NFL free agent breakdown: Defensive Tackle

The Redskins have an obvious need at defensive tackle and there will be plenty available when free agency officially begins on March 9 at 4:00 p.m.   

By the time he suits up for training camp next season, Terrance Knighton might be donning a uniform other than the iconic burgundy and gold. Knighton didn’t have quite the impact on the field that general manager Scot McCloughan was hoping for when the team signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract last offseason, though his locker room presence loomed large.

 

The Washington Redskins finished 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed--an area where Knighton was anticipated to make an impact. Still, the 29-year-old nose tackle has a number of desirable qualities, not to mention his rare combination of talent and size that the Redskins would happily bring back for the right price tag.

 

If Knighton’s time in Washington is over, the Redskins will have a 6-foot-3, 354-pound void to fill along the defensive line—not to mention the intangibles and high football IQ that Pot Roast would take with him. The Redskins and 33-year-old defensive end Jason Hatcher could also part ways should the longtime Cowboy decide to retire.

 

Knowing McCloughan, Washington will look primarily to the draft for replacements. But the free-agent pool will have plenty of options, too, ranging from potential game changers to solid role players. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some players that will draw significant interest:

Top Dollar

 

Muhammad Wilkerson (2015 Team: New York Jets)

 

Wilkerson leads off the list because the pairing of his top-notch run defense and superior pass rushing ability make him the most sought after free-agent defensive lineman. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Redskins.

 

Not only will he command a hefty contract but he also represents somewhat of a risk coming off a broken right leg that he suffered in January. The undeniable upside: he registered a career-high 12 sacks in addition to being a run-stopping bulwark for the Jets in 2015.

 

Other high-risk, high-reward free agents include B.J. Raji, 30, Nick Fairley, 28, and Haloti Ngata, 32.

 

Though not as complete as his 2015 teammate Wilkerson, nose tackle Damon Harrison, 27, fits the bill of an elite run-stopper. Like Wilkerson, Harrison will be a wealthy man come next season. Meanwhile, Malik Jackson, 26, is coming off of a Super Bowl season in which he recorded seven sacks. With his age and immense upside, Jackson won’t experience a dearth of suitors.

 

The Price is Right

 

Letroy Guion (2015 Team: Green Bay Packers)

Cedric Thornton (2015 Team: Philadelphia Eagles)

 

Both Guion, 29, and Thornton, 28, are versatile enough to play NT or DE in Joe Barry’s 3-4 defensive scheme. They were both solid in the run game in 2015. What brings them into the Redskins’ price range, however, is that neither proved particularly intimidating in the pass rush.

 

Kendall Reyes (2015 Team: San Diego Chargers)

 

A 2012 second-round draft pick, Reyes tallied 11.5 sacks in his first two years in the league. He’s combined for just three sacks in the two seasons since. At just 26 years old, Reyes' best seasons may still be ahead of him if he can get back on track. He has the potential to be a major steal.

 

In case you missed them, here are compilations of noteworthy cornerbacks and safeties available in free agency. For key offseason dates, click here.

Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.

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