Quality Defenders Restricted No More

DT Barry Cofield (Scott Boehm/Getty)

With unrestricted free agency likely reverting back to four years from six, a lot of players robbed of an opportunity to cash in last offseason want to get a big contract -- these four defenders among them.


Not a lot of football fans know who Stephen Tulloch is, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a tremendous tackler. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

DT Barry Cofield

Originally a fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2006, Cofield put together 54 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and four passes defensed in 2011 for New York.

Cofield is an incredibly durable defensive tackle, having suited up for 79 of 80 possible games during his five-season tenure in the Big Apple. And he only seems to be getting better at now 29 years of age, as his tackle and sack numbers from this past season were both career highs. While the league is currently in love with the 3-4 scheme and on the prowl for two-gap nose tackles capable of lining up directly over center, Cofield is a classic one-gap penetrator engineered for a more traditional 4-3.

A 6-4, 306-pounder from Northwestern, Cofield might be a good fit for the Bears at the three-technique position, as former Pro Bowler Tommie Harris has been handed his walking papers and second-round choice Stephen Paea is unproven.

DE Ray Edwards

Originally a fourth-round pick of the Vikings in 2006, Edwards was credited with 37 tackles, eight sacks and two passes defensed in 2011 for Minnesota.

It's easy for Edwards to get lost in the shuffle, as he has lined up on the same defensive line as tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams and end Jared Allen the last three seasons. That triumvirate has been selected to a combined 12 Pro Bowls, although Pat Williams won't be back. Edwards' stats suggest that he is improving from year to year, now boasting 29.5 sacks in 72 career games, plus he's proven to be one of the toughest players in football based on what did during the offseason in the boxing ring.

A 6-5, 268-pounder from Purdue, Edwards could be a quality addition for the Jaguars, who have had a miserable time getting after the quarterback but failed to select a pass rusher in April's draft.

LB Stephen Tulloch

Originally a fourth-round pick of the Titans in 2006, Tulloch registered 159 tackles, one sack, one interception and six passes defensed in 2011 for Tennessee.

Even though Tulloch is far from a household name playing in one of the NFL's smallest markets, only New England's Jerod Mayo had more tackles last year. Little more than a backup and special teamer his first two seasons, he got the starting job in 2008 and showed everyone quickly that he is one of the more reliable tacklers in the game. Like a lot of undersized linebackers, he is not great at shedding blocks and does not cover particularly well, but he packs a pop defending the run.

A 5-11, 240-pounder from North Carolina State, Tulloch would immediately patch a hole in the middle for the Buccaneers, as veteran Barrett Ruud isn't expected to return and Tyrone McKenzie doesn't excite anybody.

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S Dawan Landry

Originally a fifth-round pick of the Ravens in 2006, Landry had 111 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one interception -- he returned it 23 yards for a touchdown, too -- and four passes defensed in 2011 for Baltimore.

Overlooked in the draft, Landry was one of only seven players to garner votes for Defensive Rookie of the Year back in '06. After suffering a scary spinal concussion early on in the 2008 season, which caused him to miss the remaining 14 games, he returned to form in '09 and 2010 may have been his finest effort to date. Aside from San Diego's Eric Weddle, Landry is considered by many to be the best free-agent safety available on the market.

A 6-foot, 210-pounder from Georgia Tech, Landry makes a lot of sense for the Rams in the post-O.J. Atogwe era, especially with a pair of former undrafted-free-agent pickups, James Butler and Craig Dahl, currently atop the depth chart.


John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.

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