The rise of the 3-4 and hybrid defensive schemes has made outside linebackers and rush ends valued commodities in the modern NFL. The 2013 free agent market features some excellent options at the position. The group is headed by Super Bowl winner Paul Kruger.
The Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles will be making the switch to 3-4 fronts this season. Each will need a dominant outside pass-rusher from this group. Here are the top five 3-4 pass-rushers available in free agency.
5. Antwan Barnes, San Diego Chargers
Antwan Barnes struggles to stay on the field, appearing in only 11 games in 2012. He posted a mere three sacks, after registering a career-best 11 sacks the season before. However, when healthy, there are few better situational, edge rushers in the league than the ex-Florida International standout.
Barnes rushes with good first-step quickness and deceptive power. He possesses a good dip and rip move to get around offensive tackles and can be a valuable weapon in the right scheme. Any team looking for a cheap pass-rusher to boost their 3-4 front, should give Barnes strong consideration.
On Wednesday it was reported that the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 2nd round pick and a later conditional pick. This is a mistake by the Chiefs. Yes they do desperately need a quarterback but Smith isn’t the guy for the job.
Smith was pretty much a bust in San Francisco until miracle worker Jim Harbaugh was hired as the Niners head coach two seasons ago. He turned Smith’s career around, mainly by believing in him, giving him confidence, and tailoring the offense to his abilities. The Niners ran a ball controlled offense, pounding the rock for the majority of the game. Smith’s job was pretty much to be a game manager for the most part.
The Chicago Bears have a boatload of potential free agents to re-sign (or not) from last year’s roster, and the most expensive of the lot could be Henry Melton. The 26-year-old defensive tackle is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance just as his rookie contract expires.
As reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter), the Bears appear to be willing to sink huge amounts of cash into keeping Melton on the roster. Biggs says that, unless a long-term contract is reached, the Bears are expected to put the franchise tag on the youngster…a move that’s expected to cost in the neighborhood of $8 million next season.
The Bears aren’t long on cap room in the best of scenarios, so committing that kind of money to one of their many skilled defensive linemen isn’t a trivial decision. Nevertheless, Chicago can ill afford to make any other move where Melton is concerned.