Free-agent preview: Defensive line

Free-agent preview: Defensive line
March 6, 2014, 1:15 pm
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Long-time Vikings' defensive end Jared Allen is a free-agent. He has only missed 3 games in his 11 year career. In 2013, he recorded 11.5 sacks - his 7th straight season with double-digit sack totals.


This week, we’ll have an overview of the free agent class at some positions of need for the Patriots. Today: defensive line.
 
HEAD OF THE CLASS
Lamarr Houston, 27, Raiders, DE, 69 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Houston is a productive run-stuffer that also gets to the quarterback. The Texas product was a second-round pick and he’s on a steady upward climb. A certain upgrade over the players the Patriots turned to after Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down. Gonna be pricey though.
 
Michael Johnson, 27, Bengals, DE. 56 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT
Interesting player because his performance really dipped statistically in this contract year after an 11.5 sack 2012. Young, powerful but possibly ticketed for Minnesota where former Cincy defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is now in charge.
 
BJ Raji, 27, Packers, DT, 17 tackles, 0 sacks
The former first-rounder out of BC is nearing an extension that will keep him in Green Bay. He’s a house but his play has declined in recent seasons for reasons unestablished.
 
Henry Melton, 27, Bears, DT, Injured in 2013
Melton blew out his ACL in September and got in a bar brawl in Grapevine, Texas in December for which he was arrested. Tough couple of months. Still, he’s an excellent interior defensive lineman who might have been the best DL on the market if it weren’t for the ACL.
 
SENSIBLE PLAY
There are a number of smart plays to make here that could take the Patriots reliance off of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, both of whom are up there in age and could be cap casualties. And, since the stopgap talent the Patriots have behind Wilfork and Kelly is so inexpensive, the team should feel compelled to spend now on locking players up for the short-to-mid-term.
 
Arthur Jones, 28, Ravens, 53 tackles, 4 sacks
At 6-3, 315, he’d be a great interior addition for the Patriots and -- as brother of Chandler Jones -- the appeal of playing in a brotherly tandem may be incentive for Chandler to stick around in a couple of years when he hits free agency.

Red Bryant, 30, Seahawks, 30 tackles, 1.5 sacks. blew out his ACL
A big-time space-eater who was a cap casualty with the Seahawks, Bryant was courted by the Patriots two years ago and nearly signed before deciding to stay out West.
 
TAKE A FLIER
Jared Allen, 32, Vikings, 52 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
Hasn’t had a single-digit sack season since 2006. You want to get a veteran situational pass rusher who produces (like Andre Carter?), it’s Allen. Would be a tremendous addition.
 
Justin Tuck, 31, Giants, 63 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 INT
Not as consistently outstanding as Allen, but still a situational fit, it would appear.