2009 NFL Free Agents: Defensive End

Julius PeppersTotal Pro Sports – This is the year to build a roster from the defensive standpoint, the market is full of potential difference makers. We start by taking a look at the defensive end position where there are a few superstars that should not be on the market for too long. Let us take a look at what is available.

1. Julius Peppers: The best player available on the market should draw serious interest from numerous teams. The athletic defensive end has made a statement since entering the NFL out of North Carolina.

Peppers and his agent have made it clear that Julius is not interested in signing a long-term deal with the Carolina Panthers. Julius says he wants to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme, which would allow him to explore his unique ability. Peppers is one of the most feared ends in the league, with his ability to get in the backfield and disrupt plays and sack quarterbacks, he recorded a career high 14.5 sacks this past year, and has a total 70.5 over his 7 year career. We are not so sure Peppers will be as valuable in a 3-4 defense but I will not judge that until it happens.

TPS Prediction: Can you say “bidding war”?  It is absolutely unbelievable to me that the Panthers’ front office has not made this guy feel comfortable enough to finish his career in Carolina.  Peppers could play in the 4-3, the 3-4, the 4-6, the 7-11, whatever.  Money becomes the issue, and it’s all about salary cap space.  Peppers will receive lucrative offers from everyone with the room.  It is a seller’s market for him, and will come down to his priorities–ring or paycheck.  Teams with abundant cap space are not contenders.

2. Igor Olshanky: Sometimes numbers can be deceiving, Olshansky’s are exactly that. He is very valuable in the San Diego 3-4 defense, he is a plugger that can take on double teams and has a motor. Defensive lineman are at a disadvantage when they send 3 on the pass rush or defend the run but with guys like Olshansky, the score is quickly evened up. Igor will fill in great for a team looking to fill in the end position of a 3-4 defense and it will be interesting to see if the Chargers pass on him and he hits the market.

TPS Prediction: Olshansky is a solid and experienced 3-4 end.  There may be several teams looking to convert to a 3-4 system this year, namely Green Bay.  He should land on one of those teams, bringing his knowledge of the scheme, and veteran leadership.  He will reap the benefits of excellent timing, and probably command more money than he would have last year, due to those defensive conversions to 3-4.

3. Bertrand Berry: Berry is not the same player that he was in 2003 and 2004 season, while he enters his 12th year Berry’s numbers have been steadily declining but he was able to help the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl. He has been injury prone over the past 4 years which is a sign of age setting in. Berry may still be able to offer some value for a team looking for a veteran defensive end that can pick schemes quickly, but they may have to settle for a guy that can only play 10-12 games a year.

TPS Prediction: Berry still has some gas in the tank, and the Cards know it.  He should be able to get a two to three year contract, finishing his career in Arizona.

4. Chauncey Davis: He is entering his 5th season and has shown steady progression over the last 4. His numbers are not eye-popping but he can offer depth at the end position. Davis has yet to miss a game in his 4 year career, and has good size at 6’2″ and 270 pounds.

TPS Prediction: Davis has failed to crack the starting lineup with the arrival of John Abraham in Atlanta.  He provides depth only, which is something you’d like to see from a developmental draftee, not from a fifth year veteran.  This is a case of simple economics.  The Falcons can draft a player with more potential in the 3rd or 4th round, and pay him much less money.

5. Ebenezer Ekuban: After missing the entire 2007 season with injuries, Ekuban played all but one game this season and contributed with 29 tackles and 5 sacks. His efforts, however, were still not able to help the Broncos defense from ranking amongst the worst in the league in a numerous amount of categories. Ekuban still offers value to a roster, as he enters his 11th season he may be looking to sign a multi year contract.

TPS Prediction: Ekuban will most likely be out of football in 2009.  Denver will not be interested in re-signing him, as he does not fit their future plans.  His injury history and age, playing a speed position, make it unlikely that anyone else will seek his services.  He would need to play a backup role at a substantial pay cut to stay in football.

6. Antonio Smith: Smith has spent his entire 5 year career with the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals, he has stayed healthy in his career and is rounding into a decent player. Smith offers depth at the defensive end position and has contributed with 9 sacks and 68 tackles over the past 2 seasons. Smith will be looking for a long-term contract as he enters the prime of his career.

TPS Prediction: Smith may want more than Arizona is willing to pay.  He is a solid young player, but has never been a full time starter.  His production has been pretty good, in a backup role, but he should not be given starting dollars based solely on projected numbers.  His agent will not agree, of course, and he will likely convince a team to sign Smith as a starter, paying him based on potential rather than production.

Notable Free Agent Defensive Ends

Renoldo Wynn, Kenechi Udeze, Mike Montgomery, Demetric Evans.

Tags: 2009, Antonio Smith, Bertrand Berry, Chauncey Davis, Defensive End, Ebenezer Ekuban, football, Free Agents, Igor Olshanky, Julius Peppers, NFL,