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The 5 O’Clock Club: Playing GM - a look at 3 top free agent defensive linemen

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Let’s have a look at some of the top rated free agent defensive line players that may be available this offseason.

Sheldon Richardson, DL

Seattle Seahawks v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Team: Seattle Seahawks, Jets

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 295 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 27

Entry to NFL: 13th overall, 2013 draft (NY Jets)

A preseason trade from the Jets to Seattle, if nothing else, gave Richardson tape in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. The Seahawks, who gave up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to get Richardson, might want him as a younger replacement for Michael Bennett. Richardson made a few splash plays in Seattle, but he probably wasn’t dominant enough to spark a frenzied bidding war.

Career Stats


Spotrac estimates Sheldon Richardson’s market value at an APY of $11.9m:

Cant see teams risking a long term contract with Richardson, but he is too talented for a team to pass up on a one year contract. Last year this position saw multiple players take deals like this.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

The Redskins undoubtedly need help on the defensive line, but with Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan already taking up big chunks of cap space, and holes to fill at free safety and inside linebacker, the Redskins might be better off looking to the draft or more economical free agents instead of committing to the 5 year, $60m contract that Spotrac estimates it will take to get Richardson into a burgundy & gold uniform.

Star Lotulelei, DT

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Carolina Panthers

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 315 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 28

Entry to NFL: 14th overall, 2013 draft (Carolina Panthers)

After five years of anchoring the middle of the Carolina defense, Lotulelei could be ready to test the market. The Panthers would have to decide whether to add another significant contract to a defensive line that already includes Kawann Short’s monster deal ($16.1 million annual average).

Career Stats


Spotrac estimates Star Lotulelei’s free agent value at an APY of $8.4m

Solid defensive tackle will get a lot of looks from teams looking for an affordable player that can play both run and pass.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Taken one pick later than Sheldon Richardson in 2013, Lotulelei has played for 5 years on one of the best defenses in the league. Younger than Kerrigan and Josh Norman, but older than Ioannidis and Jon Allen, Star Lotulelei would improve the Redskins defense and likely give it stability during the 4 or 5 years of his contract, at what should be a much more affordable price than Sheldon Richardson and help with both run & pass defense.

Dontari Poe, DT

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Atlanta Falcons, Chiefs

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 346 pounds

Age entering 2018 season: 28

Entry to NFL: 11th overall, 2012 draft (KC Chiefs)

Poe proved reliable, if nothing else, after signing a one-year deal with the Falcons. He was on the field for 745 snaps, the second most on the Falcons’ defensive line, and started all 16 games.

Career Stats


Spotrac estimates Dontari Poe’s free agent value at an APY of $5.7m

Poe was on a one-year, $8m contract with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, so this would represent a significant fall-off in value. I’m not sure that Poe will sign for this kind of money, unless he faces the same kinds of issues in free agency this year that Zach Brown faced last year. The free agent DL market was a bit soft in ‘17, with Bennie Logan signing a deal for around $6.7m. To get Poe for less than $6m may require patience on the part of the team that eventually signs him.

Good player but injury issues and inability to pressure the QB will likely keep him out from making the kind of money the better interior d-line players make.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

Spotrac compares Poe to Redskin Stacy McGee, who actually played pretty well in 2017. Poe is massive, at 6’3”, 346 lbs, but Sports Illustrated described him as having “light feet”. Poe picked up 2 12 sacks with the Falcons last year, and contributed to Atlanta’s 7th ranked run defense.

Poe would represent the same kind of excellent rotational depth that the Redskins got with Stacy McGee last season, and comes in a similar sized package (McGee is listed on at 6’3”, 341 lbs). The two would probably play in a rotation that would allow the DL to stay fresh while providing big bodies in the middle. Of the three players highlighted, Poe would likely represent the most cap-friendly signing, and improve the defensive line depth without having a huge effect on the overall skill or scheme.


Taking into account the Redskins’ needs, the players’ skills and expected salary cap impact, which player do you think would be the best free agent target for the Redskins this off season?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Sheldon Richardson
    (32 votes)
  • 31%
    Star Lotulelei
    (216 votes)
  • 22%
    Dontari Poe
    (158 votes)
  • 41%
    Stay out of free agency with the DL this year — find help in the draft instead
    (290 votes)
696 votes total Vote Now
San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images