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NFL: Pass rushers will make big free-agent splash
Defensive linemen can be the great erasers in the NFL. Find the pass rushers who can harass quarterbacks consistently and you can erase your cover guy in the secondary who is a step slow. Find the defensive tackle who can swallow up two interior offensive linemen and collapse the pocket and you don't have to worry if your safety took a false step before trying to chase down the fast tight end. Here's a look at five defensive linemen who will attract plenty of attention during the free agency signing period.
DE Mario Williams, Houston—The Texans made the playoffs for the first time in 2011 and they did it despite the fact that Williams missed 11 games with a torn chest muscle. When healthy, Williams is a game-changing pass rusher who can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Not only is he strong enough to overpower offensive tackles, he takes great angles and can use his long arms to reach over the blocker and sack the quarterback. Williams had 5.0 sacks in five games and when he's healthy, he's a double-digit sack guy.
DE Cliff Avril, Detroit—The Lions would be making a big mistake if they let Avril get away during free agency. He and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh give the Lions the ability to create pressure on every play. Avril uses his speed to get to the quarterback and he had 11.0 sacks in 11. He is a potential Pro Bowler who will improve any defense.
DT Red Bryant, Seattle—One of the more underrated players in the league, Bryant can also play defensive end in a 3-4 set-up. Bryant is a 325-lb. wrecking ball who can destroy the interior running game and collapse the pocket. He's mean and strong, and that's a good combination if you are looking for a defensive lineman.
DE Robert Mathis, Indianapolis—Mathis is not the most physical pass rusher, but he still has a very quick first step and that means he can still get to the passer. He had 9.5 sacks with the Colts last year and he could make any contender much more dangerous. Mathis has had 9.5 sacks or more every year since 2008.
DT Brodrick Bunkley, Denver—A tough and mean run stuffer who recorded 43 tackles in his first season with the Broncos after being one of the staples on the Philadelphia defensive line for five seasons. He has a great motor and will not quit on any play.
Reference: Top 50 Free Agents
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