Free Agency: Breaking down the remaining Defensive Ends

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Charles Johnson

Another veteran presence could be Panthers’ DE Charles Johnson.

Johnson doesn’t have the explosive talent that Campbell has, but he could easily come in and compete for a starting job. He wouldn’t with a huge price tag, and is a well-respected professional. We all know Sean Payton loves his locker-room guys.

Johnson started all season for the Panthers at strong-side DE. And, like Sheard, he’s a bit of a redundant prospect in that respect. The Saints already have Cam Jordan locking down that position. Johnson actually would serve a very similar role for the Saints as would Sheard, with similar limitations.

Johnson would, ideally, serve as the base DE opposite Jordan. He’s stout against the run and does well to set the edge. With LBs like Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis behind him, he wasn’t asked to do much more than that. So he may be more able to generate pressure than his tape lets on.

But still, the Saints would do well to supplement a Johnson signing with a rushing specialist. Chances are high that they find someone like that in the draft. So I’m not opposed to signing Johnson as the base starter. He was once a very dangerous pass-rusher, but a severe drop in numbers bring up the worry that those days are behind him.

Unlike Sheard, Johnson likely won’t expect too big of a role on his next team. He’s 30 years old, and may be well past his prime. Then again, he may feel that his role in Carolina limited the sort of opportunities he had to get after the quarterback. That wouldn’t be an outlandish claim.

Next: Christian McCaffrey is a 3-for-1 Special

If the Saints were to go after Johnson, I wouldn’t want to pay him big money. And it’s hard for me to gauge how he feels about his abilities at age 30. If he wants a payday, he’d be better off looking elsewhere. But if he’ll come in for say, $5 million a year, I’d be more than happy to take him on. He’d be a solid starter.