Pre Draft: Top Remaining Free Agents—Defense

Mandy PatinkinContributor IApril 21, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 18:  Jason Taylor #99 of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 18, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

With less than a week until the NFL Draft, these are the top veteran names on defense you can expect to see on the transaction wire:

Defensive Tackle

1. John Thornton
After a decade, Thornton is a below-average, but seasoned starter. He won't do anything spectacular, but if you're checking this group, that's pretty good.

2. Dewayne Robertson
A first-round flop with the Jets coming off of an invisible season with the Broncos, he will have to find a 4-3 and make it work in '09 or he's done.

3. La'Roi Glover
Glover is coming off his worst season since very early in his career (nine starts, .5 sacks), and will have a problem finding a club for a 14th season.

4. Darwin Walker
Three seasons ago, he was a solid starting nose guard in Philly. Three teams, one trade, a desired new contract, and a car accident later, he's hoping to resign with the Panthers.

5. Langston Moore
He's a fringe backup who might find work if injuries strike a team in camp.

Others: Ellis Wyms, Antwan Lake

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Defensive End

1. Jason Taylor
After a frustrating season in Washington, his future appears to be in New England or Miami as an outside linebacker. One season removed from 11 sacks in Miami as an end.

2. Ebenezer Ekuban
Still useful after 11 seasons, he posted five sacks in his 10 starts with Denver, but would be best in a third-down or reserve role.

3. Kalimba Edwards
Edwards started 11 games and gave the Raiders five sacks in '08. That's slightly above his career average for sacks.

4. Anthony Weaver
Strictly a run-stopping, left-side defensive end, Weaver had no sacks the last two seasons in Houston, despite getting 29 starts.

5. Kevin Carter
He still plays the run well. Just don't ask him to get to the quarterback anymore.

Others: Vonnie Holliday, Roderick Green

Outside Linebacker

1. Marcus Washington
The top strong-side 'backer on the market. But he talks a better game than he plays at this point. The 'Skins wouldn't mind him back, but he's looking elsewhere after his release.

2. Derrick Brooks
Not the sideline-to-sideline beast he once was, but would be beneficial for a playoff contender such as Philly or Seattle as a weakside 'backer.

3. Freddie Keiaho
Keiaho was Indy's weakside regular, and filled in late in the middle, but simply not an active, instinctual play-maker at either spot.

4. Morlon Greenwood
He'd posted four straight 100-tackle seasons before disappointing in '08. At 6'0", 240 pounds, he is strictly a 4-3 guy.

5. Willie McGinest
This vet will try to get one more season out of someone who runs a 3-4, and he would prefer a return to where he started in New England (where the strongside job is open).

Others: Jamie Winborn, Ryan Nece, Donnie Edwards

Middle Linebacker

1. Paris Lenon
Lenon is best-suited to play strongside, but the former Lion and Packer could wind up back in the middle for the Lions if the draft nets no middle man.

2. Napolean Harris
He filled in admirably in the middle for Minnesota in '09 after E.J. Henderson was lost for the season. But his starting days are otherwise over after a disappointing pre-mini run in KC.

3. Nick Griesen
Griesen filled in inside for the Ravens, and has starting experience at all three positions in a 4-3. That will help him find work before camps open.

4. Nate Webster
Webster played out of position on the strongside for Denver last season, but has hung around for nine seasons as a fringe starter for Tampa Bay, Cincy, and Denver.

5. Donterrious Thomas
A journeyman who was cut from San Francisco in '08 after being one of the club's first free agent additions, Thomas has always had the physical skills, but mental lapses have cost him since being a second rounder.

Corner Back

1. Ken Lucas
A adequate starter for Seattle and Carolina, hen was dumped during the offseason. He might wind up on a corner-needy team, such as Chicago, or back with the Seahawks.

2. Deltha O'Neal
After playing an uninspiring season for the Pats after eight seasons with the Bengals and Broncos, he will be a post-draft addition for another cornerback-needy team.

3. Mike McKenzie
he is coming off two straight seasons of season-ending knee surgeries, and wasn't that quick to start with. Could he play safety, like many thought he would coming out of Memphis?

4. Dre Bly
His best days are behind him, but he still wants to get paid. He will have to lower expectations to latch on with a club in '09.

5. Fakhir Brown
Brown started, then was cut, then resigned and started again for the Rams last year. Doesn't figure into the Rams plans, and perhaps no one else's.

Others: Chris McAlister, Jamar Fletcher, Jason Craft, Sam Madison, Lewis Sanders, Patrick Surtain, Reynaldo Hill

Strong Safety

1. Rodney Harrison
Still not sure if his body will permit another season in '09.

2. Roy Williams
Dallas cut this former No. 1 pick and starter because of lack of coverage skills that are amplified by 3-4 defense.

3. Lawyer Milloy
He hasn't garnered much interest after the Falcons decided to go younger at strong safety. His coverage skills have eroded.

4. Marquand Manuel
This journeyman finds work because of his versatility and special teams skills. He can play strong of free safety, but neither well.

5. Corey Chavous
Released by the Rams, this veteran will be hard pressed to find another job.

Others: Dwight Smith, Brandon McGowan

Free Safety

1. Mike Brown
Injuries make him more of a strong safety. He stayed relatively healthy in '08 after four injury-plagued seasons, which will limit the number of teams willing to take a chance.

2. Marlon McCree
McCree has experience starting at both safety spots, and started for Denver in '08. He'll likely be brought on by a desperate team.

3. Kevin Kaesviharn
The former cornerback can play either safety spot, but is best as a nickle-type and special teams performer.

4. Keith Davis
This special teams dynamo is yet another who can play either safety spot. Someone will bring him on for kick coverage skills.

5. Dexter Jackson
A former Super Bowl MVP, he is more of a strong safety at this point, and injuries the past two seasons might cost him a shot at a roster spot.



1. Matt Stover
The former Raven is still very accurate, but a short leg is limiting his possibilities.

2. John Carney
See above. But the Jets, Giants, Saints, Ravens and Broncos among his possibilities.

3. Martin Gramatica
Once among the league's most accurate while with Tampa Bay, he will now be lucky to get a kicking gig.


1. Hunter Smith
Indy can't afford to keep him, and he decided against retirement. He's too good to not be in someone's camp.

2. Mitch Berger
The long career of this former Pro-Bowler seems to have finally come to an end.

Long Snapper

1. Jason Kyle
Kyle won't return to Carolina, but he will wind up long-snapping for someone.

2. J.P. Darche
Another veteran long snapper looking to catch on in '09.

3. Bryan Pittman
Pittman is a former Texan whose steroid suspension will likely end things for him.

4. Jeff Robinson
He is the Freddy Krueger of the NFL. You can't get rid of him. And when you think you have, he comes back.