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iceshack149 02-12-2004 03:15 PM

Top defensive restricted free agents
Top defensive restricted free agents

By Pat Kirwan
Special to

As I finish up looking at the defensive players who are available, it appears there is potentially less talent than on the offensive side of the ball. But make no mistake about it, there are some very interesting candidates.

Edgerton Hartwell, linebacker, Baltimore Ravens: Hartwell was a fourth-round pick who had 93 tackles, three sacks, one interception and three passes defended this season. He filled in last year for Ray Lewis and this season lined up next to him. I watched the Ravens' win against the Steelers in the season finale when he had nine tackles and 1½ sacks. He could start for a lot of teams in the NFL.

Matt Stewart, linebacker, Atlanta Falcons: Stewart is a smart, 6-foot-2, 232-pound player out of Vanderbilt and a former fourth-round pick. He was in on 77 tackles and 2½ sacks, and after watching the Falcons' game against the Saints in October when he had eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, there's little chance Stewart won't get an offer if the Falcons put a low tender on him.

Renaldo Hill, cornerback, Arizona Cardinals: Hill, a seventh-round pick three years ago, started 13 games and had five interceptions this past season. I watched him in the Cardinals' game against St. Louis in November when he was in on three tackles, had two interceptions, a touchdown and two passes defended. Hill can play, and with the 2003 Cardinals coaching staff now scattered around the NFL, he will have interest.

Nick Harper, cornerback, Indianapolis Colts: Harper was an undrafted player, so unless he gets a first-round tender, there is no compensation for him. He was in on 98 tackles, had four interceptions and defended 10 passes. There are some questions about him, but a young corner with production is hard to find.

Zeke Moreno, linebacker, San Diego Chargers: Moreno replaced Junior Seau this season after Seau left the team. The former fifth-round pick was in on 96 tackles in 12 starts in 2003, and he's been in on 154 tackles in three years. At 6-2 and 245 pounds, if you are looking for a run stopper for just a fifth-round pick, Moreno's your guy.

Will Peterson, cornerback, New York Giants: He was injured and lost for the season after Week 5, but prior to that Peterson was making a name for himself as an excellent cover corner. In the five games he did play this year, he averaged six tackles and three passes defended. If Peterson gets a clean bill of health from the medical staff, a lot of teams would love to have him. If he doesn't get a high tender, then third-round compensation would be a bargain.

Some other players who may get some play from teams when March comes along are Dallas defensive tackle Willie Blade, Dolphins linebacker Morlon Greenwood, Saints linebacker Sedrick Hodge, Saints defensive end Kenny Smith and Cardinals defensive tackle Marcus Bell.

Finally, this offseason saw a number of coaching changes and that means volatility on many rosters. Coaches always want players they know and there could be more restricted free agent movement than expected. A number of these players could agree to contract extensions with their present club and that would eliminate them from free agency, while others will choose to wait and see what the market looks like.

24 Will Peterson

Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
Born: 06/15/1979
College: Western Illinois
NFL Experience: 3

If this guy stays healthy he may be very good.

Year Team G Total Tckl Ast Sacks Int Yds Avg Lg TD Pass Def
2001 New York Giants 16 54 49.0 5 0 1 0 0.0 0 0 7
2002 New York Giants 12 40 36.0 4 0 2 1 0.5 1 0 6
2003 New York Giants 5 30 24.0 6 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 2
TOTAL 33 124 109.0 15 0 3 1 0.3 1 0 15

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