Ranking The Free Agent Defensive Tackles

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The Vikings appear to be at somewhat of a crossroads when it comes to the defensive tackle position.  On the surface, they appear set to simply continue with the guys they have, but it could also be much more complicated than that.

Kevin Williams is set to make $7 million for each of his two remaining seasons under his current contract, but that salary no longer aligns with his declining production and he is likely going to be approached about taking a pay cut, which can sometimes end up in a player’s outright departure.

Prior to the 2012 season, Letroy Guion received a three year contract worth $9 million which suggested the Vikings had faith in his ability to be an effective starter next to Williams, but he did little to instill full confidence during the first year of his new contract.  Fred Evans did a nice job in spelling either starter and should be retained through the last year of his contract.

Still, from tackle to safety, it is common for observers to assume the Vikings would like to strengthen the middle of their defense.  Defensive tackle is a position that cannot afford to take a step backwards and the Vikings front office should be very interested in any opportunity to improve.  Free agency might offer some help:

Top Tier

Chicago’s Henry Melton is only 26 years old and played like an absolute monster in the final year of his rookie contract.  He was by far the Bears best defensive lineman in 2012 and they will not part with him easily.  This guy kind of reminds me of a young Kevin Williams with his ability to be disruptive in the passing game, but he isn’t going to be anyone’s savior against the run.  There are some worries out there that Melton’s stardom coming about during a contract year wasn’t a coincidence, but there are going to be teams willing to assume that he is every bit as good as he showed last season.

Second Tier

2.  Desmond Bryant, OAK:  Bryant was in the “Top Tier” of this list when I started putting it together.  However, while I was writing this post news broke that Bryant was arrested for criminal mischief.  Little information is available regarding the arrest at this point so I kept him ranked #2, but knocked him into the second tier.  Bryant has low mileage and showed plenty of ability in 2012 when Richard Seymour missed the second half of the season with an injury.

3.  Jason Jones, SEA:  I really wanted the Vikings to make a run at Jones last year because I felt like he was an above average option that plays a very well rounded game.  He proved me right with Seattle, but unfortunately he is now a year older (27) and coming off of a knee injury.  Still, if the medical checks out, the guy is a solid plug-and-play type of guy.

4.  Richard Seymour, OAK:  There are plenty of aging defensive tackles due to become free agents this offseason, and the Vikings would prefer a younger option, but of all the older guys out there Seymour has probably been the most dominant.  A hamstring injury cost him the second half of the season in 2012, but if the Vikings are okay with a temporary solution, he certainly stands a chance to make a huge impact for a year or two.

5.  Randy Starks, MIA:  I would have no complaints about the Vikings signing a guy like Starks that is a proven tackle that has proven capable of getting to the quarterback.  He is a little older than would be preferable (29) but continues to show up on a weekly basis in Miami.

6.  Sammie Lee Hill, DET:  How easy would it be for a talented guy to go virtually unnoticed stuck behind an incredibly talented depth chart in Detroit?  This guy has shown flashes of being quite good himself and would provide a perfect level of competition for Guion.

7.  Mike DeVito, NYJ:  While being a pretty consistent and durable option in New York, I am not sure that DeVito would be the best fit in Minnesota’s defense, especially since he is almost 30.  Still, a football player is a football player, and DeVito has proven to be a pretty darn good one.

8.  Chris Canty, NYG:  Canty is 31, coming off of an injury, and seemed to regress in 2012.  Still, if he can play at the level we normally see out of him, then he could end up being a bargain for a team needing some help in the pass rush department.

9.  Roy Miller, TB:  At only 26 years old, Miller could be a perfect addition to a team like the Vikings, but they shouldn’t expect many fireworks out of him.  He doesn’t seem super disruptive, but he plays the run very well.

10.  Alan Branch, SEA:  Like teammate Jason Jones, I think Branch has been a very underrated tackle over the years.  He is a bit older (28) than Jones, but he has shown no signs of slowing down.  I like his motor in rushing the passer, as well as his solid play against the run.  Branch would be a perfect fit in Minnesota, in my opinion, if the price were right.

Third Tier

11.  Glenn Dorsey, KC

12.  Sedrick Ellis, NO

13.  Terrance Knighton, JAC

14.  Ricky Jean-Francois, SF

15.  Sen’Derrick Marks, TEN

16.  Derrek Landri, PHI

17.  Aubrayo Franklin, SD

18.  Vance Walker, ATL

19.  Jsutin Bannan, DEN

20.  Kenyon Coleman, DAL

21.  Kevin Vickerson, DEN

22.  Spencer Johnson, BUF

23.  Shaun Rogers, NYG

24.  Corey Williams, DET

25.  Shaun Smith, KC

26.  Ty Warren, DEN

27.  Dwan Edwards, CAR

28.  Ma’Ake Kemoeatu, BAL

29.  Rocky Bernard, NYG

30.  Fili Moala, IND

31.  Amobi Okoye, CHI

32.  Kedric Golston, WAS

33.  Pat Sims, CIN

34.  Shaun Cody, HOU

The Rest

35.  Vonnie Holliday, ARI

36.  Ropati Pitoitua, KC

37.  Tony McDaniel, MIA

38.  Casey Hampton, PIT

39.  Nick Eason, ARI

40.  Antonio Johnson, IND

41.  Isaac Sapoaga, SF

42.  Vaughn Martin, SD

43.  Ryan McBean, BAL

44.  Leger Douzable, TEN

45.  Trevor Laws, STL

46.  Myron Pryor, NE

47.  Andre Fluellen, DET