Julius Peppers is the biggest name about to hit the free agent market, but in reality, is he the best available prospect at his own position? The answer is yes. It remains to be seen whether the Eagles will try to upgrade the defensive end spot through free agency. Trent Cole is coming off of a terrific season and is in the prime of his career. The Eagles have been able to get by with a rotation at the left defensive end spot. One of these elite players could end that. Then again, are there other areas the Eagles might want to upgrade instead?
|1. Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers (UFA)
|This is one of the rare times when an elite talent hits the open market. Peppers is one of the biggest defensive ends in the league, but still is the most athletic. He runs like a linebacker, has great agility and explosive quickness. He averages 10 sacks and four forced fumbles per season for his career. He added a pair of interceptions last year. Peppers will get a monster deal from one of many suitors. Maybe the Eagles?
|2. Ray Edwards, Minnesota Vikings (RFA)
|Edwards is a young player that would be highly sought after in a normal year. The Vikings will put a high tender on him and that will limit his availability. Edwards had a good year and great showing in the playoffs. He's a left defensive end with size and athletic ability. He's also a player on the rise. The sky would be the limit if he were a true free agent.
|3. Aaron Kampman, Green Bay Packers (UFA)
|Stud defensive end suffered a torn ACL in late November and that is the critical factor in assessing his situation. When healthy, Kampman is a productive left defensive end with a great motor and good size. Someone will take a chance on him. Kampman is the kind of grinder that will do everything in his power to be ready by opening day.
|4. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee Titans (UFA)
|Enigmatic player. From 2005 to 2007, he tallied 31 sacks. Since then he's only got 7.5. Injuries limited him in 2008. This year he seemed to miss the presence of Albert Haynesworth. The real question is just how good Vanden Bosch is and how much of a product of playing with Haynesworth he is. Vanden Bosch has good size and a great motor, but I don't know that he's got the kind of speed and explosion to be a pass rushing force all by himself. Some team might not get the production they want, but effort will never be a question. Can play either right or left end.
|5. Jason Taylor, Miami Dolphins (UFA)
|Taylor played linebacker in the 3-4 last year, but played end in the 4-3 in the previous season. Teams that run both schemes will be interested in him. Taylor is a productive, durable veteran. Amazingly, he's missed just seven games in his 13 seasons. He struggled somewhat in 2008 when he signed with Washington, but bounced back to form last season. He had seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He is no longer a dominant player, but is a high-character veteran that can get to the QB.
|6. Derrick Burgess, New England Patriots (UFA)
|Burgess only had five sacks last year for the Patriots, but his playing time was inconsistent. They traded for him in the preseason and it took a while before he and the coaching staff to get on the same page. Burgess got hot toward the end of the season. He had a three-game stretch where he totaled 17 solo tackles and three sacks. Put on the tape and you still see a player with quickness and agility. He isn't a long term answer for anyone, but is still an effective starter.
|7. Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams (UFA)
|Not all 32 teams will like Little because of his troubled past, but he will have suitors because he can still get to the quarterback. He played on a wretchedly bad Rams team the last two years, but still managed to rack up 12.5 sacks, an interception and a pair of forced fumbles. Little will turn 36 at midseason, but he is still very quick off the edge. He can play right or left end.
|8. Adewale Ogunleye, Chicago Bears (UFA)
|The top shelf players are gone. Ogunleye will turn 33 this summer and he's no longer a force off the left side. He is still good for five or six sacks a year, but isn't a consistent threat to get to the quarterback. Ogunleye could be a good band-aid for some team trying to develop a young player.
|9. Dwan Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (UFA)
|I'm adding a couple of 3-4 ends to the list. Edwards only has two sacks in the last two years, but playing left end for the Ravens doesn't always require him to be a pass rusher. Edwards' job is to be stout against the run and to push the pocket. He does a good job in both areas. He has 22 starts in the last couple of seasons. He is big at 6-3 and 315 pounds. Only 3-4 teams will be interested in him as a defensive end.
|10. Stephen Bowen, Dallas Cowboys (RFA)
|Bowen, another 3-4 end, is a player on the rise. He only has a couple of career starts, both from 2009. He had three sacks and was among the leaders in quarterback pressures for the Cowboys. He is just getting ready to turn 26. He has terrific size at 6-5 and 306 pounds. It will be interesting to see what kind of tender the Cowboys give him. This is a player they should try to keep.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 6:11 p.m., March 2*