More and more teams have been switching to the 3-4 defense, making players who can play in that system very valuable.
Free agency continues to be on hold though, due to the labor situation, and no one knows exactly what rules will be in place whenever it is all settled.
So, as of now, we can only go by who would have been a free agent before the lockout began. Here are 10 DL/LBs that I think would be good fits for a team looking to play the 3-4.
Chris Hoke may be in the last couple years of his career at this point. However, he has been a solid player for the Steelers.
People forget that he started for Casey Hampton when he was injured for most of 2004 and the Steelers’ defense did not miss a beat with Hoke starting at DT.
Hoke would definitely be a valuable player to any team, although I think, and hope, that he remains with the Steelers.
Travis Johnson has not lived up to being the first-round pick that he was with the Houston Texans in 2005.
Saying that, he still fits the mold for a 3-4 end and could add some depth at a position where there are not many good options out there.
Marcus Spears was a former first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005 and although he does not have great stats, he has not been that bad in Dallas.
Ends in a 3-4 scheme do not put up the flashy numbers that defensive linemen in a 4-3 defense record because their job is to primarily just plug up the running game.
Spears has shown a little bit of a pass rush in his career, which is just a bonus when you are looking for a 3-4 defensive lineman.
Tommie Harris has played his entire career in a 4-3 system. However, I think he has the talent to make the switch to 3-4 end.
Harris was once considered one of the most explosive defensive lineman in the NFL before being completely hampered by injuries.
If Harris could become anything like he once was, a team could be getting a guy not only stout against the run, but a treat in the passing game as well.
Cullen Jenkins probably will not be back with the Packers in 2011 and he is one of the most versatile guys on this list.
The Packers do not play a traditional 3-4 defense, and they ask their defensive linemen to line up and play in all different positions.
Jenkins can play DE or fill in at DT because of that. Also, he is one of the better pass rushing 3-4 ends in the league.
Shaun Smith is probably one of the lesser known guys I have on this list and has bounced around in his career.
Smith is a valuable commodity because teams are always looking for that 325-pound guy who can come in and stop the running game.
The nose is one of the most important positions in the 3-4 defense and any team that needs depth at that spot will be looking at Smith.
Mathias Kiwanuka started out 2010 on a tear with four sacks in three games before being injured for the rest of the season.
Although he has played both LB and DE for the Giants, I see him being a perfect fit for a 3-4 outside linebacker.
As long as he is healthy, he could be a great pick up for a team who needs a guy to get after the quarterback.
Charles Johnson had a breakout season in 2010 with 11.5 sacks and is a guy I see fitting in the 3-4, even though he comes from a 4-3 system.
I think where Johnson would play would depend on what the team needed, because he could either bulk up and be an end, or he could move outside to linebacker.
Some may think that he would not be able to make the transition to linebacker, but I think he’s athletic enough to make the switch and still rush the passer.
Kevin Burnett had a great season for the Chargers in 2010 with 95 tackles and is the only inside linebacker I have on this list.
Most of the time you hear about the outside linebackers because they are the guys who rush the passer, but the guys on the inside are just as important.
Burnett would be a great addition to any 3-4 defense on the inside and will continue to rack up the tackles.
Since being the Chiefs first-round pick in 2006, Tamba Hali has actually been a pretty solid player for the team.
Hali already has 41.5 sacks in his first five years and in 2010 he had his best season with 14.5 sacks.
He is probably the best 3-4 pass rusher on the market and looks poised to cash in on his great season, continuing to terrorize quarterbacks.