Each offseason, NFL teams seek help along the defensive line, with defensive ends in particular an annual valued commodity. As NFL offenses continue to evolve and take to the air more than ever, a player who can get into the backfield and disrupt the rhythm of an offense is increasingly important (helping to stop the run from the DE position doesn't hurt either). The 2013 NFL free agency period offers a plethora of defensive end possibilities, from up-and-coming stars to wily old veterans.
With teams always looking to add depth along the defensive line, here's a quick look at the biggest contracts handed out to defensive ends during the 2013 offseason and a glimpse at those players yet to sign who are likely on teams' radar.
[The 2013 franchise tag number for defensive ends, an average of the salaries given to the top five players at the position last season, is $11.175 million, behind only quarterbacks.]
1. Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore Ravens - five years, $26 million ($5.2 million per season, $7.5 million signing bonus, $8.5 million guaranteed)
2. Ricky Jean-Francois, Indianapolis Colts - four years, $22 million ($5.5 million per season, $5.5 million signing bonus, $6.5 million guaranteed)
3. Cliff Avril, Seattle Seahawks - two years, $13 million ($6.5 million per season, $4.5 million signing bonus, $6 million guaranteed)
4. Mike DeVito, Kansas City Chiefs - three years, $12.6 million ($4.2 million per season, $4.2 million signing bonus, $6.2 million guaranteed)
5. William Hayes, St. Louis Rams - three years, $10.5 million ($3.417 million per season, $3.75 signing bonus, $800k guaranteed)
Dwight Freeney: The longtime Colts defensive end is coming off a subpar season in which he recorded just five sacks, in part because of Indianapolis' switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense last season under Chuck Pagano, but Freeney definitely still has something left in the tank. New England, Denver (if they lose Dumervil) and Atlanta are all reportedly interested in Freeney's services.
John Abraham: The former Atlanta Falcon is coming off a season in which he had 35 tackles, 10 sacks, and six forced fumbles. Abraham has already met with the Patriots and Broncos this offseason, and the now Umenyiora-less Giants could be a logical fit for the veteran.
Israel Idonije: The longtime Chicago Bear defensive end, Idonije might be headed to the Dallas Cowboys, following former Chicago defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to Texas, where Marinelli now serves as the Cowboys' defensive line coach. Idonije has not missed a game over the past three season, recording 149 tackles and 20.5 sacks in that span. He had 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2012 for the Bears.
For the sake of comparison, below are the top five contracts handed out to defensive ends one year ago, during the 2012 free agency period. The Mario Williams deal obviously dwarfs any contracts handed out in the 2013 offseason.
2012's Biggest DE Contracts
3. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts - four years, $36 million ($9 million per season, $15 million signing bonus, $17 million guaranteed)
The signings in 2012 at the defensive end position were much bigger than they have been so far in 2013, which was to be expected since Mario Williams was a free agent. His $96 million contract was bigger in 2012 than all the top five defensive end contract signed so far in 2013.