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NFL Free Agency: The 10 Best 3-4 Scheme Fits on the Market

Joseph BrunoCorrespondent IMay 19, 2011

NFL Free Agency: The 10 Best 3-4 Scheme Fits on the Market

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 05:  Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos during the game on December 5, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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 DT

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    GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30:  Defensive tackle Chris Hoke  #76 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lines up over the center during a 21-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 30, 2007 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevin T
    Kevin Terrell/Getty Images

    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 DE

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    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 20:  Defensive lineman Travis Johnson #96 of the San Diego Chargers battles at the line against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 20, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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 DE

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 15: Marcus Spears #96 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes against T.J. Lang #70 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 17-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Gett
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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 DE

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Tommie Harris #91 of the Chicago Bears pressures Shaun Hill of the Detroit Lions during the NFL season opening game at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 19-14. (Photo by Jonathan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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 DE

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears attempts to avoid a sack by Cullen Jenkins #77 of the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    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 DT

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 14:  Defensive tackle Shaun Smith #90 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes quarterback Kyle Orton against the protection of offensive lineman Ryan Harris #74 of the Denver Bronco at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver,
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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 LB

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 12:  Matt Moore #3 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked in the fourth quarter by Mathias Kiwanuka #94 of the New York Giants on September 12, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defe
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    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 DE/LB

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants is chased down Charles Johnson #95 of the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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 LB

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 3:  Linebacker Kevin Burnett  #99 of the San Diego Chargers sacks quarterback Max Hall #3 of the Arizona Cardinals and causes a fumble at Qualcomm Stadium on October 3, 2010 in San Diego, California.   The Chargers won 41-10.  (Photo b
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    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.

Tamba Hali LB

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 26: Tamba Hali #91 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium on September 26, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs won 31-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    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.  

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