Free Agency Diary

2016’s Top Free Agent Defensive Linemen


As we continue our top free agent series, the franchise and transition tags have come and went, and we are left with the guys that will actually hit the market (assuming they don’t work out deals with their current teams).

Here are the Top 10 defensive linemen currently available in free agency:

  1. Malik Jackson, DE, Denver Broncos- Jackson is a rare find: a young, talented pass rusher that can play in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 that will hit the market.  The Broncos will likely be victims of their own success as they’d like to keep Jackson but his cost will almost assuredly exceed what they can afford to pay.  Best fits: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Denver, Miami, Oakland, Atlanta, New York Giants, Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco.
  2. Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami Dolphins- Vernon was given the transition tag, which means that the Dolphins can match any offer for his services.  With that said, he’s just 25 years old and an accomplished pass rusher.  The tag will pay him $12.7 million in 2o16, so that’s where his negotiations will begin on an annual basis. Best fits: Miami, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, New York Giants, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Carolina. 
  3. Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills- Williams is coming off a down year, but he’s been an ultra-productive player for much of his career.  Despite that poor season in a scheme that didn’t fit his skill set, he will still be a hot commodity on the open market and should get north of $10 million per year.  Best fits:  Tampa Bay, Dallas, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, New England.
  4. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants- JPP would have been near the top of this list a prior to last July 4th, when he blew off a finger and a half in a fireworks accident.  He had a down year and now his character and his talent are both in question.  Still, he’s been productive and he’s still just 27 years old.  Best fits:  Indianapolis, Dallas, Oakland, Tampa Bay.
  5. Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys– As a pass rusher, Hardy is one of the best in football.  As a man, he’s one of the worst you’ll find in society.  His character will scare many teams off and also keep his price on the market down.  With that said, he’s a guy who can get to the quarterback, he’s only 27 and some team will eventually sign him at a discount.  Best fits: Oakland, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver, Detroit. 
  6. Jaye Howard, DT, Kansas City Chiefs- Howard isn’t going to make any fan base swoon when they sign him, but he is a 27-year old that was productive in a nice defensive line rotation.  He can play multiple positions in multiple schemes, and it’s safe to assume that his best days are still ahead of him. Best fits:  Kansas City, Oakland, Arizona, Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, New England. 
  7. B.J. Raji, DT, Green Bay Packers- Raji never lived up to his draft billing but he can still be a productive player on the inside for some NFL team.  He would fit best in a 3-4 defense and shouldn’t break the bank.  Best fits: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Houston, Tennessee, San Diego, Arizona. 
  8. Chris Long, DE, Los Angeles Rams- Long’s play has been on the decline the last two seasons after playing well to start his career.  He was cut as part of a salary dumping maneuver by the Rams and his best days might be behind him.  He should get a modest free agent contract. Best fits:  Indianapolis, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, New York Giants. 
  9. Mike DeVito, DE, Kansas City Chiefs– DeVito won’t be a Day 1 free agent signing, but he is a productive player who can fit in and play well on many teams.  Nobody’s fanbase is going to throw a party because they signed him, but he can help a team win.  Best fits: Kansas City, New England, Buffalo, Baltimore, Arizona, Washington. 
  10. Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins- “Pot Roast” has shown the ability to play in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and he has been solid since his rookie season in Jacksonville.  Best fits: Oakland, Washington, New England, Houston, Arizona. 

To find the best free agent quarterbacks, click here. 

To find the best free agent running backs, click here.

To find the best free agent tight ends, click here.

To find the best free agent wide receivers, click here.

To find the best free agent offensive linemen, click here. 

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.