The Cut List, 3.3.06: The Defense
The field of available free agent defenders is mainly those of aging veterans, backups or salary cap victims. There are some players in this group who have plenty of tread left on their tires. All they need is the right fit.
Trevor Pryce (Denver) The one-time dominating player is that no longer. Injuries and age have robbed Pryce of some of the speed, quickness, and power for which elevated him to the elite pass rusher standard. Still displays the ability to compete, but should not be expected to produce more than average numbers for a defensive end or tackle. Due to his track record and team necessities in the game today, Pryce could command more than the standard for a player at his position.
Kenard Lang (Cleveland) Was a better than average defensive end for the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns, prior to the 2005 season. In 2005, Lang dropped weight and learned a new position (outside linebacker), all which played into his lackluster season of a year ago. If Lang can add weight, he can be a viable mid-range option for a team seeking a steady player heading towards the closing chapter of his career.
Chris Cooper (San Francisco) Marginal depth type player.
Brady Smith (Atlanta) A foot injury sidelined this high-motor, lanky defensive end. Plays every play like it's the last one and is a solid team player in the locker room. If healthy, Smith has the ability to help a team looking for run support and with a moderate pass rush. The Falcons were seeking some salary-cap relief and this move falls into that category. Will command attention in the free agent player signing period.
Brentson Buckner (Carolina) Age, injury, salary-cap issues, and a drop in production all played into Buckner's release. While still displaying the strength and ability to play the defensive tackle, he has lost mobility and quickness. Struggles against quicker, physical offensive linemen and could be at the end of the road.
Sam Adams (Buffalo) Remains a solid run-stuffing defensive tackle, but age and wear/tear on his large frame appear to be taking their toll. Not as dominant at the point of attack in 2005 and appeared to wear down as the season went on. Should have a few miles left in the tank, but don't expect the same stellar Adams of years gone by.
Ted Washington (Oakland) Much like Adams, Washington is on the short-end of his career. Not nearly as effective in 2005 as in the past, Washington struggled. A few short years ago, one blocker rarely could get the best of Washington, in 2005 age and years of punishment at the point of attack appears to have caught up to him. Still can be effective in a spot role, but shouldn't be depended upon to play 35-50 plays a game any longer.
La'Roi Glover (Dallas) Glover simply is not a good fit in the Dallas defensive scheme. Released for that and salary-cap reasons, Glover can expect to draw some significant interest from teams looking for a defensive lineman that plays the run well and can get to the quarterback on occasion in the right scheme (needs athleticism around him).
Lance Legree (Jets) Legree is a serviceable defensive tackle that will give effort, but is not physical or athletic enough to make an impact. Due to his desire and effort, Legree will play somewhere on Sunday's, though as a backup.
Chris Claiborne (St. Louis) Though being athletic, Claiborne just doesn't make plays and can't stay healthy. Claiborne was believed to be one of the special type linebackers when entering the league out of USC, but has been relatively average at the professional level. Runs well, tackles adequately, but doesn't make plays with any consistency. After a non-descript career with the Lions, he moved to the Rams and continued his trait of being average.
Jeremy Loyd (St. Louis) Special teams/backup type player.
Na'il Diggs (Green Bay) Definitely the type of linebacker that plays better in space. Diggs is much better in coverage than at the point of attack. Teams like linebackers that display speed and quickness, Diggs will garner his fair share of interest due to his athletic ability.
Barry Gardner (Jets) Marginal backup inside linebacker type and special teams ace.
Shawn Barber (Kansas City) Injuries have robbed this very athletic player from significant parts of seasons throughout his career. Still runs well and is coming off knee surgery. Barber is a serious medical risk and should only receive a very team friendly contract (one-year deal) to see if he can play an entire season, which is questionable at best at this time in his career.
Gary Stills (Kansas City) Very good special teams player.
Brandon Short (Carolina) Productive linebacker that has had some issues with teammates and coaches in the past, Short is on the outside looking in. While this release can be acknowledged as a salary-cap cutting move, his overall play was inconsistent and the team is looking for a more balance and chemistry. Short will draw interest in free agency due to his ability to play at a better than average level at times.
Howard Hodges (San Diego) No impact, special teams type player.
Jamie Sharper (Seattle) Salary-cap cutting move, though performance and injury plays into the equation. Sharper was a disappointment for the Seahawks and appears to have slowed down. Once was a very durable and tough linebacker, in the 2005 season he was easier to neutralize. If healthy (knee surgery), he could command some looks in free agency, but there should not be a large payday offered.
Eric Warfield (Kansas City) Very inconsistent and does not do a good job in positioning himself between the ball and receiver. Can be easily fooled and does not play to his size. Could get a look as a starter somewhere, but the odds are he will be a backup in 2006.
Dexter McCleon (Kansas City) McCleon doesn't cover well, is better in run support, but a cornerback is paid to cover and execute. Can still contribute, but is not starter material any longer.
Reggie Howard (Miami) Appeared to have the ability to become a better than average cornerback when with the Panthers. In two-seasons with the Dolphins, Howard was a complete bust. Free agency should be relatively quiet for him, as he is a depth type player at this point.
Sam Madison (Miami) Has slowed over the past two-seasons, but still regarded as a quality cornerback. Madison reads and reacts well and is smooth in coverage. He relies more on experience and instincts, rather than speed and quickness, though Madison possesses adequate speed. Still, despite some slippage, Madison can still play the position at a high level of consistency, but has not shown the ability over the past couple seasons to be the shutdown cornerback he once was.
Denard Walker (Oakland) Smallish stature and a loss of speed and quickness make Walker a nickel or dime type cornerback at this point in his career.
Andre Dyson (Seattle) Salary-cap cutting move after a very disappointing 2005 season for the Seahawks. Injuries and inconsistency hampered Dyson throughout the season and he was replaced when relatively healthy. Based on his history, Dyson will get an offer to start in the league in 2006, but may have to prove the 2005 season was a fluke. Must do a better job against bigger receivers to taste success, is aggressive, and has a nose for the ball.
Duane Starks (New England) This one-time big-time cornerback has struggled since suffering a serious knee injury a couple years ago. Whether the knee isn't healthy or the player is suffering from confidence issues, he is far from the player he was just a few seasons ago. Relatively young, Starks may still have a place in the game, but will have to start from the bottom up.
Michael Lehan (Cleveland) Has shown some coverage ability, but is always injured. At this time a player which should not be counted on to be anything more than a special teams / reserve type player.
Ahmed Plummer (San Francisco) When healthy, Plummer is a very solid cornerback. The past two seasons have been difficult for the former Ohio State star, neck and ankle woes have limited his playing time, which helped lead to his release (as well as the salary-cap savings). Again, if healthy, Plummer can be a significant player at the corner position, but that is a big "IF". Will draw serious interest as teams are always seeking cornerback that can cover, and Plummer does that well, when healthy.
Ty Law (Jets) Coming off a serious foot injury, Law played his way into shape during the 2005 season and was named to the Pro-Bowl. A truly outstanding cornerback and playmaker in the defensive backfield, Law will command significant interest in free agency. Still can man-up with the best of them, positions and handles himself well against large receivers, and displays consistency getting between the ball and receiver.
Michael Harden (Seattle) Could be a reserve and special teams type player.
Willie Williams (Pittsburgh) The Pittsburgh Super Bowl victory could be the final farewell for Williams. Smallish is stature, he has lost the speed and quickness necessary to play the cornerback position. The Pittsburgh defensive scheme helped minimize deficiencies. A definite salary-cap move, production also plays a factor in his release. A backup at best now and may end his career with the 'ring'.
Lawyer Milloy (Buffalo) Not the dominant defensive back he once was, Milloy can still play the game at a high level and provides a great deal of experience. Over the years Milloy has lost a step and may not cover as much ground, but he makes up for this due to his ability to be in position. Any team looking for a safety for a couple years will seriously consider this former New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills standout.
Tebucky Jones (Miami) Jones has never played to the level expected when he was a first-round draft selection. Poor fundamentals and a lack of urgency leaves Jones on the sideline.
Marcus Coleman (Houston) Was starting in Houston until he violated team rules and fell out of favor with the coaching staff. Coleman still has the ability to be a serviceable safety if above average talent surrounds him in the defensive backfield, due to questionable pass coverage skills at this point in his career.
Oliver Celestin (Jets) Reserve player with potential. A definite special teams player which should play on Sunday somewhere in the 2006 season.
Jerry Wilson (San Diego) A step slow, average at best in coverage, and will not intimidate a receiver, Wilson's days of starting in the league are over. At best, now a backup and special teams type contributor.