Free agent spotlight: Defensive line

First in a series looking the players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next Tuesday, although the following information does NOT reflect who the Seahawks might be targeting:

Position: Defensive line

Leader of the pack: DE Mario Williams, Texans

What he’s done: The first pick overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, Williams had four 16-start seasons before injuries limited him to 13 and five starts the past two seasons. He produced 14 sacks in 2007 and 12 in 2008, and has 53 in his six-season career while playing end and outside linebacker.

Where he ranks: No. 2 on Pro Football Weekly’s Top 100 free agent list – behind only Saints QB Drew Brees, who was given the “exclusive” franchise tag.

What they’re saying: “Williams, one of the game’s top pass rushers who has shown he can play in 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, is expected to draw major interest if he tests free agency. He possesses a rare combination of size (6-6, 283), speed, strength and athleticism and can be downright dominating at times. His durability is something of a concern – he missed most of last season with a pectoral injury and missed multiple games with a sports hernia in 2010 – but there is no doubting his talent.” – Pro Football Weekly

Other options: Falcons DE John Abraham, has 112 career sacks but he’s 34; Dolphins NT Paul Soliai, given franchise tag last year but Miami is switching to a 4-3; Jets NT Sione Pouha, he’s 33 but also weighs 325; Titans DT Jason Jones, played end last season but might be better inside; Dolphins DE Kendall Langford, has size (6-6, 295) and he’s only 26; Chargers NT Antonio Garay, started 28 games the past two seasons; Jaguars DE Jeremy Mincey, had a career-high eight sacks last season; Patriots DE Mark Anderson, no longer considered an every-down player, he did have 10 sacks last season and 2.5 more in the postseason; Saints NT Aubrayo Franklin, older (34) and better suited to a 3-4; Bears DE Israel Idonije, has 13 sacks the past two seasons playing opposite Julius Peppers; Broncos DT Broderick Bunkley, former first-round pick by the Eagles has 65 career starts; Patriots DE Andre Carter, He’s 33, but he also had 10 sacks in 14 games last season. Lions DE Cliff Avril, Cardinals DE Calais Campbell and Colts DE Robert Mathis were given franchise tags, and Mathis then signed a multi-year contract.

Seahawks own free agents: DE Red Bryant; DE Raheem Brock; DL Anthony Hargrove; DE Jimmy Wilkerson.

Numbers to know: The Seahawks generated 33 sacks last season, but 11 came from “Leo” end Chris Clemons. The rest of the D-linemen combined for 10 sacks.

Says coach Pete Carroll: “We need to address the issue about our pass rush. It’s a big factor for us. We’d love to see if we can make some movement there. Chris Clemons did a great job for us again last year. … It’s a big issue for us, and it’s not just an outside pass rusher, it’s inside as well, and some other aspects of it. But that’s something that is real important to use.”


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