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NFL Free Agency 2012 Primer: Exploring Defensive Options

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I put together a brief list of offensive and defensive free agents that I am interested in the other day as a precursor to today's action. I want to elaborate a bit on why I think the guys I mentioned might fit with the Seahawks. The basic consensus among, well, everyone is that the Seahawks will likely look to bolster their front seven with the No. 12 pick and have been planning on doing that for some time - whether it's a defensive end, a linebacker, or a defensive tackle - but regardless, with David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill set to hit the open market today, one guy might not be enough. The team may turn to the unpredictable waters of free agency to fill some needs, especially so if they don't go that LB/DE/DT route in April.

We've talked a lot about how this front office may eventually eschew free agency for the most part to do things "in-house" as John Schneider has alluded to, and as Davis broke down earlier this offseason when he described the Packers' method of roster building. I don't think they're ready for that at this point, and as some have suggested, they may never get to the Packers' level in completely avoiding free agency so there's a decent chance the Seahawks make a big splash in the upcoming weeks. The Hawks have been rumored to be interested in Peyton Manning and Mario Williams over the last few days so at the very least, it insinuates that they're willing to spend some of their cap money on talented players that would make a big impact on the team. We're not talking just 5th and 6th linebackers and special teams churn.

With that in mind, here are some players I've identified that might fit. They're all, for the most part, young. That's the main thing I've looked at because frankly I don't like the whole 'stop-gap veteran' approach this early in the process. After the draft, after training camp, when injuries pile up in preseason or whatever, that's the time to bring in guys to play specific roles, but for now, I'd rather have the Seahawks' coaching staff and front office expend their energy on developing and identifying guys that will be with the team for four or five years to come.

Defensive Ends:

Mario Williams, DE, Texans. Age: 27
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Jaguars. Age: 28
Antwan Applewhite, DE, Panthers. Age: 26
Derrick Harvey, DE, Broncos. Age: 25
Jamaal Anderson, DE, Colts. Age: 26

First off, there's no way in hell I'm going to try to follow Thomas' post on a certain Texans' free agent defensive end from yesterday on why said free agent just might fit with the Seahawks. If you missed it, go read it right now. Ok, now I can move on.

Jeremy Mincey, honestly, isn't my first choice (obviously, with Williams still out there), but he's youngish and relatively effective. He's a former sixth round pick by the Patriots in 2006 that, after being cut that year, made the rounds on a couple of teams. He broke into the Jaguars starting lineup in 2010 and had five sacks then in 2011 had a breakout year, starting 16 games, notching career highs in tackles with 57, 8 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 7 tackles for loss, and 45 QB pressures. He's more known for his motor and effort than repertoire of pass rush tools, and isn't the best against the run. He's a bit of a one-year wonder and is 28. The Jags are going to try pretty hard to re-sign him so I just wouldn't like to see the Seahawks get into a bidding war on him. I'm not saying that he wouldn't be an interesting pickup, I just wouldn't break the bank.

On the other end of the money spectrum is 26-year old Carolina Panthers linebacker/defensive end Antwan Applewhite. I like Applewhite enough to consider him for the Seahawks but am not exactly ready to vouch for him as a starter. Applewhite is an undersized defensive end at 6'3, 258 and went undrafted out of San Diego State in 2007. He signed with the Chargers, was on their practice squad for a stretch, signed briefly with the 49ers early last season before being dropped and landing in Carolina.

There, according to SB Nation's Panthers' blog Cat Scratch Reader, "Applewhite's stats on paper aren't all that impressive, but considering the limited amount of time to learn the system, and that he was splitting time with Thomas Keiser and playing behind Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson, he was a very effective player when he was on the field."

That author "can remember multiple occassions where he was in the backfield getting pressure off the edge, even in 4 man rush situations. In addition, we saw him line up at different positions the whole season. He saw time at both defensive end positions, 3-4 outside linebacker in our 3-4 packages, and even 4-3 outside linebacker. He was a solid change-of-pace player who made some big plays, including a big-time safety in the first half against Atlanta to jumpstart the team."

I should note though, it also says he'll likely never be a starting 4-3 defensive end, though the writer may just mean it's because he's stuck on the depth chart behind Carolina's talented defensive ends. Either way, he played fairly well for the Panthers and looks to have a good career trajectory. Also, the Seahawks seem to love stockpiling DE/OLB hybrid types and Applewhite's versatility fits the bill. He's also young.

So, if you can't get Mario and Mincey requires a bit more cheddar than the Seahawks are hoping for, I could see the Seahawks doing the Seahawks thing and bringing on a reclamation project or two. Derrick Harvey and Jammal Anderson are potential reclamation projects. God, I love reclamation projects.

Some of you may remember last year mine and Thomas' lobbying for the Seahawks to 'reclaim' Vernon Gholston, who then had been recently cut from the Jets after they finally gave up on the 2008 6th overall pick. Well, Gholston washed out of the league so it turned out fine that the Seahawks ignored our pleas, but Harvey and Anderson are vaguely similar projects.

Derrick Harvey was taken two picks after Vernon Gholston by the Jaguars in 2008, and following a protracted holdout and subsequent ineffective play, ultimately busted. He lasted three seasons with the Jags, starting 16 games in 2009 but dropping to only 7 in 2010 before being waived early last season. He landed in Denver but only started four games, and in 52 total career games has amassed 8.0 sacks. Not a great endorsement, I know.

But, one thing that Harvey has is physical potential. He's 6'5, 268 pounds, and at 25 years young, I can only assume he still has some semblance of the 1.59 10 yard 40-split explosiveness that had scouts salivating in 2008 after Harvey grabbed the Defensive MVP of the BSC Championship Game. In the right situation and with the right responsibilities, who knows, the Seahawks might be able to use him as a rotational pass rusher. I'm not banking on it, but you could do worse to give a guy like Harvey a look. If he's hungry to salvage his career, willing to play in a rotation, his athleticism could make him an interesting option.

Jamaal Anderson was the 8th overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons the year before Derrick Harvey, in 2007. He started every game he appeared in for the Falcons from 2007 to 2009, only missing four in that time period. However, he was only able to amass 4.5 sacks in his four years with Atlanta and was waived as a bust. He landed in Indianapolis last year and in spot-duty had 3.0 sacks. At 6'6, 272 (coming out he was 289, he's now listed at 272), he's a possible replacement for that "Jimmy Wilkerson" role of a defensive end that can line up opposite Chris Clemons (or platoon with him) and can play the run well. Can play inside when needed, and can spell at several spots along the line. Think Anthony Hargrove. He has a lot of length and his physical freakiness made him a top ten pick - 1.59 10-yard split, 6.88 3-cone drill, 32" vert, 4.74 40 and 9'8" broad jump at 6'6 289? So again, in the right role, could excel as a backup or rotational player. Like Harvey, I'm not suggesting the Seahawks sign him to start because obviously physical prowess can only get you so far, but it would be an interesting look based on some of the success he had with Indy last year.

I shall continue with this list soon, hopefully... stand by.