Offseason Wish List: Defensive End

Around this time last year, I compiled a free agent wish list that featured the most prominent players available who would look especially good in a Seahawks uniform. The list, exaggerated and optimistic, featured players like Julius Peppers, Albert Haynesworth, Nnamdi Asomugha, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Jordan Gross.

To my surprise, the Seahawks actually landed T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Unfortunately, Housh only finished the season with 79 catches for 911 yards and three touchdowns and the Seahawks ended the year with a 5-11 record.

With a handful of early selections in April’s draft and an overwhelming number of needs, the Seahawks should be busy again this offseason.

Instead of creating a wish list again that features specific players, this year will focus on needs. A quick glance at Seattle’s current roster shows there is plenty to write about; discussing even the most optimistic scenarios is the fun part.

With faith in John Schneider and the rest of the front office, it is time to move forward with this year’s edition of the wish list.

Offseason Wish List: Defensive End

What will it take to get pressure on the opposing quarterback? Last season, as a team, the Seahawks struggled to generate any sort of pass rush and finished with only 28 sacks.

Patrick Kerney, 33 years old and not getting any younger, led the team with five sacks. His return, however, is questionable, and the team must find a new talent who can apply consistent pressure off the edge.

The Seattle Seahawks have invested a lot of time, money, and draft picks on defensive ends, which makes the need even more frustrating.

In 2007, Kerney signed a six-year, $39.5 million contract with Seattle. One year before, the team drafted Darryl Tapp in the second round – Tapp only has 18 sacks in his career and has never been able to secure a spot in the starting lineup.

The year following Kerney’s arrival (and 14.5 sacks later), the Seahawks invested a first-round draft choice on defensive end Lawrence Jackson. Frustrated by Tapp’s inconsistency and likely anticipating Kerney’s  eventual breakdown, the front office opted to add another talented prospect to the position. Two seasons and 6.5 sacks later, Jackson has been unimpressive at best.

The defensive struggles have been widespread and well-documented, but generating a more consistent pass rush is a necessary first step in the right direction.

Despite investing so much at the position, the Seahawks find themselves near square one. If this defense is going to develop  into an elite unit, additional talent must be acquired at defensive end.

Potential Wishful Additions

Defensive Ends

Julius Peppers, Free Agent

Julius Peppers will be the most sought-after free agent of 2010; you would be hard-pressed to find a team not interested in acquiring Peppers. Despite spending last season disgruntled in Carolina, he still registered 10.5 sacks and was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl.

Peppers, who turned 30 last month, is a physical freak (6’7″, 283 lb) and would be an immediate upgrade at defensive end for most teams around the league. There have only been two seasons in his career where he has had single-digit sack totals – he followed up a disappointing 2007 campaign with 14.5 sacks the following season.

Aaron Kampman, Free Agent

Aaron Kampman is another 30-year old defensive end who could still have something left in the tank. In Green Bay, Kampman developed into a very good defender capable of making plays and getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately for Kampman, an experimental switch to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme altered his role and affected his production on the field. As a 4-3 defensive end, Kampman recorded 37 sacks between 2006 and 2008 (three seasons).

In addition to recent struggles following a position switch, Kampman also suffered a torn ACL that ended his 2009 season. Prior to the injury, he had accumulated 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks through nine games as an outside linebacker.

Returning from a major knee injury and over 30 years old could make acquiring Kampman quite the gamble. Based on Seattle’s needs, however, it may be worth the risk.

Derrick Morgan, NFL Draft (Georgia Tech)

Considered by many to be the best defensive end in this year’s class, Derrick Morgan has excellent size (6’4″, 272 lb) and appears ready to excel at the next level. He will definitely be a top-twenty selection in April; pending workouts, Morgan could possibly sneak into the top ten.

As a junior at Georgia Tech – Morgan chose to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft – he totaled 55 tackles, 18.5 tackles-for-loss, and 12.5 sacks. Not bad numbers for a defensive lineman in the Atlantic Coast Conference without much talent elsewhere on the line.

Although Morgan struggled against Bryan Bulaga (Iowa’s offensive tackle) in his final game at Georgia Tech, he has a unique blend of athleticism and size that NFL scouts won’t want to pass on. With two selections in the first round, there is no question he’ll be on Seattle’s radar.

Jason Pierre-Paul, NFL Draft (South Florida)

Pierre-Paul is another freakishly athletic defensive end; he possesses a unique combination of size (6’6″, 265 lb), speed, and athleticism. There is no doubt he has the physical tools to excel at the professional level, but he is still going to be a project for whoever drafts him.

Although he is able to rush the passer very effectively, Pierre-Paul sometimes appears overwhelmed and disinterested when defending the run. Physical prowess and athleticism alone won’t be enough to perform at a high level in the NFL; as an inexperienced player, Pierre-Paul needs to work on his pad level, use of hands, and technique.

Despite several noted weaknesses, Pierre-Paul is very inexperienced and should only get better with additional coaching. He has all of the physical tools to become a successful pass rusher in the NFL. He’ll need time to develop and refine his skills, but there isn’t a better prospect at defensive end in this year’s class with more upside.

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Tags: Aaron Kampman Darryl Tapp Defensive End Derrick Morgan Draft Needs Free Agency Jason Pierre-Paul John Schneider Julius Peppers Lawrence Jackson NFL Draft Offseason Patrick Kerney Seattle Seahawks T.J. Houshmandzadeh

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