Cullen Jenkins

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position 3.0: Defense

The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2017:

Edge defender:

  1. Dwight Freeney
  2. Elvis Dumervil
  3. Chris Long
  4. Mario Williams
  5. Connor Barwin
  6. Paul Kruger
  7. Trent Cole
  8. Erik Walden
  9. Jason Jones
  10. Darryl Tapp
  11. Devin Taylor
  12. Eugene Sims
  13. Howard Jones
  14. Wallace Gilberry
  15. Sam Acho

The pass rushing market has been completely depleted during the first week of free agency, as 14 of our original top 15 edge players have now been franchised, signed, or, in the case of DeMarcus Ware, retired. As such, a 37-year-old with 15 NFL seasons under his belt is now the best pass rusher on the market. Dwight Freeney played on roughly a third of the Falcons’ defensive snaps in 2016, and posted three sacks and 18 hurries. Capable of playing in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, Freeney can still help out a club on the cheap.Dwight Freeney (Vertical)

Three players on this list — Elvis Dumervil, Connor Barwin, and Eugene Sims — were released by their respective clubs last week, meaning they won’t count against the compensatory formula if and when they’re signed. Dumervil, now 33, was hampered by injuries last season but still earned strong pass-rushing marks from Pro Football Focus. Barwin, meanwhile, wasn’t a good fit in Jim Schwartz‘s 4-3 defense, but he should flourish if he signs with a team running a 3-4 look. So far, he’s met with the Bengals (who use a 4-3) and Rams (3-4).

Chris Long has already indicated he won’t be returning to the Patriots, indicating he wants to join a roster where he’ll earn more playing time. Erik Walden, too, won’t re-sign with his 2016 club (the Colts), but he has taken a visit with the division rival Titans. Further down the list, Howard Jones has also met with at least one club, as he was hosted by the Jets on Tuesday. Jones, 27, is recovering from a torn ACL, but did post five sacks in five starts last season.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Johnathan Hankins
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Jared Odrick
  4. Vance Walker
  5. Sen’Derrick Marks
  6. Ricky Jean-Francois
  7. Roy Miller
  8. Al Woods
  9. Tony McDaniel
  10. Cullen Jenkins
  11. Frostee Rucker
  12. Cam Thomas
  13. John Jenkins
  14. Tyson Jackson
  15. Tyson Alualu

Although top-flight players such as Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams have already been signed, the crop of interior defenders remains strong at the top. The buzz around Johnathan Hankins has been virtually non-existent, as the only club that’s been even tangentially linked to the 25-year-old is the Redskins. He’s one of the youngest free agents on the market, and therefore is probably looking for a massive payday. But the lack of interest around Hankins may be an indication that he’s simply asking for too much money.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

The same issue could be surrounding Dontari Poe, although he’s not wanting for meetings around the league. He’s visited with the Colts, Falcons, Jaguars, and Dolphins, while the 49ers and Raiders also reportedly have some level of interest. Clubs may have concerns about Poe’s lingering back issues, and he might have to accept a one-year deal in order to prove he’s healthy and willing to provide full effort.

The remaining defensive interior players are mostly over-30 veterans, with names such as Tony McDaniel, Cullen Jenkins, Frostee Rucker, and Tyson Jackson still looking for new deals. While most of these guys can still play, they may have to wait awhile — possibly into the summer — before signing on with their next club. Jared Odrick (Patriots) and Vance Walker (Bears) have both taken visits, but the most intriguing lineman here may be Sen’Derrick Marks, who offers a good amount of pass rush from the interior.

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Redskins Re-Sign Cullen Jenkins

Last night, it was clear that the Redskins’ defensive line needs some help. Today, the team is bringing back Cullen Jenkins, as Mike Garafolo of tweets"<strong

Jenkins, 35, was signed by Washington in late August to a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum. Days later, however, he was cut as the Redskins dropped down to a 53-man roster. Jenkins has been in the league since 2004 and he started 14 games for the Giants in 2015. Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Eagles. Jenkins’ NFC East tour will now continue with the Redskins, a team that badly needs his help.

On Monday night, 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers cruised to a 38-16 victory. The secondary also struggled mightily against Antonio Brown, but increased pressure from the line would have helped the Redskins’ defense all around.

Last season, Jenkins appeared in all 16 contests for the Giants. He tallied 26 tackles and 3.0 sacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Cut Jenkins, Paulsen, Down To 53

Cullen Jenkins‘ short tenure in Washington has come to an end. After having signed with the Redskins earlier this week, the veteran defensive end has been cut by the team, according to Mike Jones of The Washington Post (via Twitter). The 35-year-old has been in the league since 2004, and he started 14 games for the Giants in 2015.

Logan Paulsen (also reported by Jones) is another notable cut by the Redskins. The tight end has been on the squad since 2010, although a toe injury kept him off the field last season. Entering 2016, he found himself buried on the tight end depth chart behind Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, and Vernon Davis. The 29-year-old compiled 53 catches, 575 yards, and four touchdowns between the 2012 and 2013 season.

Rookie Matt Ioannidis wasn’t necessarily expected to play a large role on this year’s Redskins team, but most expected the fifth-round pick to make the squad. The defensive end was attempting to switch to defensive tackle, writes Jones, but the rookie “struggled with consistency.” The team ultimately opted for veteran Kedric Golston and undrafted rookie Anthony Lanier. Jones tweets that the defensive lineman should pass through waivers and land back on the Redskins’ practice squad.

The Redskins are now down to the 53-man limit several hours before the deadline. Here is the full list of the players that have been cut:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Sign Cullen Jenkins

WEDNESDAY, 5:56pm: As expected, Jenkins will earn the veteran minimum, which in the 35-year-old 13th-year veteran’s casCullen Jenkins (vertical)e will be $985K, Master Tefatsion of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). Jenkins, who twice earned more than $6MM in a season earlier in his career, played for $1.4MM last season with the Giants.

MONDAY, 11:24am: Cullen Jenkins‘ tour of the NFC East continues. The Redskins have agreed to sign the veteran defensive end to a one-year deal, according to a source who spoke with Mike Jones of the Washington Post (on Twitter).

Jenkins worked out for the Redskins today and it didn’t take long for a deal to materialize. Jenkins will now join Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean-Francois, James Gayle, and Corey Crawford on the Redskins depth chart behind presumptive starters Chris Baker and Kendall Reyes. Jenkins will probably still have to prove himself to Redskins coaches in order to make the upcoming 53-man cut.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins To Work Out Cullen Jenkins

The Redskins are on the lookout for some veteran help on the defensive line. Cullen Jenkins is on his way to the Washington D.C. area to work out for the Redskins, according to Chris Cooley of ESPN 980 (on Twitter). Cullen Jenkins (vertical)

Jenkins, 35, spent the first seven years of his career with the Packers before hooking on with the Eagles (2011, 2012) and the Giants (2013-2015). You may also know Jenkins as the victim of a Damontre Moore outburst in New York when Moore did not receive a free pair of Beats by Dre headphones in the Giants locker room.

Last season, the defensive end started in 14 games for the Giants and appeared in all 16 contests. He tallied 26 tackles and 3.0 sacks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Details On Damontre Moore’s Release

SUNDAY, 12:08pm: As Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News writes, the Giants’ decision to cut Moore reveals the team’s lack of defensive line depth and general lack of promising young talent. However, Big Blue may not have had a choice. As Mike Garafolo of FOXSports (via FOXSports colleague Jay Glazer) tweets, Moore has been “fighting his teammates since Day 1 of training camp,” and has “yelled at” both head coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese. Despite repeated warnings from New York brass, Moore failed to adjust his attitude, which ultimately sealed his fate with the club (Twitter links).

SATURDAY, 1:51pm: Moore admitted in a radio interview a fight with Jenkins over headphones did ensue, but that the skirmish stemmed from a “compilation” of issues between the two defensive linemen, James Kratch of writes.

Moore called into an ESPN New York radio show to explain his side of the events, noting he’d had several issues with the 34-year-old Jenkins, with the headphones being the final straw, so to speak. Moore did not receive a pair of free headphones, while Jenkins was seen taking several pairs prior to Thursday’s practice, Kratch reports.

The two ex-teammates haven’t spoken since the fight.

I definitely could have handled it better by just obviously walking away,” Moore told the radio station. “The crazy thing was, I don’t really necessarily look at (the dispute) as over a Beats By Dre headphone. … It was more of a respect thing. It was, you know, a combination of things that build up over time.

Moore mentioned Beckham, Steve Weatherford and select others who have reached out after the sudden separation. Before mentioning he’s ready should another team express interest, he doesn’t characterize himself as immature, but a player in development and perhaps in need of a scenery change.

By no way was I a saint. I had a lot of learning curves and majority factors,” Moore said. “I’ve grown over the time and I felt like, you know, things just ran its course. It happens in this game. As you know, it’s very rare that most people spend their whole career with a certain team. I think it just ran its course.”

FRIDAY, 5:22pm: When Damontre Moore was cut by the Giants today, reports indicated that New York made the move after the defensive end violated team rules. But the details of the incident are a bit more specific and — arguably — comical, as Ian Rapoport of reports (Twitter link) that Moore got into a fight with fellow defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins after failing to get free Beats by Dre headphones (which other players apparently received).

Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was reportedly handing out the headphones as gifts, per Jordan Raanan of (Twitter link), when Jenkins grabbed multiple pairs. The story is a tad reminiscent of the IK Enemkpali/Geno Smith saga that took place during the preseason, where Enempali broke Smith’s jaw over what early reports described was a monetary dispute. Moore, who, for the record, is earning $585K in pre-tax income, lost his roster spot over an item that retails at roughly $200.

According to Dan Graziano of, today’s decision was the culmination of Moore’s repeated behavioral and maturity issues, with the final straw being his altercation with Jenkins. Moore has been fined several times by the club this year for rules violations and behavior problems, per Graziano.

East Notes: Allen, M. Williams, Jets, Jenkins

According to multiple reports (all four Twitter links), Eagles safety Nate Allen was detained, questioned, and released following an accusation of indecent exposure. Allen is adamant that the accusation was false, and says he has asked police to keep investigating in the hopes of finding video that clears him, tweets Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. Assuming the accusation levied against the defensive back, who is eligible for free agency next month, was indeed false (as it seems to be), it could highlight potential problems with the league’s new personal conduct policy, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains.

Here’s more from around the NFL’s two East divisions:

  • Former Bills wide receiver Mike Williams was released by the team toward the end of the 2014 season, giving him a head start on free agency. As Ian Rapoport of tweets, Williams’ agent is taking advantage of that opportunity, with six meetings set up in Indianapolis this week. The veteran wideout could find a new home soon, according to Rapoport.
  • If Marcus Mariota is available at No. 6 overall, it would be the “ultimate no-brainer” for the Jets to trade the pick to Eagles and stockpile future selections, says Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. In Mehta’s view, a swap of that sixth overall pick in exchange for the Eagles’ first- and second-rounders in 2015 and 2016, would be fair for both sides.
  • Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, who accepted a pay cut over the weekend, tells Jordan Raanan of that he “kind of knew” the Giants would ask to rework his contract, and he never considered the possibility of rejecting the request and forcing the club to cut him.
  • Earlier today, we rounded up a few Patriots-related links, and passed along word that the Giants may be preparing to franchise Jason Pierre-Paul.

Giants Restructure Cullen Jenkins’ Contract

Though they have more than $17MM in cap space to work with when free agency begins, the Giants have made a move to create a tad more financial wiggle room by restructuring the contract of defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins. According to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), Jenkins accepted a pay cut, lowering his 2015 base salary from $2.2MM to $1MM. In exchange, the 34-year-old Jenkins was given a $375K per-game roster bonus, meaning in total, New York created $825K in new space, tweets Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap.

Jenkins’ new deal will include just $250K in guaranteed money, per Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter), who also reports that Jenkins can earn an extra $100K through incentives. His revised 2015 cap figure will be $2.091MM. Jenkins, in his second season with the Giants, started 11 games, finishing as the No. 33 defensive tackle among 81 qualifiers per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Due to his age and his relatively mediocre 2014 performance, I’m guessing that Jenkins was told that he would be released had he not accepted this pay reduction.

The Giants will now focus on re-signing pending free agents such as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, safety Antrel Rolle, and cornerback Walter Thurmond, as well as targeting help for their battered offensive line and linebacking unit. For more on what New York might do in the coming months, check out PFR’s Zach Links’ Offseason Outlook for the Giants.