These are the guys to watch. In his postseason presser, Ryan Pace said the team wasn’t going to spent big on one guy, instead spreading their money out. That could mean multiple players from this tier.
Malik Jackson, DL, Denver
Pros: He gained much more recognition in the playoffs as one of the best pass rushing and run-stopping defensive linemen in the league. Jackson constantly drew double teams, freeing others up for sacks.
Cons: The draft figures to be strong along the defensive line this year and Jackson is likely looking for a big pay day — which could explain why the Broncos extended Derek Wolfe instead. With Eddie Golman already in place, the Bears could sign a significantly cheaper veteran and develop linemen behind him.
Jaye Howard, DL, Kansas City
Pros: A good athlete who is really tough against the run. Showed some pass-rush ability. Dominated Vlad Ducasse and Hroniss Grasu. Would immediately be the team’s second best defensive lineman.
Cons: Kind of a one-year wonder. Played less than half of his team’s snaps every other year. Kansas City usually took him off the field in passing situations. Committed eight penalties last year. If Jackson and Wilkerson get huge contracts, Howard’s price could be driven up. The question needs to be asked again: Do you pay for a player, or draft and develop behind him?
Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver
Pros: Instinctive and rangy, Trevathan has been a key to the Broncos defense this year after missing most of the 2014 season. He has excelled in coverage and shows really good instincts. Rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the best tacklers in the league.