The Top NFL Free Agents on the Scrap Heap and Where They Might Go, Pt. 3

NFL News And RumorsAnalyst IJune 8, 2009

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Linebacker Derrick Brooks #55 of  the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackles wide receiver Visanthe Shiancoe #81 of the Minnesota Vikings at Raymond James Stadium on November 16, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

If you have trudged on long enough you have now come to the third part of my Free Agency series.

The last article on TE's and OL was not the greatest subject matter on the planet; luckily the crop gets fresher.

In this article, we begin to move to the defensive side as we take a look at the top three DTs, DEs, and OLB's available on the scrap heap. 

If you have not yet already, check out the first two parts to this series for more free agent insight: 



Defensive Tackle

Dewayne Robertson

He was once a highly touted prospect who came out after his junior season and got selected at No. 4 overall by the New York Jets.

Robertson came in with high expectations his first year and got a mediocre 43 tackles and 1.5 sacks. In his Jets' tenure he averaged 51 tackles per season, but failed to generate much pass rush never eclipsing four sacks in a season.

He was traded in April, 2008 to the Denver Broncos for a conditional 2009 draft pick that turned out to be a fourth rounder. After the Denver stint did not turn out positive, the team cut him loose and he is currently playing football for the AF2 Oklahoma Yard Dogs Franchise. 

As it stands with what's available on the scrap heap, Robertson has the most potential to be able to land a starters job on an NFL team. 

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Now that the high expectations have been failed and are in the past, he can attempt a redemption run. He could be someone's missing rotational guy that could push their pass-rush over the edge. He could be the guy who comes in to mesh with a run stuffing DT like Jaguars' Pro Bowler, John Henderson.

He has shown enough to warrant someone taking a flyer on him by averaging decent 51 tackles per season as a starter. 

Plausible Destination: Houston Texans

The Texans are a great young talented team that is poised for a playoff berth this season. They upgraded at DE by adding big ticket FA Antonio Smith with a five year, $35 million dollar contract.

Not retaining Jeff Zgonina or Anthony Weaver was not devastating, but creates some depth concern. 

Adding Robertson would give them a good rotational guy who could edge projected No. 2 DT Shaun Cody. Pairing him alongside Amobi Akoye and Cody would give the Texans an interior on defense with a good blend of size, speed, and athleticism.

With Antonio Smith on the outside, the Texans have a good thing going with the front four. 

John Thornton

He has been a reliable starter for many years, including the last six years with the Cincinnati Bengals. With all of the roster turnover teams experience, you have to be decent to nail down the same starting job for six years. 

His play has dropped off as of late; the dismal Bengals' defense he was playing in likely had a role.

With a better supporting cast, Thornton could be an effective starter again. 

Plausible Destination: Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons drafted Peria Jerry in the first round and already possess a young talented DT in Jonathan Babinueax. Subtracting reliable veteran DT Grady Jackson leaves the need for a veteran presence in the interior, and Thornton fits the bill.

Adding Thornton would give them a veteran starter to plug in if Jerry struggles during his rookie season. 

At worst, Jerry thrives and Thornton becomes an excellent rotational tackle. 

With all of the veteran subtractions on defense this offseason for the Falcons, adding some proven depth would not hurt.

Darwin Walker

Plain and simple, he has been a mediocre player his entire career.

In the six seasons he has held a significant starting role, averaging 4.6 sacks and 31 tackles per season.

After he left Philadelphia, he hit rock bottom in terms of production. His average production in the past means he will probably find his way onto an NFL roster by the time training camp rolls around. 

Plausible Destination: Minnesota Vikings

With the Williams duo facing four game suspensions, the Minnesota Vikings are likely going to turn to the FA market for some short term depth.

They could go after any of the aforementioned players, but Darwin could fill their short term need. His ability to create pressure in the pocket will lead plays to their All Pro DE Jared Allen. When the Williams brothers return, he could be an effective rotational tackle along with DT Jimmy Kennedy.

Defensive Ends

Vonnie Holliday

I'm surprised no one has picked up this guy. He has been a quality DT and effective starter for many seasons. Holliday averaged seven sacks in the nine seasons he has held a starting job.

He was a highly sought after FA coming from Green Bay, where he averaged eight sacks per season and ended up signing with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was recently a contributor to the Dolphins 2008 turnaround, stepping up his play, tallying 46 tackles, and 3.5 sacks.

He was cut after failed contract negotiations this past off-season. 

Someone is going to sign him and he could land a starting job on several teams. He is getting up there in age, (33) but still has enough in the tank to be a solid starter.

Plausible Destination: Seattle Seahawks

With the seven million dollars in cap room the Seahawks have not been counting the rookie pool, I would love to see them go after a guy like Holliday.

Adding him would give the DL tremendous depth and would shadow what the New York Giants are doing with making their DL rotation so deep.

Holliday would give the Seahawks additional insurance in case Pro Bowl DE Patrick Kerney's shoulder begins to ail him again.

They would not have to resort to putting in rookie DE Lawrence Jackson or the bipolar Darryl Tapp.

Josh Thomas

In a limited backup capacity, Thomas managed to scrap together a 26 tackle average the last three seasons for the Colts.

Given an expanded role he could be gold in a rotational role for someone. He's only 27, so he has plenty of potential upside and could blossom into a quality starter if given the right opportunity.

Plausible Destination: Denver Broncos

They need all the help they can get on the front seven—it is a mess.

He has just enough size to be a 3-4 DE (280 lbs.) and could step in and be a starter for the Broncos.

He would go along side the projected starter NT Ronald Fields. A starting three of Thomas, Fields, and Dumervil is not spectacular, but should help raise their near dead last rankings in every statistical defensive category.

Kalimba Edwards

Recently a cap causality of the Oakland Raiders, Edwards is a serviceable starter who is a proven commodity. Just last season he racked up 48 tackles and five sacks in only ten starts.

He is only 29 years old and still has some quality years ahead of him before the tires take on too much tread.

Plausible Destination: Washington Redskins

After cutting veteran DE Jason Taylor, their options to fill his void are 13, and 12 year veterans Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn.

At the very least, Edwards gives them some depth and the potential upside to upend one of these over the hill veterans. After adding the $100 million dollar man Albert Haynesworth, surrounding him with some more pieces would help stabilize the front line. 

Outside Linebackers

Derrick Brooks

The future Hall of Famer has gotten up there in age, (35), but still has around three years that someone can squeeze out of him.

His veteran savvy, poise, leadership, and knowledge of the game are great qualities to bring to a team. He could walk on and start for almost any team in the NFL. His age puts some red flags up in a league where youth is premium.

Brooks is most likely going to be signed when a starting LB from a team is injured. 

Plausible Destination: New England Patriots

The Patriots have not found a replacement for veteran LB Mike Vrabel whom they traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Brooks would fit the bill of Belichick preference of employing veteran players nicely.

He would be able to tutor Defensive Rookie of the Year, Jerod Mayo, and would go along nicely with veteran LB Tedy Bruschi.

Nabbing him would fill the only need on the New England roster; that team is looking great.

Freddy Keiaho

He is the best free agent Linebacker left on the market in terms of playing ability and upside.

In his first two seasons as a starter, he has averaged 93 tackles and has nowhere to go but up. He would be a starter for the majority of NFL teams, and I am surprised he has not been picked up yet. 

Plausible Destination: Denver Broncos

They have nowhere to go but up on defense, and grabbing Keiaho would give them a quality starter and additional flexibility to shift things around on the front seven.

He would represent an upgrade over current starter Boss Bailey and would round out the LB unit nicely.

Morlon Greenwood

He is a proven starter who saw his production drop as his role was diminished with the Houston Texans. Before they began phasing him out of a starting role, he posted four consecutive 100+ tackle seasons.

He is only 30 and still has plenty of gas left in the tank. He will be in the battle for a starting role for whichever team picks him up.

Plausible Destination: Philadelphia Eagles

They don't have the most overwhelming group of LBs, and putting Greenwood alongside Stewart Bradley would make this group formidable. Upgrading a defensive unit that was part of an NFC Championship team would only be for the better.

The Eagles two weakest links are the LB unit and their failure to provide Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb a true No. 1 WR. 

In the series finale, I will examine the top remaining MLBs, CBs, and Ss that can be had on the scrap heap.

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