Now, onto the list of 2012 Notable Free Agent Defensive Linemen.
1. RDE Mario Williams, Houston Texans (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Bills (6 years @ $100 million, $50 million guaranteed) - 3/15/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Williams will likely be the most sought after defensive free agent this off-season. He's a former number one overall pick with 2 All-Pro selections who is in the prime of his career. The Texans will make every effort to re-sign him; however, their defense survived without out him last season as rookie Brooks Reed stepped up valiantly in his place. Additionally, Williams did lose some value with the positional change to an outside rush LB when the Texans went to a 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips last season. Franchise tagging Williams would cost thes Texans $23 million so that isn't a likely option.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys
Fantasy Impact of Signing: The Bills are transitioning back to a 4-3 defense this season which means Williams will be returning to his natural defensive end position. This transition catapults Williams back into the top 5-10 fantasy ends in the league.
March 13 Update: NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reports free agent DE/OLB Mario Williams will leave Buffalo without signing, and is expected to make at least one more visit.The Bills had Williams right where they wanted him, but couldn't seal the deal. Williams does not appear to be ruling out taking his talents to Buffalo, but the odds have certainly decreased. It's unknown where else Williams is planning to visit, but NFL.com's Michael Lombardi reported Tuesday the Bears have dropped out of the running.
March 10 Update: A source with knowledge of the situation tells Profootballtalk.com there's a "50-50 chance" free agent Mario Williams re-signs with the Texans.Williams has insisted money won't be the driving factor behind his new deal, but he'd almost certainly have to leave a substantial amount of guaranteed dollars on the table to re-sign with Houston. Unless the Texans can lock Williams up with a sweetheart deal before the start of free agency on Tuesday, he's likely gone.
2. LDE Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions (25) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the Lions - 3/5/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Avril finally broke out last season with 11.5 sacks and, at age 25, still has plenty of room for improvement. The Lions don't have much cap room though and Avril has expressed his opposition to the franchise tag. Consequently, Avril may hit the open market, especially since the Lions already have a very strong front four. If he does his the free agent market, he will be one of the most sought after defensive ends and will likely receive a big, long-term contract.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: Avril should produce similar numbers to those of last year if not slightly better numbers. He has another full year of experience under his belt and will be playing for a new contract.
March 1 Update: Lions GM Martin Mayhew all but confirmed that the team will franchise tag free agent Cliff Avril if no long-term deal is reached before March 5."Franchising him is not a good option for us. The only worse option is playing without him," said Mayhew. The Lions' priority is a long-term extension, but they won't be letting Avril walk if one isn't struck. "Whatever happens with Cliff, it's a business decision," Mayhew added, speaking of Avril's on-and-off threats to hold out. "... I respect his ability to handle business."
3. LDE/LDT Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the Cardinals - 3/1/2012
**Re-signed by the Cardinals (5 years @ $55 million) - 5/10/12
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: After several years living in the shadow of teammate Darnell Dockett, Campbell finally emerged into the spotlight with a career high 71 total tackles and 7.5 sacks. He is a terrific athlete at 6'8, 300 pounds and can play both the 3-4 end position or as the 3 technique DT in a 4-3. He's arguably the most important part of the Cardinals defense and thus Arizona won't let him test the open market. At the very minimum, they will use the franchise tag on him which he had said he isn't opposed to.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: Campbell put up top 15 fantasy numbers last season at his position and should be expected to replicate those numbers again next season. He's got a solid surrounding cast in the front seven which helps take the pressure and double teams away from him and along him to explode through gaps.
March 1 Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter confirms that the Cardinals will franchise tag free agent DE Calais Campbell if no long-term deal is reached.The sides are trying to hammer out an extension, but the franchise tag is the most likely outcome. "I believe we will have a resolution at some point," GM Rod Graves said earlier in the week. The franchise tag for defensive ends costs roughly $10.6 million, down from last year's heftier $13 million number.
4. LDE Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts (31) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Colts (4 years @ $36 million, $15 million guaranteed) - 3/6/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Colts off-season coaching changes are a strong indication that they will be transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year. This plus the fact that the Colts are in a rebuilding phase would signal to most that Mathis isn't a likely candidate to be back with the Colts next season. However, all the news out of Indy points to Mathis returning even if he has to be franchised tagged. Mathis has never played as a 3-4 OLB, but he has the skills and moves to be a solid one.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: I foresee Mathis being in a similar situation to Mario Williams last year (sans the season-ending injury). His move to OLB will be severly damaging to his overall fantasy value as he will no longer be classified as a DL in fantasy leagues and he won't rack up enough tackles at LB to be anything more than a spot starter in deeper leagues.
March 1 Update: The Nashville Tennessean "continues to hear" the Titans are interested in free agent DE Robert Mathis.Talks between Mathis and the Colts are reportedly heating up, and there have been indications that Indy will wield the franchise tag if necessary. If Mathis does make it to the market, the Titans and perhaps the Falcons appear to be his primary suitors.
5. RDE Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville Jaguars (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Jaguars (4 years @ $27.2 million) - 3/13/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Mincey had a breakout season in 2011 as he amassed career highs in starts (16), tackles (57), sacks (8), and forced fumbles (4). Mincey flourished in defense coordinator Mel Tucker's scheme, but he's expressed that he won't stay in Jacksonville at a discounted rate. It's a toss up at this point whether or not he stays in Jacksonville or not, but if he does, expect more good things from him.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Mincey was a favorite of mine during the regular season and I think he has more room to grow especially if Aaron Kampman can become more of a contributor on the other side or if the Jaguars go out and sign a decent end in free agency. I'm not sure how well Mincey would produce on another team and defensive system however.
March 13 Update: The Bears are "trying to sign" free agent DE Jeremy Mincey, according to the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. The Browns also reported to be interested. Early signs point to Mario Williams signing in Buffalo, leaving the Bears with a fallback option at defensive end. While Mincey showed a high motor last season, five of his eight sacks came in two games against the Colts' injury-depleted O-Line.
6. RDE Andre Carter, New England Patriots (33) - Unrestricted FA
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Carter had a resurgent year in New England and re-established himself as a top 10-15 fantasy defensive linemen. It's obvious at this point that Carter's skills are more suited to a 4-3 system than a 3-4 and you can be rest assured that he will land with a team that runs that style of defense if he isn't back with the Patriots in 2012.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): New England Patriots
Fantasy Impact: Carter is getting up there in age and is coming off off-season surgery, but he proved last year that he still has some gas left in the tank. As long as he's in the right system, he's worth a shot as a DL2/3.
March 1 Update: According to the Boston Globe, it "sounds as if" free agent DE/OLB Andre Carter will re-sign with the Patriots.The Globe believes Carter might even be willing to give the Patriots a bit of a hometown discount.
7. RDE John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons (34) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Falcons (3 years @ $21 million) - 3/16/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Abraham saw a significant reduction in playing time in an effort to keep his old legs fresh. With this reduced playing time came a decline in overall production. Over the last couple seasons, Abraham has begun morphing into more of a Dwight Freeney-type fantasy player from a box score standpoint.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: The days of Abraham being an elite fantasy player are over and he's likely to be overrated in many drafts next year. I wouldn't trust him as anything more than a matchup type DL3/4.
March 1 Update: Free agent DE John Abraham says he's aiming for an annual "$12 million-plus" in his new contract. Three months shy of his 34th birthday, Abraham spent the majority of 2011 on a snap count. Extremely unlikely to get an annual $12 million, Abraham might even have trouble matching the $8 million he earned last season.
8. LDT Jason Jones, Tennessee Titans (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Seahawks (1 year @ $4.5 million) - 3/17/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: When healthy, Jones is one of the league's better interior pass rushers. He has an explosive first step in getting upfield and disrupting a quarterback's ability to step up into a clean pocket. However, last year the Titans moved him out to defensive end, where he struggled to match his productivity from years past. The Titans would be best suited to move him back inside and sign a DE in free agency or let Jones walk.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Seattle will use Jones as an interior lineman which is his more natural position. This is his more natural position and should translate to better fantasy production. Expect numbers closer to his 2010 production than his 2011 production.
March 13 Update: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Rams could sign free agent DL Jason Jones by as early as Tuesday evening.One of the market's more underrated players, Jones would be reuniting with former coach Jeff Fisher while following teammate Cortland Finnegan north to St. Louis. Jones has expressed a desire to return to defensive end after playing tackle in 2011.
March 1 Update: The Titans and free agent DL Jason Jones remain "far apart" in contract talks.Beat writer Jim Wyatt expects Jones to hit the open market, at which point Jeff Fisher's Rams could swoop in for the steal. Jones was one of the brightest young interior pass rushers in the NFL two years ago before the Titans moved him outside.
9. NT Antonio Garay, San Diego Chargers (32) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Chargers (2 years @ $6.6 million) - 3/29/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: After a breakout 2010 campaign, Garay lost a bit of steam as his sack totals were cut in more than half (6 to 2.5). There are a handful of high-caliber nose tackles hitting the free agent market this year which makes Garay less appealing to the Chargers, especially after his subpar play in 2011. Unless Garay is willing to sign with the Chargers at a discounted price, he will likely hit the open market.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): San Diego Chargers
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Garay lost most of the fantasy relevance he earned in 2010 after a disappointing season last year. He has shown the potential to be a solid low-end DT1 option though and it's not out of the question that he could be a valid contributor to a team in a deep IDP league if he lands in the right team and system.
March 1 Update: The Chargers are not expected to finish a deal with free agent NT Antonio Garay before the March 13 market opens.Garay has reportedly gotten little attention from San Diego's front office while it works to re-sign free agent Vincent Jackson. Garay is 32 years old and his play slipped dramatically in 2011. The nose tackle's market value won't be strong.
10. LDT Sione Pouha, New York Jets (33) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Jets (3 years @ $15 million, $9.5 million guaranteed) - 3/6/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Jets front seven is starting to wear thin and consequently Pouha will be an off-season priority for the Jets. It's unlikely the Jets place the franchise tag on him however since they would have to pay him $7.9 million for a one-year deal if they did. They would much rather sign him to a multi-year extension.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): New York Jets
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Pouha doesn't provide much value outside of deep, tackle-heavy IDP leagues and/or DT-required fantasy leagues. He should put up 50-60 total tackles and throw in a few sacks along the way.
March 1 Update: Sources tell the Newark Star-Ledger the Jets are unlikely to use the franchise tag on free agent NT Sione Pouha. Re-signing their top in-house free agent is expected to be a priority for the Jets, but tight on cap space, they would prefer to work out a long-term deal.
Are there any other 2012 Free Agent Defensive Linemen that you think should be included in this conversation? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at email@example.com. You can also hit me up on Twitter.
Last Updated: May 10, 2012 Related Posts: