2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Tackles

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Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) reacts to a play during the first quarter of the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

4. Terrance Knighton

Pros: Knighton is a seventh year pro who has spent the majority of his career playing for Jack Del Rio. Over the past two years, he was the anchor of Denver’s strong defensive line, and he’s widely considered one of the premier run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL. At 330 pounds, he has very nimble feet, and can do more than just occupy space and eat double-teams. He can attack gaps with quickness and overwhelm offensive guards and centers, stack and shed blockers, and make the play himself. He’s also an effective pass-rush tackle, and can push the pocket, creating opportunities for edge rushers to finish. He also has been impressively durable over his career, missing only three games in six seasons.

Cons: Knighton, at about 335 pounds, is probably 25-30 pounds overweight, and his conditioning level shows it. Knighton spent a lot of time on the field with the Denver defense last season, and late in 2nd quarters and late in games he was often completely gassed on the sideline rather than on the field contributing. And while he has the quickness to be a 3-tech, his giant frame limits him in what he can do from down to down.

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  • Scheme Fit: Unless he loses some weight, Knighton’s best scheme fit is as a nose or 1-technique tackle. He does have the quick feet and block-shedding ability to play in the 3-technique, but is a bit too squatty for the position and lacks the speed necessary, especially at his size. He’s a perfect fit for Jack Del Rio’s system, having played in in for most of his career.

    Market value: Interestingly enough, Knighton may have a strong market value for NFL teams because of his proven durability, size/quickness combination, productivity, and his visibility and name recognition. The man named “Pot Roast” is a fan favorite and media darling, and that matters, but not as much as football skill, which he also has. That said, he has also been very vocal about wanting to continue on playing for Jack Del Rio, and that may scare some teams from seriously considering him. At 29, with conditioning concerns, his number won’t be too high, but it’ll still be pretty high, look for him to get a three or four year deal for about $25-$30M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: Definitely. He may be the first free agent signing of the open market period for the Raiders. He would turn the nose tackle spot into perhaps the deepest position on the Raider roster, with both he and Justin Ellis able to share the load so they can both remain fresh throughout games. He has deep respect for Jack Del Rio, and the feeling is apparently mutual, and he’ll almost definitely follow his former coach to one more stop.

    Next: DT Rankings: #5 Stephen Paea