Now, onto the list of 2014 Notable Free Agent Defensive Linemen.
Comments and analysis added after the original posting of the article are listed in PURPLE.
Age listing as of March 11, 2014.
Players are ranked based upon incoming 2014 Free Agency value, not post-signing value.
1. DE Demarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (31) - Unrestricted FA
*Released by the Cowboys - 3/11/2014
**Signed by the Broncos (3 years @ $30 million, $20 million guaranteed) - 3/12/2014
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Ware landed in a very nice situation in Denver. He will have all the motivation he needs after being released by the cash-strapped Cowboys. Playing opposite Von Miller will give him the most one on one opportunities he's seen in his career. With the Broncos likely to be up in a majority of their games, Ware should see a very healthy amount of pass rushing opportunity. Despite being 31, he's locked into the elite tier of linemen once again.
2. DE Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers (25) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise Tagged by the Panthers - 2/28/2014
**Re-signed by the Panthers (1 year @ $13.116 million) - 3/4/2014
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: Hardy exceeded the lofty expectations placed upon him last year by finishing 3rd in the NFL in sacks with 16. Granted, seven of those sacks came in his last two games, but that aside he's proven to be one of the most consistent fantasy options at the position. He figures to sign a very lucrative, long-term contract this off-season but that shouldn't stop him from remaining a DL1 option moving forward.
3. DE Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings (31) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Bears (4 years @ $32 million, $15.5 million guaranteed) - 3/26/2014
Fantasy Impact of Signing: In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Allen will be moving on to the Vikings' division rival the Chicago Bears. There's no denying Allen isn't the same caliber of player he was in his prime, but he's still fully capable of a 50+ total tackle/double digit sack season which places him firmly in the DL2 tier. He's been as consistent as they come over his career and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt come draft day. He should see enough snaps with the Bears to remain one of the safer, low ceiling options in his draft range and warrant a top 20 selection.
4. DE Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Buccaneers (5 years @ $43.75 million, $24 million guaranteed) - 3/11/2014
Free Agent Analysis: After a breakout season in 2012, Johnson's production tumbled as he only registered 3.5 sacks. He's a plus run defender though and he managed 10 pass deflections which kept him in DL3-/DL4+ consideration last year. He's an unlikely candidate to re-up with Cincinnati. Look for him to sign with Tampa Bay or Chicago, both of which would be good landing spots for him. He's a fairly safe pick with nice upside at the back-end of this tier.
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Tampa should wind up being a very nice fit for Johnson. Leslie Frazier's defense doesn't utilize the blitz much and instead relies on pressure from the front four so bringing in a serious pass-rushing threat was a must. There's an argument to be made that Johnson was overvalued in this market and has yet to live up to his hype. There's probably some validity in that statement, but he's shown he's both a stout run defender and game-changing pass rusher at various points during his career and has the talent to be a DL1. His inconsistencies drag him down into the bottom end of the 3rd tier for me, but there are some instances were his upside may drive owners to reach for him a couple spots earlier.
5. DE/DT Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Bears (5 years @ $35 million, $15 million guaranteed) - 3/11/2014
Free Agent Analysis: Houston has matured into one of the more versatile defensive linemen in the league over the past four seasons. He set career highs in both tackles (69) and sacks (6) last year and graded out as a top 10 defensive end according to Pro Football Focus. Interestingly enough, Oakland doesn't seem overly interested in bringing him back and Houston himself has said that the organization doesn't seem him as a great fit for their scheme. Despite the Raiders lack of apparent interest, Houston figures to be heavily pursued in free agency. His fantasy value may change drastically depending on his eventual landing spot and consequent role along the defensive line. That said, draft him with caution until he signs with a team.
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Houston's value should remain relatively consistent with what is was during his time with the Raiders. Expect him to be an every-down player splitting time between defensive end and tackle. His above average tackle numbers along with the expectation of a handful of sacks place him in the top 25 players at his position.
6. DE/DT Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Seahawks (4 years @ $28.5 million, $16 million guaranteed) - 3/10/2014
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: Bennett was brought in during the 2013 off-season on a one-year, prove it deal. And prove it, he did. Despite playing in only 57% of the Seahawks' total snaps, Bennett was able to register 8.5 sacks; good enough to place him in the top 10 in sacks per snap. Despite the Bears reportedly offering 1/2 million dollars more per year than Seattle, Bennett was willing to give the Seahawks a home town discount and re-signed with the Super Bowl Champions. With teammate Chris Clemons a strong candidate for release, Bennett should see a healthy uptick in snaps this year, firmly launching him into the DL2 tier.
7. DE Everson Griffen, Minnesota Vikings (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Vikings (5 years @ $42.5 million, $20 million guaranteed) - 3/9/2014
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: Despite being stuck behind starters Jared Allen and Brian Robison for his entire career, Griffen showed enough in his limited snaps to earn a lucrative, long-term deal from GM Rick Spielman. With Jared Allen leaving in free agency, the Vikings will now rely on Griffen to be their disruptive, every-down right end. He will enter the 2014 season as a high ceiling DL2 who should be able to bring a lot of value to fantasy owners at his current ADP.
8. DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants (30) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Raiders (2 years @ $11 million) - 3/13/2014
Free Agent Analysis: A debilitating neck injury suffered towards the end of the 2011 preseason caused a significant drop-off in Tuck's on-the-field production over the following two seasons. The 2013 season told a better story as Tuck's sack count climbed into double digits for the first time since the 2010 season and his tackle numbers were up substantially year over year. However, the lack of consistency in his production has me a bit concerned - 9.5 of his 11 sacks came within the last six games of the season and six of those came against the Redskins and their turnstile of a right tackle. Tuck and his agent believe he is the most complete defensive end in this free agent class, however most organizations around the league would disagree. The Giants have tried to reach an agreement with Tuck but he seems insistent on reaching the open market. His age and injury history are likely going to force him to settle on a contract shorter in years and smaller in dollars than he desires, however. Consider him a low ceiling, high floor DL3 moving forward.
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Tuck's value shouldn't change a ton with the move to Oakland. He should continue to see ~75% of the snaps as long as he can stay healthy, which is a fairly big if. Having Lamarr Woodley on the opposite side of the line should keep offenses honest and Tuck in a majority of one on one situations. He falls into the large DL2 tier.
9. DE Chris Clemons, Seattle Seahawks (32) - Unrestricted FA
*Released by the Seahawks - 3/12/2014
**Signed by the Jaguars (4 years @ $18 million, $5.475 million guaranteed) - 3/13/2014
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Clemons will be reunited with former defensive coach Gus Bradley and slide into the same LEO role he played with the Seahawks. He doesn't play enough early down snaps to provide more than DL4 value outside of sack-heavy point scoring systems where he figures to be a low-end DL2/high-end DL3.
10. DE Jason Babin, Jacksonville Jaguars (33) - Unrestricted FA
*Voided Contract With Jaguars - 3/10/2014
**Re-signed by the Jaguars (3 years @ $7.06 million) - 3/13/2014
Free Agent Analysis
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: The addition of Chris Clemons means that Babin will move out of the LEO pass rushing role he assumed last year. He was brought back under a reduced salary and figures to see a decrease in snaps this season. I wouldn't expect more than 600+ snaps. He's a DL4 at most this season.
11. DE Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears (34) - Unrestricted FA
*Released by the Bears - 3/11/2014
**Signed by the Packers (3 years @ $26 million, $7.5 million guaranteed) - 3/15/2014
Fantasy Impact of Signing: The move to division rival Green Bay all but kills Peppers' fantasy value as he will likely be re-classified as a linebacker in most fantasy leagues. Although he still has some gas left in the tank, he's not worth much as a standup edge rusher. He projects to a LB4 in balanced leagues and an LB3 in big play scoring systems.
12. DE Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys (30) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Spencer enjoyed a breakout season in 2012 with 95 total tackles and 11.5 sacks from his outside rush linebacker spot. The Cowboys have used the franchise tag on Spencer in the past two seasons, but he will finally hit the open market this year where he should draw considerable interest. Some suitors may be turned off by the microfracture surgery that cost him virtually the entire 2013 season, but reports are that he should be close to 100% by now. Spencer is likely to sign on as a outside linebacker in a 3-4 thereby negating a majority of his fantasy value.
Potential Landing Spots: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants
13. DE Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Colts (5 years @ $33 million) - 3/11/2014
Free Agent Analysis: Jones has developed into one of the more versatile, pocket-pushing ends in the league. His stats aren't gaudy by any means, but he was 3rd in tackles per snap and provides value to teams in many ways that can't be seen in the box scores. His scheme versatility will add to his desirability as several teams have already made offers to the former 5th rounder out of Syracuse. The Colts remain the frontrunner for Jones' services as he has a strong connection to current head coach Chuck Pagano, but they still face stiff competition from other teams. Indy would be a less than desirable fantasy spot for Jones. As IDPers, we are hoping he can latch on in Tennessee under Ray Horton. We will have to wait and see.
Fantasy Impact of Signing: The writing was on the wall with this signing as Chuck Pagano and the Colts have consistently been poaching Colts players over the last two seasons. The move is likely to kill whatever fantasy value Jones had coming into this year. He can largely be seen as waiver wire fodder moving forward.
1. DT Henry Melton, Chicago Bears (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Cowboys (1 year @ $1.25 million, $1 million signing bonus) - 3/18/2014
Free Agent Analysis: Despite tearing his ACL early in the 2013 season, Melton remains of the league's premier 3-techniques and is arguably the top defensive tackle available in free agency. The Bears and Cowboys have reportedly shown substantial interest along with a handful of other unnamed teams. Melton is likely to continue providing DT2+ value for fantasy owners.
Potential Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Melton will be reunited with old defensive coach Rod Marinelli in Dallas who should set him up well to succeed this season. He is essentially playing on a one year deal which should keep him motivated throughout the season. Although he likely won't have another top level linemen to keep the double teams away, he should remain one of the better DT fantasy options.
2. DT Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys (31) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Redskins (4 years @ $27.5 million, $10.5 million guaranteed) - 3/13/2014
Free Agent Analysis
Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Washington was one of the worst landing spots for Hatcher's fantasy value. He has the skill set to play a 5-technique successfully, but won't get the opportunity to produce at the same rate that he did a year ago. He's likely to be overdrafted based upon his 2013 numbers and is a player I would avoid actively seeking out this year.
3. DT Linval Joseph, New York Giants (25) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Vikings (5 years $31.5 million) - 3/11/2014
Potential Landing Spots: Washington Redskins, New York Giants
Fantasy Impact of Signing: This is a great signing for the Vikings. New Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a big believer in heavy rotation at the DT position and therefore needed to add at least one more viable big guy up front. Joseph will pair with 2nd year player Sharrif Floyd to form one of the more formidable interior lines in the NFL. Floyd projects to assume the coveted three technique position however and will possess greater fantasy value than Joseph who will likely remain a strong DT2 option in standard leagues.
4. DT Ropati Pitoitua, Tennessee Titans (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Titans (3 years @ $9.6 million) - 3/6/2014
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: Pitoitua should be a great fit for new defensive coordinator Ray Horton's hybrid 3-4 scheme. He offers a lot in terms of run support and will likely be used primarily in that fashion moving forward. He hasn't historically provided much value in terms of fantasy outside of the occassional plug and play in tackle heavy scoring systems, but there's a chance he could see an increase in value under Horton this year, especially if he's classified as a tackle. He's a player to keep stored deep in the back of your mind early in the season in those deeper DT-required leagues.
5. DT Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins (30) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Dolphins (2 years @ $12 million, $5 million guaranteed) - 3/13/2014
Fantasy Impact of Re-Signing: Despite rumors that Starks and Head Coach Joe Philbin were at odds, a mutual agreement was come to by both parties to bring him back. Outside of a stellar 2009 campaign, Starks has mainly provided owners with DT2 level production throughout the vast majority of his career. That is likely to be the story moving forward as well.
Are there any other 2014 Free Agent Defensive Linemen hat you think should be included in this conversation? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hit me up on Twitter.
Last Updated: March 20, 2014 Related Posts: