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NFL Free Agency 2016: Top 5 Available Defensive Ends

Super Bowl 50 is barely in the rear view mirror yet fans and critics are already scheming and dreaming about winning Super Bowl XLI and clai


Super Bowl 50 is barely in the rear view mirror yet fans and critics are already scheming and dreaming about winning Super Bowl XLI and claiming bragging rights for the year over their friends and rivals. The beautiful part about spring is that every team can re shuffle the deck and gather as many offensive and defensive weapons as possible. With Free Agency due to open tomorrow, we take a position by position look at the best available free agents who could be the missing piece that catapults your team to a Lombardi win next season. Here we look at available Defensive Ends 1) Malik Jackson, Denver Broncos Although capable of playing through the middle Jackson was primarily an end in Denver’s devastating 3-4 scheme. He’s versatile enough to play inside or out, possesses natural ability and the number one reason he tops our list for the best defensive end free agent of 2016 is because of his consistency, out matching any tackle in the NFL all season long recording 45 tackles, 5 sacks, 7 defended. Both the Raiders (Jack Del Rio) and the Bears (John Fox) are interested in Malik Jackson. However, with the lack of sheer quality pass rushers in the NFL you can be assured Malik will be in demand. The big man out of Tennessee is likely to be earning around $20 Million guaranteed, which will put him amongst the best in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus he was the 3rd best pass rusher this year with 60 combined sacks, hits and hurries. 2) Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants JPP is a difficult players to assess the market for – last year’s firework incident has dramatically changed his game. In his 8 games last season he played with heavy casting and it appeared as if the damage sustained made making open field tackles an almost impossible task. What keeps Pierre-Paul in our list is his pass rushing game. Although only recording one sack, he did put a lot of pressure on opposing QB’s. Pro Football Focus credited him with 34 QB hurries in just those 8 games which put him 12th on the overall Defensive End 4-3 pass rushing scheme. Potential suitors are hard to predict but the Cardinals lack of a pass rushing end may prove to be a sweet fit for the former South Florida Bull. Other destinations include: Jacksonville who lack a pass-rusher and the Cowboys who need to replace the toxic Greg Hardy. Pierre-Paul is likely looking again at a ‘prove-it’ contract, heavily laden with incentives as Hardy’s was last year, maybe 2yrs and up to $20 million based on performance. 3) Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins Olivier Vernon makes this list for one simple reason, and that is his versatility. Able to play in a 4-3 under, or as a 3-4 OLB fit him well, and if you’re confident enough to shift Vernon to the inside you will see his speed unease any guard in the NFL. And if you want to go one step further, playing Vernon in Nickel packages is a sure fire way to maximise the obvious potential. Unfortunately, Vernon isn’t a creative rusher and as such that limits the teams that are likely to be interested in him. I would expect Oakland, Arizona, Detroit and even Carolina to show an interest whilst I wouldn’t count out interest from New York or Dallas either. Using that $12.7M transition tag as a starting point, and considering that Malik Jackson will be looking at around $15M, I would expect Vernon to be in and around the $13 million per ball park. 4) Jaye Howard, Kansas City Chiefs Jaye Howard is hardly the biggest superstar on this list having spent the past 2 years of his career over shadowed by the likes of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. The former Florida Gator has not completely developed into a reliable 3-4 DE and this past season the stats backed him up with 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Although not the world’s best, he’s certainly a player with potential to become an absolute bargain. The obvious choice is the Chicago Bears, especially if they miss out on Malik Jackson. The Lions could also be a consideration as would the weakened Redskins. Lately, 3-4 Ends have earned $10 Million plus in the off season, and although Howard has been stand out this season I think he will fall just short of that number. A good comparison with Derek Wolfe would stand well where he picked up $36 Million over 4 years in January. My bet is a 5-year 48-Million deal. 5) Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills In 2014/15 Mario Williams was arguably the best Defensive player in the NFL. This year, things haven’t quite been the same for the Bills veteran, with only 19 tackles and 5 sacks all year round. At 31, If Williams can capture the form shown 2 years ago he will be considered the coup of the season, with likely low wages going into this year’s free agency it’s a very low risk, high reward type scenario for any team likely to push ahead with Williams in the off season. The obviously place perhaps for Mario is the Giants, with JPP leaving New York it would make sense with a simple one-in-one-out process. However, the Dolphins have shown interest in the former NC state star. I Imagine Williams could be signed for as little as $7M Guaranteed with further bonuses bringing it up to around $10.5M per year

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NFL Free Agency 2016: Top 5 Available Defensive Ends

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