- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Fifth installment in a multipart series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 11.
Position: Defensive tackle
Level of need: Moderate
Why Bryant fits: The Patriots pursued him aggressively two years ago before he re-signed with the Seahawks. He's a big and powerful presence up front, with former Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren one of his big influences. He wouldn't count against the compensatory pick formula because he was released by Seattle.
Why Guion fits: More of an under-the-radar free-agent who struggled at times in 2013 with performance and injuries, the seven-year veteran from Florida State has spent his entire career with the Vikings, most recently playing nose tackle. The last two years, when he broke through as a starter, he came under the watch of defensive line coach Brendan Daly, who is now with the Patriots. Guion wouldn't count against the compensatory pick formula, wouldn't be a pure nose tackle in the Patriots' scheme and could add depth while competing against a younger player for a roster spot.
Why Woods fits: Although he hasn't broken through since entering the NFL as a fourth-round draft choice in 2010, Woods has shown flashes that make him an intriguing lower-budget option for a team that might not be looking to spend big at the position. He has good size (6-4, 307) and some scheme versatility that could appeal to a team like the Patriots which runs multiple fronts.
Other names of note: Adam Carriker (Rams), Terrence Cody (Ravens), Brandon Deaderick (Jaguars), Fred Evans (Vikings), Aubrayo Franklin (Colts), Jason Hatcher (Cowboys), Ziggy Hood (Steelers), Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Arthur Jones (Ravens), Linval Joseph (Giants), Kyle Love (Jaguars), Henry Melton (Bears), Earl Mitchell (Texans), Paul Soliai (Dolphins), Randy Starks (Dolphins), Cam Thomas (Chargers), Kevin Williams (Vikings).
Franchise tag: None
Market conditions: This is a strong class that is likely to have some players signing early and for significant money, with Red Bryant, Jason Hatcher, Arthur Jones, Linval Joseph, Lamarr Houston and Earl Mitchell some of the top tackles available. Between free agency and the draft, there are some appealing options.
Questions to answer at the position: Is Wilfork's $7.5 million salary a concern for the team if an agreement can't be reached to lower his salary cap charge? How is Tommy Kelly's injured knee recovering and is he still a big part of the plans? Will Armond Armstead be healthy and primed to contribute? Is Isaac Sopoaga cut because of a $3.5 million salary or does he come back at a reduced rate?
Fifth installment in a multipart series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 11.Position: Defensive tacklePlayers under contract for 2013: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano, Isaac Sopoaga, Marcus Forston, Cory GrissomLevel of need: ModerateProjected top targets: Red Bryant (Seahawks), Letroy Guion (Vikings), Al Woods (Steelers)Why Bryant fits: The Patriots pursued him aggressively two years ago before he re-signed with the Seahawks.