Dontari Poe is the premier defensive tackle available in 2017 NFL Free Agency. Find out which five teams best fit the mammoth nose guard.
Dontari Poe should be the primary free-agent target for any NFL team needing a game-wrecker at the heart of its defensive front. The five-year pro and Kansas City Chiefs ace is a magnet for double teams and a natural clogger of running lanes.
Poe can also push the pass pocket with the best of them, even if his pressure numbers don’t always reflect his talent. Still, every defense is built on the quality of the man in the middle, so these five teams should go all out for Poe once the bell sounds for NFL Free Agency on March 9:
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5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an overpowering defense away from being a threat in the NFC. Just imagine how effective the Tampa D’ would be with Poe partnering the brilliant Gerald McCoy along the interior.
They would form the most intimidating inside tandem since the days when Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland dominated the trenches during this franchise’s Super Bowl years.
Moving to the Bucs would mean a scheme change for Poe. The Buccaneers run a 4-3 scheme under coordinator Mike Smith, but it’s one perhaps requiring the least amount of transition for a 3-4 nose tackle like Poe.
After all, Smith is one of the few coordinators who still utilizes two-gap principles along a four-man line. Those skills naturally crossover with the demands placed on 3-4 linemen to combat blockers head-on and draw double teams.
Poe would instantly transform Tampa’s front seven and finally give quarterback Jameis Winston and a loaded offense a supporting cast capable of inspiring a playoff run.
The Bucs have $84,325,850 worth of cap space, according to Jimmie Kaylor of CheatSheet.com. So the NFC South club has the money to make this deal happen.
Dec 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) stiff arms Detroit Lions defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (92) during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Lions 21-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
4. Detroit Lions
Haloti Ngata isn’t the force he used to be, so the Detroit Lions would be smart to invest in the 33-year-old’s natural successor. Poe fits the bill as a man-mountain with move skills and versatility.
A creative defensive coordinator like Teryl Austin would enjoy putting Poe at different spots along multiple fronts. More importantly, having Poe absorbing the middle would surely generate more one-on-one matchups for dynamic edge-rusher Ziggy Ansah.
The Lions were a lunch pale defense in 2016, a hard-working group, but one lacking star power. Poe would add a true bluechip presence for Austin’s schemes.
Pairing him with second-year man A’Shawn Robinson would give the Lions the most interior muscle they’ve had since they put Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley together.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) after scoring a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the fourth quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
3. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have pinched the pennies defensively for too long. It’s high time the team equipped franchise quarterback Andrew Luck with a D’ strong enough to credibly challenge for a Super Bowl.
Indy’s biggest problem on defense is a lack of playmakers up front. Zach Kerr, David Parry and Hassan Ridgeway don’t force enough negative plays. Meanwhile, Arthur Jones has been a major disappointment as a free agent.
With $55,371,812 worth of cap space, per OverTheCap.com, the Colts have the fiscal resources to bring Poe to Lucas Oil Stadium. Still just 26 years old, Poe would finally give Indianapolis the mainstay in the middle its defense has been missing.
Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws the ball as Washington Redskins defensive end Ziggy Hood (90) chases in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2. Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins have spent the past two seasons leaking yards on the ground. In fact, Washington’s bid to make the 3-4 work has been undermined since 2010 by the failure to find a dominant nose tackle.
Signing Poe would solve both problems. It’s a solution general manager Scot McCloughan can’t afford to ignore.
McCloughan has to spend more on defense after overlooking that side of the ball, according to JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic: “At a little more than $36 million, Scot McCloughan’s team ranked 31st out of 32 NFL teams in defensive spending, only ahead of the New Orleans Saints.”
The Redskins also have a quartet of D-linemen ticketed for free agency. Veterans Cullen Jenkins and Kedric Golston will be available. So will nose guard Ziggy Hood and end Chris Baker.
Poe would be a superior option to any of these players over center. He’d fix a soft run defense gashed for 119.8 yards a game and 4.5 yards per carry last season.
Sep 13, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) celebrates after sacking Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (not pictured) during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
1. Los Angeles Rams
Hiring Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator was a coup for the Los Angeles Rams. A 3-4 master like Phillips would surely get the best out of a nose tackle with Poe’s versatile skill-set.
Phillips has often preferred lighter D-linemen for his 1-gap version of the three-man front. However, the 69-year-old has also used house-sized pluggers in the middle.
He did the same when Ted Washington and Pat Williams featured along the interior for the Buffalo Bills in 1999. Phillips also briefly made monster in the middle Jamal Williams a star during his time running defenses for the San Diego Chargers.
More than measurables, though, Phillips and the Rams should welcome any chance to partner Aaron Donald with Poe. The former is arguably the most destructive inside pass-rusher in football, but he’d be even better with Poe taking blockers away from him.
A Poe and Donald partnership would also create the one-on-one matchups on the edges Phillips’ blitz-happy system is designed to exploit. Edge terrors like Robert Quinn and William Hayes would chase down quarterbacks for fun with this much talent inside.
Phillips has already revealed he will switch the Rams to a 3-4 front, per Max Meyer of the league’s official site. Poe is the best 3-4 lineman on the market, and the Rams have $39,734,280 in cap space to help bring him to L.A.