There are some real gems in the defensive line group, but certainly not enough to go around. That means there will be big money spent on a few guys, with teams that hesitate being left behind. That also goes for teams trying to convince their top defensive lineman to stay because it there will be no hometown discount.
Here are my top five defensive linemen, which would include Pat Williams if he decided not to retire.
1. Charles Johnson
Young defensive ends (age 25) with double-digit sacks (11.5 last year) and the size to play the run (62 tackles) are hard to find. Consider that Johnson had that production without Julius Peppers on the other side and his numbers are even more impressive.
2. Ray Edwards
Edwards has 38 more starts than Charles Johnson, but only eight more sacks (29.5) in his career. Edwards said that he would be surprised if he's back in Minnesota since the team paid his backup -- Brian Robison -- more than he makes. Edwards, who is 6-foot-5, has more height than Charles Johnson, who is 6-2. That height is an asset, but teams should be cautious about thinking that a left defensive end can easily move to the right side and produce double-digit sacks. Some team will pay Edwards like that kind of player.
3. Cullen Jenkins
Jenkins is a versatile defensive lineman that can play end in a 3-4 scheme or tackle in a 4-3 package. He has quickness, athletic ability, and, as Packers teammate A.J. Hawk recently said," (Jenkins) is a beast up front." Jenkins, 30, has missed 17 games in the last three seasons, but had a career-best seven sacks in just 11 games last season.
4. Barry Cofield
Cofield beat out the Seahawks' Brandon Mebane for this spot because he never misses a game, has better pass-rush skills and a knack for defending passes (11 passes defensed in his career to three for Mebane) from the interior of the defensive line. Cofield was in on 54 tackles in 2010, while Mebane had 31 stops in 12 games.
5. (Tie) Aubrayo Franklin and Jason Babin
Franklin made the top-five list because any 3-4 base defense looking for a nose tackle will have an eye on him. The 30-year-old plugger hasn't missed a game in three years and he'll give you 35 tackles and a sack or two a season. Babin reinvented his career in Tennessee with 12.5 sacks in 2010 and said that he was finally in a scheme that played to his strengths as an end.
6. Potential salary-cap casualties
Some interesting names could become available, with guys like Amobi Okoye and Albert Haynesworth potentially joining this group. Tommie Harris was released before the lockout and someone might take a chance on him.