NFL Free Agents 2013: Power Ranking Best Available Defensive Linemen
The free-agent market is fairly well picked over, but there are still a bunch of players who have the talent to be a valuable addition to whichever team lands them.
The defensive line is no exception to this. There are some quality players, both at tackle and end, just waiting to find a new home and make a big impact. Here are the three best.
No. 3: Alan Branch
Alan Branch isn't the kind of player whose impact you can measure with stats. Combined, over the last two seasons, Branch has just four sacks and 64 total tackles.
However, he certainly makes a difference on the field. Originally selected in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals, he started just three games in his four years with that team. Then, prior to the 2011 season, he switched to the Seattle Seahawks and began to find his spot in the NFL.
With Seattle, he became a regular starter and proved to be a disruptive force on the interior of the defensive line.
Branch, 28, checks in at 6'6" and 325 pounds. He can occupy blockers and clog things up in the run game. He has the power to be a nose tackle, or a 1-technique defensive tackle, and he is just entering the prime of his career.
No. 2: Dwight Freeney
Dwight Freeney has had an amazingly productive career. In his 11 seasons, all with the Colts, Freeney has racked up 107.5 sacks.
At 33, Freeney is slowing down a bit, but he can still get to the passer. In his last two seasons combined, he has totaled 13.5 sacks.
His numbers dipped last year as he totaled just five sacks in 14 games. However, he was also dealing with the switch to outside linebacker as the Colts switched to the 3-4.
Freeney will benefit by going back to his more natural spot as a defensive end in a 4-3, and if he lands on a team with a solid rotation—where his snaps could be limited—he can still be a force in the pass rush.
No. 1: John Abraham
At 34, John Abraham is definitely getting up there in age. However, you couldn't tell by looking at his production. In his last three seasons combined, he has 32.5 sacks. That includes Abraham racking up 10 sacks last season.
Even more impressively, Abraham did that while playing in a Falcons front seven that offered opponents little else to worry about in pass-rush settings—no other player on the Falcons turned in more than 3.5 sacks.
Obviously, Abraham is not a long-term answer, but he could be a huge addition to a team looking to bolster its pass rush for next season.
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