2014 NFL Free Agency: Defensive End

Jamie Squire

The Broncos have a few million to spend on defensive end this offseason - will they address their pass rush through 2014 NFL free agency? Let's look at their options

As Ian broke down earlier, the Broncos' cap hit at the defensive end position is remarkably low heading into 2014. It's reasonable to expect that Denver will address the position in both free agency and the draft -  they did it in 2013 with the additions of Shaun Phillips and Quanterus Smith - and this year the need is even greater.

In particular, the Broncos need pass rushers at defensive end. With that in mind, here are a handful of NFL free agents the Broncos could consider, will consider, and won't consider.

At each position, we'll try to highlight one free agent likely to sign, one free agent unlikely to sign, and three others we believe will be or should be on Denver's radar.

Full list of free agent defensive ends

(via)

1. Greg Hardy
2. Michael Johnson
3. Lamarr Houston
4. Michael Bennett
5. Jared Allen
6. Arthur Jones
7. Everson Griffen
8. Justin Tuck
9. Antonio Smith
10. Tyson Jackson
11. Robert Ayers
12. Corey Wootton
13. Anthony Spencer
14. Willie Young
15. Brett Keisel
16. Jeremy Mincey
17. Matt Shaughnessy
18. C.J. Wilson
19. Ricardo Mathews
20. Kenyon Coleman
21. Marcus Benard
22. Jason Hunter
28. Israel Idonije
29. Keyunta Dawson
30. Andre Carter
31. Frostee Rucker
32. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
33. Jarius Wynn
34. Lawrence Sidbury

Likely to Sign: Shaun Phillips

We broke down Denver's free agent situation in its entirety last week, and we were happy to report the Broncos intend to re-sign Phillips. He's a decent run-stuffer and had a few good moments as a pass rusher, so it's good to see the Broncos plan on bringing him back. I could see Denver locking him up to a decent three-year deal.

Unlikely to Sign: Greg Hardy

Perhaps the premier free agent pass rusher in 2014, Carolina's Greg Hardy would be a beastly addition for the Broncos. But he's simply out of the Broncos' price range - he's likely out of Carolina's, who have more cap space as things stand now. And he wants a "crapload" of money, according to reports. As Ian noted, that's not what the Broncos are about. Moving on...

On our Radar: Jared Allen

Everyone wind back your watches to October 29, 2013. Isn't that a nice time? The Broncos are playing really well, they hadn't lost a Super Bowl by 35 points yet, and Peyton Manning is in the middle of smashing NFL records left and right. The Broncos are outscoring everybody.

Oh, and they're reportedly on the verge of trading for Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.

Of course, the Bronocs didn't trade for Allen, but that doesn't mean they couldn't sign the playmaker in free agency this year.

Let's be clear: I don't want the Broncos to overspend for the 32-year old. Despite his 13 sacks in 2013, he's lost some quickness and consistency. But I'm guessing he's someone the Broncos will consider, since they reportedly already did.

On our Radar: Michael Bennett

Just imagine a defensive line consisting of Von Miller, Terrance Knighton, and Michael Bennett and you'll understand why I'm excited.

My favorite defensive free agent prospect, Bennett signed a show-me deal with the Seattle Seahawks last year and, well, showed them. He registered an impressive 11 sacks and a whopping 51 hurries in the regular and postseason with Seattle, including four hurries on Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl.

Perhaps the characteristic I like best about Bennett is his ability to move inside and provide pass rush from the interior of the DL, as well as his strength against both the run and pass. He's the most versatile defensive end free agent, and he's potentially in Denver's price range.

Just imagine, on third downs, a defensive line consisting of Von Miller, Terrance Knighton, Michael Bennett, and Malik Jackson, and you'll understand why I'm excited.

Bennett played in roughly 2/3 of the Seahawks' snaps in 2013, and I'd expect he would play even more with the Broncos. Bennett would be an instant start in Denver, and placing him alongside Terrance Knighton is a very salivating proposition.

On our Radar: Robert Ayers

The 2009 first round draft pick is an intriguing player for every other team in the NFL. I could see 31 GM's buying into his draft potential while also looking at his strongest-yet 2013 campaign. Ayers registered only six sacks this season, but of more interest are QB hurries - he had 32 in the regular season (tied with Phillips for team-best) and a sky-high nine hurries in his three playoff games, eclipsing his teammates.

It may be difficult to re-sign Ayers given his production in 2013, and I get the feeling the Broncos may let him test free agency. They just won't value as much as someone else might.

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