Who's Out There? – Defensive Linemen

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The defensive line has long been one of the Ravens' greatest strengths and a major reason why Baltimore has season-after-season been able to shut down opponents' run game.

While the two inside anchors of that defense – Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg – will return, the makeup of the rest of the Ravens' front line is in question. Defensive end Dwan Edwards and backup defensive tackle Justin Bannan are unrestricted free agents and there is speculation that the Ravens could part ways with veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce to save money.

Edwards wedged himself into the starting lineup in Week 6 and did an admirable job. Bannan has been a valuable spot starter and stalwart backup run-stopper. Pryce, 34, led the Ravens in sacks this past season with 6.5, but may no longer be a three-down force.

Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said he would like to have all three linemen back. But the Ravens would benefit from an outside pass rusher that could bring more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Ravens logged 32 sacks this season, placing them 18th in the NFL.

So without further adieu, let's see who's out there and their chances of landing with the Ravens. **

NOTE: Under the rules of this year's collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens allowed to sign just one unrestricted free agent to a salary of $5.5 (estimated) million or higher. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in a one-year contract with the following years limited to a 30 percent increase. Besides that, the Ravens *are not allowed to sign an unrestricted free agent unless one of theirs signs with another team. And the first year salary of the unrestricted free agent signed cannot exceed the first year salary of the player lost. *.

Defensive Ends

Julius Peppers, Carolina PanthersUnrestricted; 6-7, 283; 8 years
2009 Stats: 42 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
Peppers is one of the elite defensive ends in the NFL. To begin with, he is an absolute physical specimen. The former University of North Carolina basketball standout has the speed to explode around linemen and the strength to bull past them. If there's one knock on Peppers it's that he can be a little inconsistent. But when Peppers is on, watch out.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Elite talent; Downside – Cost)

Richard Seymour, Oakland RaidersUnrestricted; 6-6, 310; 9 years
2009 Stats: 47 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Seymour saw his stats drop off somewhat after leaving the comforts of Foxboro, Mass. Still, he is a proven three-down defensive force with all the size and power a team could want. Seymour has been a fixture on run-stopping defenses for his entire career and he's able to get to the quarterback as well.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Elite talent; Downside – Cost)

Aaron Kampman, Green Bay PackersUnrestricted; 6-4, 260; 8 years
2009 Stats: 42 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Kampman possesses a lot of qualities the Ravens covet. He's got a non-stop motor, he's versatile enough to line up in a 3-4 or 4-3 and he's smart, tough and aggressive. Kampman played in just nine games this season before tearing his left ACL, but should be back in time for next season. He reportedly would like to go to a 4-3 so he can be a true defensive end and could test the market if the Packers don't franchise him.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Production, Versatility; Downside – Cost, Injury concern)

Derrick Burgess, New England PatriotsUnrestricted; 6-2, 260; 9 years
2009 Stats: 34 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Burgess had a mediocre audition with the Patriots, who offered him a one-year deal last offseason. His best years were in 2005 and 2006 when he recorded 16 and 11 sacks, respectively. Those numbers have trailed off and Burgess, 31, has battled some injuries. He's still a top-end edge pass rusher with great burst and is also adept at chasing runners down. His size limits his effectiveness at plugging the run. Burgess said he would like to return to the Pats. Whether they reciprocate those feelings is unknown.
Does it make sense? Yes
(Upside – Pass rushing; Downside – Run stopping, Injury concerns)

Reggie Heyward, Jacksonville JaguarsUnrestricted; 6-5, 285; 9 years
2009 Stats: 2 tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles
Heyward broke his left shin in Jacksonville's first game of the season and missed the remainder of the year. He tore his Achilles' heel several seasons back and hasn't ever been the same since. From 2003 to 2005, he had 27.5 sacks and was one of the league's top defensive ends. Heyward could be a dark horse, however. If he can stay healthy, Heyward can be a pass-rushing force that is big enough to help against the run sufficiently.
Does it make sense? Yes
(Upside – Pass rushing; Downside – Injury concerns)

Tyler Brayton, Carolina PanthersUnrestricted; 6-6, 280; 7 years
2009 Stats: 45 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
The former Oakland first-round draft pick has recorded back-to-back standout seasons for Carolina. He has a good motor and has good quickness against the run, a trait the Ravens always value. He isn't a fantastic athlete and doesn't have much burst up the field, but he has been able to log sacks with his relentlessness.
Does it make sense? Yes
(Upside – Motor; Downside – Athleticism)

Javon Kearse, Tennessee TitansUnrestricted; 6-4, 265; 11 years
2009 Stats: 6 tackles, 1 sack, 0 forced fumbles
The man affectionately known as The Freak has had a freakish string of injuries in the latter part of his career. He certainly isn't the dominant pass-rushing force he once was in his first few years with the Titans. Kearse played 16 games in 2008 and recorded just 3.5 sacks. He's still quick off the edge but may be limited to pretty much that. But Kearse could come cheap and if he has something left, he could be a bargain.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Experience; Downside – Injury concerns; Age)

Defensive Tackles

Vince Wilfork, New England PatriotsUnrestricted; 6-2, 344; 6 years
2009 Stats: 43 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Can you image a front line with Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork? Now that's some serious poundage. As nice as that would be, there's no way the Ravens could afford having two of the NFL's premier nose tackles on their roster. You can toss unrestricted free agent Steeler Casey Hampton in this category as well. But watch out where Wilfork and Hampton land because it will make waves – literally.
Does it make sense? No
(Upside – Elite DT; Downside – Cost)

Tony Brown, Tennessee TitansRestricted; 6-3, 290; 6 years
2009 Stats: 38 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Brown has recently undergone surgery on his right knee, which caused him to miss the Titans' final regular season game. He was holding out on surgery in hopes of being selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. Brown, who went undrafted in 2004, has put together three straight solid seasons but likely hasn't proven enough to be franchised. Brown is a bit undersized against the run but he has explosiveness to get into the backfield and pressure the quarterback.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Potential; Downside – Cost, Injury concern)

Tank Johnson, Cincinnnati BengalsUnrestricted; 6-3, 300; 6 years
2009 Stats: 29 tackles, 2 sacks, 0 forced fumbles
Johnson stayed out of trouble in one year in Cincinnati and turned in one of his best seasons in quite some time. He's a little undersized and doesn't take on blockers very well, but his quickness is his greatest strength. At this point in his career, he is a quality backup who can bring energy and effort to the defensive line and occasionally can get to a quarterback. But the former second-rounder's previous run-ins with the law will likely give any team pause.
Does it make sense? Maybe
(Upside – Potential; Downside – Character issues)

Other Players to Watch

  • DE Jarvis Green, New England, Unrestricted
  • DE Ray Edwards, Minnesota Vikings, Restricted
  • DE Marques Douglas, New York Jets, Unrestricted
  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee Titans, Unrestricted
  • DT Cory Redding, Seattle Seahawks, Unrestricted
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