Bengals Should Consider These Free Agent Defensive Tackles

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Nick Fairley

Fairley has been one of the Lions’ stalwart defensive tackles over the past few years.  Teaming with Ndamukong Suh, the two have formed one of the best tackle duos in the league.  Unfortunately for Fairley, he suffered a knee sprain (both MCL and PCL) during Week Eight and never returned to the team.

Oct 19, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field. Lions defeated the Saints 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Now, Fairley is a free agent along with Suh and the Lions have some difficult choices in front of them.  Prying Fairley from the Lions may be a challenge if they in fact move on from Suh, but the lost time this past season may bring down Fairley’s value enough to make him a reasonable contract.

At 6’4″, 308 pounds, Fairley can be a force in the middle.  Playing alongside elite talent helped Fairley accumulate 11.5 sacks, three FFs, three FRs, and 11 stuffs over the course of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  This past season, despite only playing half the season, Fairley still finished with a +9.8 grade per Pro Football Focus (sixth best amongst free agents DTs).

Fairley would enjoy similar talent around him in Cincinnati with the likes of a fully recovered Atkins (hopefully) and Carlos Dunlap on the outside.  The relationship between he and Atkins would be mutually beneficial as Fairley could take some of the pressure off of Atkins.

The scheme fit would be solid as the Lions employ a 4-3 defense and ask Fairley to absorb blockers in the middle; he’d likely be asked to do the same in Cincinnati.  Also worth noting, when playing a full season in 2012, Fairley participated in 65% of the Lions’ defensive snaps, so he certainly has the ability to carry the load and be at least a two down player for the Bengals; hardly surprising for a former first round selection.

It may be a challenge to lure Fairley away from Detroit, especially if Detroit decides to make him a free agent priority, but gaining a talent like him could be very beneficial to both he and the Bengals.