This is one in a series of articles examining free agents who could potentially be pursued by the Washington Redskins this offseason.
Finding a solid nose tackle is priority number one for the Washington Redskins if they are to make the transition to the 3-4 defense.
Vince Wilfork is of course the best option in the free agent market, but there are several other top nose tackles available this year.
Second on the list is the Pittsburgh Steelers' Casey Hampton. Hampton is aging as he is preparing to enter his ninth season, but he possesses the size (6-1, 325) and experience to play nose tackle.
In Pittsburgh, Hampton played primarily in the 3-4 under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. LeBeau used a plethora of packages that mixed up the number of down linemen at the point of attack. So Hampton is used to playing in a number of different situations and formations.
Just to give you an idea of what the Steelers do with Hampton, consider this. Pittsburgh uses combinations including one, two and three down linemen in a zone blitz scheme. Hampton can play as the only down linemen or as a nose tackle in a 3-4. He knows his role and that is to eat space in the middle no matter who is next to him on the line of scrimmage.
Hampton has stayed relatively healthy over his career. He has missed at least one game in four of his nine seasons. Out of a possible 144 regular season games, Hampton has missed 15 games (roughly 10 percent). Compare that to Albert Haynesworth, who has missed 26 games out of a possible 128 (roughly 20 percent).
Hampton would most likely command a salary just below what Wilfork demands. He isn't quite as good as Wilfork and he's about three seasons older, but he is expecting to receive a big contract. That will play a factor in the 'Skins decision to pursue him or any other top-end nose tackle.
Pittsburgh is expected to franchise him, but as of now Hampton is due to be an unrestricted free agent and he has stated he doesn't want the franchise tag placed on him.
Chances of Signing with the 'Skins: If this rumored 3-4 switch is true, then the 'Skins need a dominant nose tackle. Wilfork or Hampton would both be great, but expensive options.
If the 3-4 becomes a reality, expect the 'Skins to pursue at least one of the top nose tackles in free agency. Should Hampton avoid being tagged and can't agree to a long-term deal in Pittsburgh, he could be the guy the 'Skins will target.