2011 Free Agency Primer: Defense

EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - SEPTEMBER 12: Matt Moore #3 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked by Barry Cofield #96 of the New York Giants during the NFL season opener at New Meadowlands Stadium on September 12 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

I gave you a look at some offensive free agents and sorted them into tiers as I saw fit. I listed mostly the guys that I think the Hawks should or could pursue; I am sure to miss a player or two so leave a comment below if I'm forgetting anyone. 

Defensive Ends:

Tier One: Starter on day one, immediate contributor. 

Charles Johnson, Carolina: Arguably one of the best young defensive ends in the league at this point. According to Pro Football Focus, No defensive end had more combined sacks, hits and hurries than the 81 of Johnson and what's more, he did it consistently throughout the year. We saw some players rack up stats in a few games as they feasted on bad opposition. Johnson just beat everyone." Johnson finished 2010 with 12 sacks, 58 hurries, and 48 defensive stops. At 6'2, 275 he might be a little on the big side for a Pete Carroll style LEO DE, but if they figure he could play at that spot he'd be at the top of my list in the free agency derby. He'll possibly be a RFA, but if the rules from '10 don't carry over and he becomes a UFA, I'd make a move for him.

Tier Two: Worth a look at in free agency; probable starter.

Ray Edwards, Minnesota: Ray Edwards is 6'5, 270 pounds of meanness and tenacity. Because the lockout has taken away his ability to legally hurt people physically for the time being, he has taken up boxing to satisfy his 'dark passenger's' requirements that he inflict punishment on his foes. In all seriousness though, he's a hard playing defensive end that had 8 sacks last season plus a crazy flying spear-tackle against Detroit last season that, although illegal, looked really awesome. Some people argue that he's had the benefit of playing on one of the better lines in the league, but he'd be an interesting free agent target.

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants: Kiwanuka is a veteran pass rusher and a closer proxy to the LEO body type that Carroll likes. He's had a pretty productive career but sat on the IR most of last season with a back/neck injury so is a bit of a 'buyer beware' type of situation. That said, he had 4 sacks in 3 games before getting hurt last season so has the potential to be a productive player. 

Defensive Tackles: 

Tier One: Starting on day one:

Barry Cofield, New York Giants: Probably the best defensive tackle available in free agency outside of Brandon Mebane, Richard Seymour (signed by Raiders), and Haloti Ngata (signed by Ravens). He's 6'4, 303, and extremely durable, missing only 2 games in the last five seasons. He had 54 tackles, 4 sacks, and 9 QB hits in 2010 and could be a disruptive 3-tech for the Hawks. 

Mike Patterson, Philadelphia: Former USC defensive tackle that may or may not be a free agent. If he is, he's a valuable defender and has had a pretty solid career. He's still youngish and could make an impact on the Hawks D-Line. Knows Pete Carroll from back in the day so that could help in recruitment. 

Cullen Jenkins, Green Bay: the versatile lineman has a history with John Schneider that could lead him to Seattle. He's a bit injury prone but mostly effective when on the field. He would be able to play at multiple positions on the line and would probably compete at 3-tech. 

Tier Two: Could compete for snaps. Considering the depth on the line right now, would probably play a lot.

Alan Branch, Arizona: A nose tackle (one tech) prospect that could probably bump over to play the 5-tech in a jam. He's been a bit of a bust in Arizona so I'm not sure how hard they'll try to re-sign him. He was a former 2nd round pick that has had a hard time with his weight but had 35 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in 2010. He showed enough later in the season to earn some time so he could be worth a look. 

Linebackers:

Tier One: Immediate upgrades over what we currently have, starting on day one.

Both Tamba Hali and Chad Greenway have been franchise tagged, which leaves basically no tier one linebackers really out there. Seattle has a pretty good unit if it stays healthy, but depth will be more of an issue. 

Tier Two: Very solid depth, can compete for snaps and come in if injuries occur.

Paul Posluszny, Buffalo: A very solid, instinctual inside linebacker. He is currently a restricted free agent but if new rules are in place with the new CBA, he could become unrestricted. 

James Anderson, Carolina: A run stuffing strongside linebacker that had a bit of a breakout season last year. He is expected back with the Panthers but could be a target.

Stephen Tulloch, Tennessee: An ILB with a nose for the football. He is still young and was quite effective for the Titans in 2010 but they drafted two linebackers this year so his return is up in the air. Might be worth a look.

Rocky McIntosh, Washington: Better suited to a 4-3 defensive scheme, McIntosh made the most of his move to a 3-4 by racking up 110 tackles in 2010. He's on the outs with the Redskins now so he'll be looking to sign elsewhere. He has a prototypical badass name for a linebacker, so he's got that going for him.

Safeties:

Tier One: Able to come in and start opposite of Earl Thomas.

Eric Weddle, San Diego: Weddle is still young but is very well regarded around the league as a top-5 safety. He's as solid of a free agent that is out there at the moment. Personally, I doubt the Hawks make much of a splash at safety in free agency after watching Bob Sanders and OJ Atogwe sign elsewhere without lifting a finger. That said, they may just be biding their time for the right person. I could see a play for Weddle as a veteran bridge and mentor for our young secondary.

Danieal Manning, Chicago: Could be an unrestricted free agent depending on new rules. Would be at the top of the list I would think if the Hawks plan to sign a free-agent safety other than Lawyer Milloy. Excels in pass coverage and could be that guy to play the deep middle and allow Earl Thomas to move around a bit. He didn't surrender a touchdown on passes thrown his way in 2010. How would you like that kind of production for the Hawks, a team that gave up nearly the most touchdowns through the air in the NFL in 2010?

Quintin Mikell, Philidelphia: A strong run-stopping safety that is also good in coverage. As a pro-bowler, he'll probably command a big payday so not sure if the Hawks will be interested or not. He will most likely be leaving Philadelphia though.

Tier Two: Strong depth with a good chance to be a starter.

Michael Huff, Oakland: A solid coverage-safety that will most likely not re-sign with Oakland. He's still youngish at 28 and though many feel he'll go to the Cowboys, he could be a logical fit here in Seattle. He had 7 passes defensed, 3 picks, and 4 forced fumbles in 2010. He also tacked on 4 sacks and racked up 94 tackles. 

Dashon Goldson, San Francisco: With former 49er President Scot McLoughlin now in Seattle, you have to wonder about this connection. Goldson had a very productive 2009 season but then appeared to struggle at times in 2010 as he played through injuries. He still had a fairly good season statistically which led 49er fans to have a love-hate relationship with their free safety. Overall though, he's young, has good range at 6'2, 200, is a sure tackler that doesn't allow plays to get behind him (something I desperately want for the Hawks' secondary) and could come cheaper than you'd expect after a down year. 

Cornerbacks:

Tier One: Starter from day one.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland: The cream of the crop, but highly unlikely to join up with a rebuilding franchise like Seattle. I have to throw it out there that Paul Allen has deep pockets but there's no way Nnamdi is a Seahawk in 2011.

Johnathan Joseph, Cincinnati: If he becomes a URFA, he'd be a very good target for the Hawks. He's an elite corner, is only 27, and could provide a big boost to our struggling pass defense. 

Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets: He'll be expensive, but he's a solid coverage cornerback that lived up to his self-hyping when he shut down the Patriots wide receivers in their playoff game last year. He's long, 6'2, 200, still young (27), and would be a day-one starter. 

Tier Two: Potential to start, solid depth:

Richard Marshall, Carolina: A solid starting caliber cornerback that has enough size to be a potential target for Pete Carroll and co at 5'11, 190. 

Comment below for the guys you think could be on their radar that I left off. 

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