The focus on free agents in the trenches continues this week. In a post unrelated to my free agent candidates I put up last week, I discussed the possibility of Osi Umenyiora in a trade. It's an unlikely scenario and the day after I posted the story, Umenyiora said he was planning on being quiet and wasn't going to hold out. Thank you for ruining my story so quickly, Mr. Umenyiora. Now we'll take a look at the free agents available that won't cost Miami draft picks.
Mario Williams: He started off playing as a 3-4 OLB last year before he was placed on the injured reserve. Teams will now look at him as a potential OLB now too thanks to his success in limited action last year. Mario is undoubtedly the top defensive end on the market and with Peyton Manning still under contract for now, Mario is the top free agent in 2012. He could command a salary that could pay him close to $15 million per year.
Cliff Avril: He has said he doesn't want to receive the franchise tag and won't give the Lions a hometown discount. That still may not prevent the Lions from franchising him. Avril is only 25 and has many years ahead of him. Even though he has 20 sacks over the last two seasons, his contract could be worth only half of what Williams will see.
Robert Mathis: He was always a solid DE across from Dwight Freeney and in most years he may have been the best free agent DE on the market. He is just entering free agency at a bad year with one elite and one very good (and young) DE available in free agency. The fact that Mathis will be 31 when the season starts won't help his case either. He will still be able to produce, but he is not a long-term solution.
John Abraham: He has had a very good career with the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons. He has 112 career sacks, but he is not a coveted free agent simply because he will soon be 34. Because of his age teams will only look to him as a quick rental and he's likely to land a one or two-year deal.
Derrick Harvey: He was a top ten pick in 2008 and is already entering free agency after failing with two NFL teams. A team is better off signing him hoping he can contribute in a rotation or strictly as a backup and hope they can strike gold with his physical talents. Signing him to be a starter would be a mistake.
Jamaal Anderson: He is in the exact situation as Harvey above. Anderson is a former top ten pick when he was selected by the Falcons, but he spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts. A total of 7.5 sacks in five years would be a good indicator that Anderson just isn't meant to be a starter.
Mark Anderson: He broke out last year with the New England Patriots and finished with 10 sacks. It was the first time since 2006, his rookie year, that Anderson broke double digits in sacks. At age 29, he'd be a cheaper signing, but I don't think we could guarantee he could repeat the success he had in 2011.
Andre Carter: Like Anderson, he also finished with 10 sacks, but he did so in 14 games. Carter has now surpassed 10 sacks in 3 of the past 5 seasons, but due to his age (33) he may be an overlooked free agent this offseason.
Other notable free agent defensive ends: Raheem Brock, Phillip Merling, Matt Roth, Tyler Brayton, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, and Anthony Hargrove.