With free agency set to begin in March, Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda previews the 2016 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus is on the defensive ends.
Last season, Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan used free agency to strengthen a defensive line that looked to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
First, McCloughan went out and signed Ricky Jean Francois, who he drafted to San Francisco when he was with the 49ers, on Feb. 22.
Then once the free agency period opened up in March, the team also signed former Chicago Bears defensive end Stephen Paea and nose tackle Terrance Knighton.
The Redskins may take a similar approach this offseason, as defensive ends Kedric Golston and Frank Kearse are pending free agents while Jason Hatcher has yet to make a decision his playing status after stating he would consider retirement after Washington's playoff loss in January.
Of NFL.com's Greg Rosenthal's top 20 free agents, three are defensive ends – Muhammed Wilkerson of the New York Jets, Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants and Olivier Vernon of the Miami Dolphins -- but it is a very talented free agent class in general.
Here are the defensive ends currently scheduled to be unrestricted free agents via NFL.com:
--Robert Ayers, New York Giants
--Jason Babin, Arizona Cardinals
--Stephen Bowen, New York Jets
--Da'Quan Bowers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
--Andre Branch, Jacksonville Jaguars
--Alex Carrington, Buffalo Bills
--Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta Falcons
--Chris Clemons, Jacksonville Jaguars
--Jack Crawford, Dallas Cowboys
--Jared Crick, Houston Texans
--Mike DeVito, Kansas City Chiefs
--Demarcus Dobbs, Seattle Seahawks
--Leger Douzable, New York Jets
--Larry English, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
--Wallace Gilberry, Cincinnati Bengals
--Kedric Golston, Washington Redskins
--Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys
--William Hayes, Los Angeles Rams
--Akiem Hicks, New England Patriots
--Jaye Howard, Kansas City Chiefs
--Malik Jackson, Denver Broncos
--Jarvis Jenkins, Chicago Bears
--Jason Jones, Detroit Lions
--Frank Kearse, Washington Redskins
--Chris Long, Los Angeles Rams
--Mike Martin, Tennessee Titans
A countdown of the Top 10 images of Redskins defensive lineman Frank Kearse during the 2014 season.
--Ricardo Mathews, San Diego Chargers
--Jeremy Mincey, Dallas Cowboys
--Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
--Kendall Reyes, San Diego Chargers
--George Selvie, New York Giants
--Derrick Shelby, Miami Dolphins
--Eugene Sims, Los Angeles Rams
--Antonio Smith, Denver Broncos
--Darryl Tapp, Detroit Lions
--Cam Thomas, Pittsburgh Steelers
--Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia Eagles
--Justin Trattou, Minnesota Vikings
--Mitch Unrein, Chicago Bears
--Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins
--Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
--Billy Winn, Indianapolis Colts
--Corey Wootton, Detroit Lions
Since being taken with the 30th-overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Wilkerson is a two-time second-team All-Pro and has recorded 301 tackles with 36.5 sacks, 21 passes defensed and nine forced fumbles.
Pierre-Paul has been one of the better pass rushers in the NFL over the last six seasons, as he has had seasons of 12 sacks and 16 sacks, but the 2010 first-round pick recorded just one sack in eight games last season after dealing with an offseason fireworks incident that required amputation of one of his fingers and reconstructive surgery of other fingers.
Hardy, meanwhile, certainly has talent (he has 33 sacks in his last 44 games), but the Dallas Cowboy has had off-field issues in recent years.
Vernon is being considered for the franchise tag by the Dolphins, however, if he hits the open market he'll likely demand serious attention, as the 25-year-old has 196 tackles with 29 sacks and three forced fumbles in four NFL seasons.
Bowen, Jenkins and Tapp have all played with the Redskins before.