdown corners and disruptive pass-rushers to ensure that they're the ones hoisting the Lombardi Trophy 11 months from now.
Below we'll showcase some of the top impact defenders on the free-agent market in 2013.
John Abraham, DE
Four-time Pro Bowler John Abraham has played his last seven NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, but doesn't have a Super Bowl ring to show for it. At this point in the 34-year-old's career, playing for a championship contender is likely the top priority.
According to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter on Thursday, Abraham was scheduled to visit with the team Atlanta knocked off in the postseason last January:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Former Falcons DE John Abraham is on his way to Seattle to visit the Seahawks.3/7/2013, 10:06:03 PM
Abraham would be a great fit in Seattle, sure, but the reality is he would be a great fit almost anywhere. After all, he's one of the top impact defenders to be had this offseason. He picked up 10 sacks and forced six fumbles last season.
Plus, durability isn't an issue with Abraham. He's missed only two regular-season games over the course of the past six years.
Paul Kruger, LB
Unlike John Abraham, free-agent pass-rusher Paul Kruger is a Super Bowl champion. But more importantly, Kruger is only 27 years old.
The former Utah standout is set to begin his fifth NFL season in 2013, and he's improved every year since he entered the league in 2009. He recorded 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2011, but then returned in 2012 to tally nine sacks, a forced fumble and an interception for the Baltimore Ravens.
The team opted not to slap the franchise tag on him this offseason, however (via ESPN's Adam Schefter):
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Notable UFAs not tagged: Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Aqib Talib, William Moore, Brent Grimes, Cliff Avril, Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola.3/4/2013, 10:09:11 PM
If Kruger's play during Baltimore's Super Bowl run this past winter is any indication of how he'll perform in 2013, then there are a ton of teams that should be looking into him. He's just coming into his prime and his motor makes him one of the most disruptive and coveted free-agent defenders on the market.
William Moore, S
An underrated free-agent safety and a teammate of John Abraham's in Atlanta, William Moore is one of the best free safeties available this offseason, and if you ask Bleacher Report's NFL draft expert Matt Miller, he's every bit as talented as Dashon Goldson:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Dashon Goldson may get more money on the open market, but I'd rather have William Moore if I'm paying a free safety.3/8/2013, 5:43:04 AM
Moore, who earned a trip to the Pro Bowl this past season, recorded a career-high 75 combined tackles in 2012, and picked off four passes to give him 11 for his four-year NHL career.
Like Kruger, Moore is only 27 and has plenty of strong years ahead of him. He may not warrant the consistent attention that a hard hitter like Ed Reed does, but his play has no doubt been key for the Falcons over the past three seasons as they've won the NFC's top seed in two of the last three years.
Moore's four forced fumbles over the past two seasons also speak to his ability to force turnovers and change the game in more ways than one.
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