With the NFL's free agency period set to kick off on March 12, the buzz surrounding some of the top available free agents is growing.
There are still several big-time players set to hit the market, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Let's just say that if you are willing to spend good money on an edge defender this year, you're in luck.
Here's a look at my top three available free agents and the hoopla surrounding them in March.
Michael Bennett, DE (2012 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
If the Buccaneers don't re-sign Michael Bennett, he stands to garner plenty of attention throughout the league. The 27-year-old notched nine sacks and three forced fumbles in 2012 and was also among the league leaders in quarterback pressures (48).
According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Miami Dolphins could pursue Bennett.
Adding a complement to defensive end Cameron Wake would be a wise move for Miami. Wake and Bennett could form a potentially unstoppable combo.
Cliff Avril, DE (2012 Team: Detroit Lions)
While Cliff Avril did post 9.5 sacks in 2012, it is worth noting that his overall play dropped and he wasn't a very good run defender.
Still, Avril has a reputation for getting to the quarterback, and he's still just 26 years of age. He will get plenty of bites during free agency.
The teams linked the most to Avril are the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer.
The Browns—who ranked 11th in the league in sacks in 2012—would likely move Avril to outside linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme.
The Colts, who just released longtime defensive end Dwight Freeney, could also use an edge defender. They ranked 23rd in the NFL with 32 sacks last season—Freeney had five of those sacks.
The Browns do have a few chips on the table, though. New defensive line coach Joe Cullen was with the Lions when they drafted Avril in 2008, and he helped develop Avril in his rookie season.
Paul Kruger, OLB (2012 Team: Baltimore Ravens)
Paul Kruger is an interesting player. He posted nine sacks in 2012—as well as posting 4.5 sacks in Baltimore's run to the title. The 27-year-old may be reaching his prime when it comes to pass-rushing.
On the other hand, Kruger's bad habit of overrunning ball carriers doesn't make him a complete player at this juncture. Teams will have to determine whether he can improve his run defense or if what you see is what you get.
The Browns are also expected to go after Kruger, according to the Plain Dealer report. Kruger would be a less expensive option than Avril, so that's certainly worth monitoring. Kruger has already shown he can be a dangerous player in a 3-4 scheme.
Ed Werder of ESPN said on Tuesday's SportsCenter that the Ravens didn't expect to re-sign Kruger, per Rotoworld.com.
The Colts are also another team that is reportedly in the mix.
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