Future Free Agents: Defensive Ends

One of the most loaded positions in free agency is defensive end, which is fortunate for a team like the Vikings that could be looking to add more punch to the pass rush. We look at the top four that could be available on March 2 and list almost 30 more.

The Vikings need to get a better pass rush. We hold that to be true.

With 5.5 sacks in 2006, Darrion Scott, who was supposed to be the team's run-stopping end, was the Vikings' leading sacker. He is also a restricted free agent, and his status in being offered a contract is unknown, although the team was thought to enter preliminary discussions with his agent shortly after the season ended.

So how does the team improve its pass rush in 2007?

It won't be at the expense of replacing a starting defensive tackle – Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are both Pro Bowlers who stuffed the interior running game of opponents and are expected to do the same again next season. If the team is to improve their pass rush, it will be from the edges with either the existing players, adding through the draft or free agency.

The draftable possibilities will be discussed in depth in April, if not before. The existing players were disappointing in the pass-rush department when Erasmus James was lost for the season because of injury and Kenechi Udeze went without a sack the entire season.

Free agency is the avenue that offers plenty of potential, with several big-name players that could be available on March 2.

Jared Allen, Kansas City Chiefs (restricted) – With 27 sacks in his first three seasons in the league, the Chiefs will probably tender Allen at least a first-round offer and look to match any other offer sheets he receives, but the Chiefs only have about $5 million in available cap room.

Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts (could opt out of his contract) – With Justin Smith slapped with the franchise tag at $8.644 million dollars, Dwight Freeney would certainly seem worthy of it. However, while some reports out of Indianapolis say he will be franchised, the Colts currently have almost no salary-cap room to work with and could be squeezed by any number of teams looking for one of the best pass rushers in the league. After four seasons with double-digit sacks, Freeney dropped down to 5.5 sacks in 2006, but he still has 56.5 in five seasons in the NFL.

Charles Grant, New Orleans Saints (could opt out) – Grant is expected to become an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his contract. He had double-digit sacks in 2003 and 2004, but his other three years in the league he averaged just over five sacks per season, so his case will be an interesting study in how much teams are willing to pay for unpredictable production. Still, Grant has been able to start every game in his five-year career.

Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams – Little hasn't had fewer than seven sacks in the last six years, but the fact that he has been in the NFL for nine years will likely be cause for pause for some teams. He didn't show signs of slowing down last year, however, garnering 13 sacks.


Rodney Bailey, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dave Ball, New York Jets (restricted)
David Bowens, Miami Dolphins
Kenyon Coleman, Dallas Cowboys
Chris Cooper, Arizona Cardinals
Nick Eason, Cleveland Browns
Robert Gaethers, Cincinnati Bengals (restricted)
Brandon Green, St. Louis Rams
Tony Hargrove, Buffalo Bills (restricted)
Jarret Johnson, Baltimore Ravens
Ndukwe Kalu, Houston Texans
Chris Kelsay, Buffalo Bills
Patrick Kerney, Atlanta Falcons (could opt out)
Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams
Bobby McCray, Jacksonville Jaguars (restricted)
Alvin McKinley, Cleveland Browns
Elton Patterson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Antwaan Peek, Houston Texans
Monsanto Pope, New York Jets
Kemp Rasmussen, Seattle Seahawks
Cory Redding, Detroit Lions
Bo Schobel, Indianapolis Colts (restricted)
Darrion Scott, Minnesota Vikings (restricted)
Joe Tafoya, Seattle Seahawks
Josh Thomas, Indianapolis Colts (restricted)
Juqua Thomas, Philadelphia Eagles
Dewayne White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Marcellus Wiley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bryant Young, San Francisco 49ers (could opt out)

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