Free agency reset: Defensive players

Who is left that could help the Packers on defense? Packer Report runs down the talent available at defensive end, nose tackle and outside linebacker.

That was fast.

This is the 10th day of free agency, and a look at Scout.com's list of available players reveals the carnage. Of the top 19 players at the start of free agency, all have been signed or made their teams' franchise player. Of the top 33 players at the start of free agency, only three are available: Pittsburgh tackle Marvel Smith (back surgery), Green Bay tackle Mark Tauscher (knee surgery) and Philadelphia tackle Jon Runyan (35 and entering his 14th season).

That's not surprising.

"(Free agency) will be done in six days," ESPN's John Clayton told Packer Report at the Scouting Combine last month. That's because so many teams had so much money to spend on so few quality players.

For the Packers, who need help on the defensive side of the ball, they really are rooting through the scrap heap to find players.

Of the top 15 defensive players at the start of free agency, none are available. The best-available players are former Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks and former Indianapolis linebacker Freddy Keiaho. Neither have experience in a 3-4 defense.

Here are the third- and fourth-tier players who could interest the Packers at their positions of need: defensive end, nose tackle and outside linebacker. They entered free agency about $30 million under the salary cap and signed only bargain safety Anthony Smith.

Defensive ends

— Jason Taylor: He'd be no more than a situational player here because, at 250 pounds, he's not big enough to play end in a 3-4 scheme and no longer is athletic enough to play outside linebacker. He turns 35 just before Week 1 and has made it clear he'd rather spend time with his family during the offseason than work out with his teammates. Nonetheless, he had success with Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers in Miami in 2006 and 2007, when he had 24.5 sacks and was voted the league's defensive player of the year. He has 120.5 career sacks.

Vonnie Holliday: Holliday's agent told Packer Report over the weekend that the Packers haven't expressed any interest in Green Bay's 1998 first-round pick beyond an early conversation. That's somewhat surprising, considering Holliday, 33, played for Capers in Miami and was a reason why the Dolphins' run defense was so stout last season. He's a little smaller than the ideal 3-4 end, but has played it effectively. He'll visit Detroit this week.

Kevin Carter: Carter, who will turn 36 early this season, has 104.5 career sacks, but just seven over the last two seasons. He has played all 16 games in all 14 NFL seasons and has missed just five starts. He won a Super Bowl with St. Louis and has ideal size (6-foot-6, 305 pounds). At his age, he's no more than a part-time player, but he'd be an asset for younger players like Johnny Jolly, Justin Harrell and Alfred Malone. There are signals this could be where the Packers turn, though his agent isn't talking.

Paul Spicer: Spicer, who will turn 34 during training camp, is 6-4, 295. He's played in 63 of a possible 64 games over the past four seasons, including 52 starts. He had 7.5 sacks apiece in 2005 and 2007, and he played for Capers in 2000. Like Carter, he might not have much left in the tank, but he's a true pro.

Anthony Weaver: Weaver was a bust as a free agent signing with Houston. Before that, though, he was a solid 3-4 end for Baltimore and was one of the top free agents in the 2006 class. Weaver, 29, is 6-3, 286.

Mike Wright: Wright (6-4, 295) started seven games in his four seasons in New England. Capers was with the Patriots last season, so he knows if the 27-year-old would be worth signing.

Marques Douglas: The 31-year-old Douglas (6-2, 292) played end in Baltimore's 3-4 from 2001 through 2004, San Francisco's 3-4 from 2005 through 2007, and was a reserve back in Baltimore last season. He has played all 16 games the past six seasons, and was a full-time starter from 2003 through 2007, when he amassed 17 sacks.

Shaun Cody: Cody was a second-round bust for Detroit in 2005. At 6-3, 295, perhaps his size would make him a better 3-4 end than a 4-3 tackle, which is what he played for the Lions. Apparently, having watched Cody in their twice-per-season preparations for the Lions, the Packers have no interest.

Nose tackles

With Grady Jackson landing in Detroit and Colin Cole bolting for Seattle, there are none. Tank Johnson played the nose for Dallas last season, but at 300 pounds, that's not his forte. Arizona's mammoth Gabe Watson is a restricted free agent with a second-round tender.

Outside linebackers

There are a bunch of so-so outside linebackers. The following are the ones with 3-4 experience.

Kevin Burnett: Burnett's agent isn't talking about the status of the Packers' interest nor contract talks with San Diego, Oakland and Houston. The 242-pounder had four sacks and four starts in four seasons with Dallas.

Pierre Woods: He's a restricted free agent who got the Patriots' second-round tender. He's in line to replace Mike Vrabel in their 3-4.

Marques Harris: At 231 pounds, Harris was a situational player in the Chargers' 3-4. He's started six games and has eight sacks in his four seasons.

David Bowens: Bowens, who spent 2000 with the Packers, had four sacks in five starts last season with the Jets. He turns 32 in July and is entering his 11th season.

Clark Haggans: The 32-year-old Haggans, who was injured during the Cardinals' run to the Super Bowl, has some intrigue because he spent his first eight seasons in Pittsburgh, including 2004 through 2007, when he started 57 games and tallied 25 sacks. He had one sack in 11 games as a reserve for Arizona.

Shantee Orr: The 246-pound Orr had seven sacks for Houston in 2005, when Capers was head coach, but only 1.5 in 2006 and none since.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport


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