2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Ends

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Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) reacts after making a sack in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

5. Pernell McPhee

[note: Pernell McPhee is listed as a linebacker and technically should be in my outside linebacker rankings but for no other team in the league a 280 pound player going to be a linebacker so he’s a defensive end here]

Pros: McPhee has a good combination of size and athleticism, with decent speed for his frame. He’s a very effective pass rusher off the edge, and as a backup rush linebacker for Baltimore managed 7.5 sacks last season. He plays with great strength, and can push blockers around and hold the edge in the run game, as well as bull-rush his way to sacks. He’s improved his hands and pass-rushing move arsenal every year since he was drafted.

Cons: He lacks ideal speed for an edge rusher or perimeter defender, which is a big reason why he wasn’t a full-time player for the Ravens. His hands are somewhat slow and he doesn’t possess great footwork or change-of-direction ability to really take his pass-rushing game to the next level. He does a great job of setting the edge, but can’t always get off his block and finish.

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Ravens OLB Pernell McPhee 'seems likely' to retire this offseason
Ravens OLB Pernell McPhee 'seems likely' to retire this offseason /

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  • Scheme Fit: He was drafted as a 5-tech end for Baltimore’s 3-4 look initially, but has been used mostly as a backup 3-4 outside linebacker behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in recent years. Still, he has the frame and makeup to be an effective 5-tech end, but the pass-rushing skill to be a good 7-tech end. He also could be some use as a 3-technique tackle. He’s too big and slow for a LEO role, but otherwise is a good fit in most 4-3 alignments somewhere.

    Market Value: A 26 year old player who has played in one of the league’s elite defenses and amassed 17 career sacks – including 7.5 this past year – as a backup is going to attract some attention on the open market. Still, he’s a career backup and doesn’t necessarily have the reputation as a dominant pass rusher. He might be an affordable option for some team, perhaps on a three year deal worth $12M-$15M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: doubtful. McPhee would not be a major improvement over the current roster, to be frank. He’d be a smart depth acquisition if the market on him is lower than what I projected above, and he could be a decent rotational player behind Justin Tuck who could be used as the weakside end on running downs or a 3-tech in some packages as well. Still, he’s not the immediate impact player the Raiders are looking for right now.

    Tomorrow: Outside Linebackers