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With the start of the new league year approaching, dolphins.com wraps up a series of free agency previews with the defensive line.
The Dolphins have used free agency and the draft to build up their defensive line in recent years, and the result is a group with a good mix of proven veterans and up-and-coming talent. Pro Bowl regulars Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh lead the way up front, but there’s plenty of depth as well with Jordan Phillips and impressive rookies Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor at tackle, and Andre Branch, William Hayes, Terrence Fede and 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris at end.
Hayes, who was impressive after coming over in a trade with the Rams last offseason before his season was cut short by a back injury, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, as is the versatile Fede.
THE TOP THREE FREE AGENTS AT THE POSITION
DE Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas – The expectation is that the Cowboys will do whatever it takes to make sure they keep Lawrence, a 2014 second-round pick who rebounded from a 2016 injury to finish last season with 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit – Ansah, most often known as “Ziggy,” rebounded from a mediocre 2016 season by finishing with 12 sacks last year. The fifth overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft had a career-high 14.5 sacks in 2015 before falling to two sacks in 13 games in 2016.
DT Sheldon Richardson, Seattle – A first-round pick by the Jets in 2013, Richardson is an immensely talented linemen, but he’s had his share of off-the-field issues. Those issues eventually led to his trade to the Seahawks last season. Richardson has started 70 games in five NFL seasons and had a career-high eight sacks in 2014.
BEST OF THE REST
o DT Dontari Poe, Atlanta – Poe made the Pro Bowl twice in five seasons with the Chiefs before moving on to the Falcons in 2017. He’s a run-stopping force who has played mostly in a 3-4 scheme.
o DE Alex Okafor, New Orleans – A fourth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, Okafor had 4.5 sacks in 10 games for the Saints last season before his season was cut short by an Achilles injury.
o DE Julius Peppers, Carolina – Despite being in his late 30s, Peppers continues to be a productive pass rusher. He had 11 sacks in 2017 in the 16th year of a career that could end with his induction into the Hall of Fame.
o DT Kyle Williams, Buffalo – Williams made the Pro Bowl five times in his 12 seasons with the Bills, most recently in 2016. He’s solid against both the run and as an interior pass rusher.
o DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina – The 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Lotulelei is very effective at doing the dirty work in the middle of the defensive line, though his production can’t be measured by stats.
o DE Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta – A first-round pick of the Bucs in 2011, Clayborn had a game for the ages against Dallas last year when he recorded six sacks. He finished the season with a career-high 9.5 sacks, topping the 7.5 he recorded as a rookie.