NFL training camps are open and we’ve already had our first preseason game this summer. So over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to break down which offseason moves were the best at each position.
We’ve already looked at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and the offensive line. Now in the interest of equal time, it’s time to check out the other side of the football. And we’ll start with the best defensive end pickups.
But first things first: Who’s still available for a team looking to fortify this area?
Who’s Still Out There?
Notable names like Mario Williams and Tyson Jackson are still on the open market. The former has seen his play slump in recent years but he may still be an effective pass-rusher in the right system. Kendall Reyes is just 27 years old and has been somewhat of a disappointment, but may add some experienced depth to a team. The versatile Cullen Jenkins can play outside and also contribute inside if needed. But at 36 years old, he is certainly not a long-term solution. Jared Odrick enjoyed stints with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars and is still available as well.
5. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns
It hasn’t taken long for the first overall pick in April’s draft to get the attention of a 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle. Fred Greetham of Scout.com has the lowdown from Joe Thomas on Myles Garrett, the pass-rushing prospect from Texas A&M. The Cleveland Browns could use all the help they can get on defense. A year ago, they allowed a league-high 36 TD passes and totaled a disappointing 26 sacks. The former Aggies’ defender should get a good start as a pass rusher before maturing into a solid overall player.
4. Kony Ealy, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots rallied to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. That’s two titles in three years for Bill Belichick’s team. Of course, the five-time NFL champion as a Head Coach took this offseason to plug some holes. One was a pass rush that produced 34 sacks this past season after totaling 49 quarterback traps in 2015. The Pats gave up a second-round pick to grab Kony Ealy and got a third-rounder in return.
While he was somewhat underwhelming with the Panthers, the last time we saw the defensive end in a Super Bowl was when he sacked then-Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning three times in a losing effort. Belichick will get the most out of this player.
3. William Hayes, Miami Dolphins
Although they were a playoff team this past season, it wasn’t due to the play of the Miami defense. It was one of the worst in the league, giving up the third-most rushing yards in the NFL. This is a defensive line with Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Jordan Phillips to start. Hayes has been a solid pro in nine seasons with the Tennessee Titans (4) and Rams (5). He’s totaled a modest 34.5 sacks but can also be solid against the run, something Adam Gase’s team desperately needs. Hayes will also prove to be quite the mentor for 2017 first-round draft pick Charles Harris, a defensive end out of Missouri.
2. Alex Okafor, New Orleans Saints
This was quite the under-the-radar pickup for the defensively-starved Saints. A former fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals, the former University of Texas pass-rusher showed his share of promise at outside linebacker in the club’s 3-4 scheme. Now he’ll line up opposite Cameron Jordan in the Big Easy. Sean Payton’s club is in desperate need of a pass rush—they produced only 30 sacks this past season. It was one reason why the Saints allowed the most passing yards in the league in 2016. With former first-rounder Sheldon Rankins inside, Okafor could wind up racking up some impressive numbers for coordinator Dennis Allen’s unit.
1. Jonathan Allen, Washington Redskins
Yes, we understand why the former University of Alabama standout fell in the first round in April. Concerns about his shoulders may have made Jonathan Allen a risky proposition for teams selecting earlier. But 16 other teams’ loss will prove to be Washington’s gain. Add in the fact that he’ll be coached up by defensive line guru Jim Tomsula, and this is an ideal addition for Jay Gruden’s club.
Team president Bruce Allen signed defensive linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain before the draft. So now, this becomes an intriguing three-man front. It won’t be a surprise if Jonathan Allen makes an immediate splash by grabbing NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.