1. 2. Manny Lawson OLB SF 6'5" (the guy i want the most in FA although he is a RFA)
a former first-round pick in 2006, has been a bit of a disappointment in San Francisco.
The 26-year-old has largely failed to live up to the lofty expectations of his first-round status. Lawson has only compiled 14.5 sacks to this point in his career. He managed 6.5 sacks in 2009, which most interpreted to be a sign of a possible breakout.
Lawson followed that up with only 2.5 sacks in 2010, but maybe a change of scenery is what he needs. Tully Banta-Cain never managed more than 3.5 sacks in his time with the 49ers, yet he's produced five or more sacks three times while playing for the Patriots.
Lawson is a 6'5" beast who came out of college running 4.43 40-yard dash times, and New England would be an interesting reclamation destination.
The 26-year-old was a fourth-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings in 2006. Edwards has racked up an impressive 29.5 career sacks and has progressed nicely with no signs of slowing down.
Edwards totaled 13 sacks over the first three years of his career, but after earning extensive playing time in 2009 and 2010, he turned it up a notch. He notched 16.5 over the last two years and has earned himself a hard look from any team looking to get more pressure on the quarterback.
The 24-year-old was a third-round pick in 2007, and up until 2010 he was a largely unknown commodity on the Panthers' defensive line. Julius Peppers' departure created the opportunity for a new pass rushing threat to step up, and that's precisely what Johnson did.
Entering last season with two career sacks, Johnson broke personal records in 2010. The defensive end collected 11.5 sacks, which ranked fifth-best in the NFL.
Again, if New England decides to address the defensive line, it has a player available in Johnson who could fill the void while offering sky-high potential in the pass rushing department.
5. matt Roth OLB Browns 6'4" 275 (most likely to be brought in)
the Patriots are most effective on defense when they can set the edge with big outside backers who have the ability to rush the passer in a physical style. Roth has been a good addition for the Browns since he left Miami and has been able to accumulate 7.5 sacks in the last 22 games and over 100 tackles. Roth is not an ideal coverage outside backer, but his size, toughness and power would fit in perfectly with the Patriots. Since college, Roth has played almost exclusively for former Bill Belichick lieutenants: as a collegian, he was with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. In the pros, he’s also had stints with in Nick Saban (Miami) and Eric Mangini (Cleveland), which would likely mean an easy transition into the New England system. He would be a relatively inexpensive sign. And he certainly fits the body type the Patriots require when it comes to finding someone who could set the edge in the run game and provide a spark to the pass rush.
6. Jacob FordFord ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds, which ranked second among defensive ends. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds for 19 reps.
The 6'4", 250-pounder has collected 15.5 sacks in his three seasons; Ford missed the 2007 season with an Achilles injury.
If the Patriots determined a need on the defensive line, Ford could fill the void while providing a solid pass rush from the end position.
He made 16 starts in 2008 and collected a career-high eight sacks, but Kiwanuka has struggled since.
In 2009 he only made six starts and struggled to even get on the field in 2010 due to injury. Now 28 years old with a history of neck issues, many rightfully wonder what this guy has left to offer.
I'm in the boat that knows this guy has 23.5 sacks in 41 career starts and that he's a force to be reckoned with when he's on the field. I think he's a prime candidate for a breakout season in another city, and it'd be mighty interesting if he decided to make that reclamation attempt in Foxboro.