SOW’s All-Value Free Agency team: Defense

Woodley pressures RodgersWith nearly four weeks of free-agency in the books, all the big deals are cut. While there are some late stragglers yet to make it to the party (aka Michael Crabtree), the majority of the NFL is turning towards the draft (and my mock draft, soon to be released).

The (metaphorical) pages can be written on SOW’s All-Value Free Agency Team. This is not an indication of talent or who is the best free-agent at each position (which about every other Internet arrticle covered in the week building up to free agency). It’s a look at the best free agents at the best value, a critical distinction. Here’s a rundown of the defense.
Here is the rundown of the offense. 
All salary data from Rotoworld.com. 
Pass-rusher/Edge defender: Lamar Woodley and Justin Houston 
Yes, Justin Houston was franchise-tagged by the Kansas City Cheifs for $13.195 million, and that’s a lot for one year. But it’s less than he’d get on the open market. Houston has had three consecutive 10+ sack seasons and exploded last year for 22 sacks, incredibly rare, historic production that might have led Houston to get Suh-style money. Instead, he’s signed for the paltry franchise tag tender.
Woodly, resigned to a one-year/$950k deal with Arizone, on the the other hand, represents “broken-goods” value. His last year was as broken as they come as he only played in six games before being shut down for the season. However, those six game were horrible, registering no sacks and only five tackles. For a situational pass-rusher, that’s about as bad as you can get.
I’m betting Woodley rebounds somewhat though, back to his 2012 or 2013 form where he recorded 5 and 6 sacks, respectively. Even managing 3 or 4 sacks is good value for a player signed for under a milion dollars. 


Defensive tackle: Terrance Knighton and Henry Melton

Man, these are some great deals (for the teams, not so much for the players). 

Terrnace “Pot Roast” Knighton, possibly the #2 free-agency defensive tackle behind Ndamokung Suh, was a phenomenal buy at only $4 million for one year. The only complaints about Knighton is his propensity to gain weight and his tendency to take off plays. The Redskins helped remedy the weight problem by creating $450k in weight-related bonuses into his contract. Plus, it’s only a one-year deal. If Knighton struggles or takes off too many plays, there’s no harm done. If he lives up to the media’s (and my) expectations, his next deal will be for a lot more than $4 million.

Henry “melts in your mouth” Melton joins Gerald McCoy in Tampa Bay to stuff the run and provide push up the middle for only $3.75 million for one year. The 8th-ranked defensive  tackle, as per ProFootballFocus, rejoins his old coach,  Lovie Smith, and should beneift greatly (statistically) from working with McCoy. 


Middle linebacker: Rolando McClain

McClain recently was resigned by the Cowboys on a one-year, three million dollar deal. PFF‘s #8 middle linebacker showed well against the run and pass last year and can earn up to $1 million in incentives. It’s a great deal for the ‘Boys, provided McClain does not retire on them. 


4-3 Outside linebackers: Keith Rivers and Sean Witherspoon

The Cowboys keep finding value at linebacker. Rivers is a two-down thumper signed to a $850k/1-year deal. With Sean Lee returning from perpetual injury, Rivers (hopefully) returns to the bench to provide quality depth on the cheap.

Witherspoon, a former Falcon signed by the Cardinals on a $4 million/1 year deal, could be a great signing by the Cardinals if he stays healthy. That’s a big question mark, considering he’s only played one full season in his four-year career and is coming off an Achilles’ tendon rupture. If healthy, he should step into the starting role vacated by the now-retired Larry Foote. A linebacking-corps led by Daryl Washington (a feared pass-rusher who excels in coverage as well) and Witherspoon (a volume tackler) is a unit to build a defense around. 


Cornerback: Sterling Moore and Jimmy Wilson

Even if the contracts handed out this offseason haven’t reflected it, slot cornerbacks are basically starters in today’s nickel-heavy NFL. It’s the main reason the New York Jets handed out big contracts to three, not just two, cornerbacks (Revis, Cromartie, and Skrines).

The contracts of Moore and Wilson, both underrated cornerbacks, don’t reflect this reality. Moore signed with Tampa Bay for a 1-year/$1.525 million deal. Assuming he keeps ahead of Leonard Johnson on the depth chart, the Bucs’ got tremendous value. At worst, they just signed an expensive special-teams ace.

Jimmy Wilson, signed to a 2 year/$4.85 million deal, replaces the departed Marcus Gilchrist in San Diego. Expect his sack numbers to increase dramatically as John Pagano uses his slot cornerbacks and safeties as blitzers often. 


Safeties: Tayvon Branch and Mike Adams

An injury-risk who has only played in five games in two seasons, Branch can earn $2 million more on his one-year/$2 million deal if he hits playing-time quotas. When he’s healthy, he’s a great player who can solidify a Cheif’s secondary which is missing Ron Parker (free-agency) and Eric Berry (cancer). 

Mike Adams isn’t a injury-risk; he’s just old. The 34-year old resigned with the Colts on a two-year deal worth $4.25 million. He made the Pro Bowl this past season, his 11th season and 1st Pro Bowl. Eventually, the wheels will fall off Adams, but if they don’t for another year, the Colts found value. 

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Pressley Nietering

Pressley Nietering is an up-and-coming writer. He will attend Clemson University. Follow him on Twitter @Pressme


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