A good majority of you believe that, come draft day, the newest Panther taken 1st overall will be DT Nick Fairley out of Auburn. Seeing as most of our DTs either had trouble creating any pressure up the middle, or stopping the run, Fairley would be a welcome addition to the team and a player that could instantly upgrade the line and make it easier for our DEs to get pressure on the QB and get more sacks. Though as of late, many people have been changing their view on Cam Newton after viewing his open workout, and even if many would still rather take Fairley over Newton the possibility of taking Newton is still there. And, if for some reason this ends up happening on draft day and we take a QB instead of the highly touted Fairley, there are still plenty of very nice options at DT in free agency to consider. And seeing as DT is a pressing need for the Panthers we'll take a look at the best DT free agents out there after the jump.
Ngata is the first DT we'll be discussing and boy is he one big, aggressive DT! Ngata stands at 6'4 and weighs in at 350 lbs. which is a very good size for a DT. And don't let his size fool you, he is a very athletic and is the type of defensive player that can power through double teams and either get to the QB himself or flush the QB out of the pocket and allow the DEs to close the deal. He has a good motor and consistently brings pressure up the middle and is very good in running and passing situations. He is a very talented player that will command a huge contract and depending if the Ravens feel they can afford to keep Ngata with various other players in need of contracts like Le'Ron McClain, Marshal Yanda, Jared Gaither, and Chis Carr, we'll have a better shot at landing him if we wanted to.
Barry Cofield is very good run stuffing DT that has a decent enough pass rush to consistently bring pressure up the middle to disrupt QBs. He was a very important part of the Giants road to the Super Bowl and a huge part in pressuring Tom Brady enough to make mistakes and ultimately in helping his Giants pull one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. He's started all but three games in his entire career proving that he is also a very durable DT as well. Cofield had his best year last season with a combined 54 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 4 passes defended. And with the Giants having many holes to fill this offseason and having other top playerslike Mathis Kiwanuka, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and various others Cofield is once again a player that we'd have a chance to pry away from Giants and beef up our D-Line.
At the beginning of his career Mebane was seen as a very talented run stuffer with very little talent in the form of a pass rush. But he's bettered his stock in that regard in each of the past three seasons with his best season to date coming in 2008 with 39 combined tackles, 5 1/2 sacks, 1 pass defended, and 2 forced fumbles. He's a little shorter than most DTs at 6'1 but along with his strength give him great leverage against most O-Linemen and this allows him to bring decent pressure up the middle. Although he's not the type of player that will consistently collapse the pocket and flush out a QB he does bring enough pressure to force QBs to disrupt their progressions and force them to make mistakes. All in all a very decent option at DT and a sure fire starter from the get go.
Jenkins is the type of DT that commands respect and can easily dominate the line of scrimmage in any game. Though only playing in 11 games in 2010 due to injury and only having 18 tackles, he had an incredible 7 sacks in that span. He's an excellent run stuffer and pass rusher constantly tripping up running backs or in the face Quarterbacks causing them to make mistakes. The only downside of Jenkins is his durability seeing as he's missed a total of 17 games in the past two seasons. But even with questions about whether he's able to last an entire season, Jenkins is a tremendous talent who is still relatively young and would be a force on our Defensive Line and would definitely make it easier on all of our DEs. Just imagining how many sacks Charles Johnson would have with Jenkins on the line makes him a very interesting player for us to keep an eye on.
Bowen played relatively well when filling in for Marcus Spears this past season. Bowen offers adequate run stuffing ability and provides a decent pass rush. His best year came in 2009 when he had 18 combined tackles, 3 sacks, 2 passes defended, and 1 forced fumble. Bowen can be a decent starter or provide good depth for any team needing a DT. He wouldn't command a huge contract which would make it easier with our current cap space to sign him and use the the rest to bring in other bigger FAs. The only bad thing is that I don't see Dallas letting him go, because contributes much more in terms of pass rush than Spears and can fill in at anytime. Either way Bowen is another interesting FA to consider for the Panthers.
Those are the DTs that I believe warrant the most attention by our FO, and since I left out many other FA candidates in my last post that many thought I left out(sorry guys) here's a list of other possible FAs Carolina could sign.
Other Notable FA Defensive Tackles:
Aubrayo Franklin- Decent Run Stuffer and Pass Rusher, but many have questioned his drive since he's never had a dominant year that wasn't a contract year.
Richard Seymour- A talented DT that may have lost a spring in his step, but very dominant when motivated. Also more expendable to the Raiders with the emergence of Desmont Bryant at the end of last season.
Shaun Rogers- A good two-down run stuffer when motivated, but seen as too much of a distraction in the locker room.
Antonio Johnson- A decent pass rushing DT and played well last season, but too inconsistent over his four year career.
Well my Panther Brethren, there is my list of the most interesting FAs at DT that the Panthers could target in free agency. What do you guys think? Which one would be the most realistic to sign and would provide the most help on our D-Line?