Defensive Tackle: A Plan B in Free Agency?

[editor's note, by Brian Galliford] Continuing our defensive tackle discussions, author jri111 takes a (very) in-depth look at some remaining tackle options that, come next week, could entice our Buffalo Bills. Take it away, John... End Note

With the surprise announcement coming out of Green Bay that the Packers placed the franchise tag on talented defensive tackle Corey Williams, I thought it would be prudent to look at other free agent options at the position.  Like many Bills fans, I had my sights set on Williams as the missing link to their defensive tackle rotation.  However, with Williams essentially off the market (unless the Bills are willing to work out a trade with Green Bay for him - unlikely), the Bills may not like many of the remaining choices.  Below is a list of all the defensive tackles that were set to become unrestricted free agents on February 29, 2008.  Some have already signed extensions with their current teams, some have decided to retired, while other have been hit with the franchise tag.  Listed below are each defensive tackle and his current situation:

Players who have resigned:
Damione Lewis - signed contract extension w/ Carolina
Travis Kirschke - signed contract extension w/ Pittsburgh
Craig Terrill - signed contract extension w/ Seattle

Players who have been tagged:
Corey Williams - Franchised
Albert Haynesworth - Franchised

Retired Players:
Bryant Young - will retire

What's Left (so far):

Tommy Kelly - Kelly is a 27 year old tackle for the Oakland Raiders.  He has good size (6'6", 300 pounds) and can play either end or tackle.  His '07 season was cut short when he tore his ACL, however he was having a good year prior to the injury.  In '06 he had 68 tackles and 4 sacks in the Raiders' starting lineup.  What I like about him most is his ability to be a cog against the run either in the middle or on the edge.  His versatility adds value, but his injury makes it a wash.  He would be a good addition if he doesn't re-up with Oakland before free agency begins.  An incentive layered contract would be the way to go.

Randy Starks - Starks is a 6'3", 312-pound DT for the Tennessee Titans.  He has played 4 seasons in the NFL and is only 24 years old!  In '05 Starks had 48 tackles and 3 sacks and followed that up in '06 with 40 tackles and 3 sacks.  He was pushed to the bench this season when former undrafted free agent Tony Brown signed a 3 year, $5 million contract extension with the Titans.  He only had 16 tackles in '07.  The upside is his age and potential.  The downside is effort and stamina; both, I think, could be corrected playing in a rotation under Jauron in Buffalo.  At the right price I would take him.  I just worry that he will get more then he's worth since he's one of the top DT's on the depleted market now.  Scout's Inc. gave him a rating of 69 (that's one point below good starter).  

Brian Young -  He had arguably his best season in '06 when he recorded 46 tackles and had 6 sacks.  Last season he started out decent (17 tackles, 3 sacks in the first 8 games), but then missed nearly all the rest of the season because he had to have arthroscopic knee surgery and then came down with a rare case of pneumonia.  He is known as an inside pass rusher that is also solid against the run, however at 298 he may not be the best fit for the 1-technique the Bills are looking to fill.  When the season starts he will also be 31.

Isaac Sopoaga - Sopoaga may be an intriguing prospect, however at 6'2", 325 pounds, he is more suited for a nose tackle role in a 3-4 scheme than a 1-technique in the Cover-2.  He is 26 and has been the back-up nose tackle for the San Francisco 49ers for three seasons.   Although a back-up, he has gotten playing time and averaged about 20 tackles and 2 sacks a season.  Scout's Inc. gave him a grade of 58 (which means good back-up).

Ian Scott - Scott is a 26 year old former 4th round pick of the Chicago Bears.  He is 6'0", 302 pounds.  He signed a 1 year, $ 1 million contract with the Eagles last off-season and proceeded to spend the entirety of the 2007 season on IR after he suffered a knee injury in training camp.  His best, and really only productive season, came in '04 when he recorded 44 tackles and had 2 sacks starting on the Bears D-line.    Those are the only two sacks for his career, however.  Scott may be a decent backup, but coming off a major injury with not much prior production makes me believe he's not a viable option for the Bills.

Ethan Kelley -  Kelley is a 6'2", 332 pound 28 year old space eater.  He literally replaced Ted Washington in Cleveland this past year.  Prototypical nose guard for the 3-4.  He would not fit in Buffalo's Cover-2 scheme.

Kindal Moorehead - Moorehead is a 29 year old tackle who was a 5th round pick for the Carolina Panthers in '03.  At 285 pounds he wouldn't be a good fit for the 1 technique.  He is more of a situational pass rusher, however hasn't had much success at that in recent seasons ('07 - 2 sacks, '06 - 1 sack, '05 - 5 sacks...).  

William Joseph - Here's an intriguing option.  Joseph is a former first round DT for the New York Giants, however has been described as a bust by many around the league.  He is 6'5", 308 pounds.  Earlier this month the Giants voided the last two years of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent.  The biggest knock against the 28 year old is his lack of instincts.  This may not be a good sign since instincts are something you can't really teach, but he was a guy that was hugely successful in college and may be someone the Bills are willing to take a flier on.  In no way am I advocating him to be the "answer" at the DT position, but if all else fails, he may provide a solid "low cost-low risk" addition.

Spencer Johnson - Johnson is a 26 year old former undrafted free agent from Auburn.  He is undersized at 286 pounds and spent his 4 seasons with Minnesota as the number 3/nickel DT.  He actually seems like a good player and I would consider him for a back-up role, but I think the Bills have enough role players at the position already and really need to try to add some size.  He doesn't fit the 1-technique/run stuffer that Buffalo is looking for.  Johnson is a career back-up.

Ted Washington - almost 400 pounds, almost 40 - that would be funny if it wasn't true! (375 pounds - listed, 39 years old)

Tim Anderson - HA!

Ryan Sims - The former #6 overall pick in the '02 draft has been a huge bust.  He was traded from Kansas City to Tampa this season for an undisclosed pick and played in the final 9 games for the Bucs.  He recorded 15 tackles and 1 sack in that time.  The 27 year old, 6'4", 315 pound tackle defines the word potential; it's too bad he never lived up to it.  Ron Edwards, the former Bill, replaced him in KC.

Ryan Boschetti - Restricted free agent with the Redskins who was inactive for most of the season.  Wasn't offered a tender by the Skins and is strictly a reserve tackle.  In 4 seasons in the NFL he has 14 tackles, total!  He's 26 years old, 6'4", 305 pounds.

Dan Klecko - 27 year old backup.  Undersized:  5'11", 275 pounds.  Spend his first three seasons in NE and the last two in Indy.  His best season was his first in the NFL when he had 18 tackles and 2 sacks in a reserve role.  Since then he has been cut and resigned numerous times.

Nick Eason - 6'3", 305 pounds.  27 years old.  Played his first three years in Cleveland and the last in Pittsburgh.  He has never had more than 24 tackles in a season. Two career sacks.

Overall assessment:  
There are still some options out there, but no one that is going to be "the answer."  For the right price (and in the right situation) I would look at Tommy Kelly, Randy Starks, or Brian Young.  Kelly would provide good versatility, while Starks definitely has the most upside of the group.  Young would be an ideal vet, but not really the best fit for what the Bills need.  William Joseph would be a good candidate to take a flier on if all else fails.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of