Jason Babin is a free man this morning, which in the pass-rush-happy NFL is kind of a big deal. Babin is less than a year removed from an 18-sack season and could be a valuable addition to defenses league-wide.
Between now and the end of next season, the 32-year-old Babin is due a reasonable $6 million, which means he can at the very least be a rent-a-player for this season but could also stick around in 2013 at a decent enough price.
So, who has the best chance to land the veteran defensive end? Well he'll have to clear waivers before it's a free-for-all, and that process will go down this afternoon. The waiver order is as follows:
1. Kansas City
7. San Diego
12. New York Jets
Some strong possible landing spots
Detroit Lions: They run the wide-nine and Jim Washburn might be urging old pal and coworker Jim Schwartz to give it a shot, especially since Washburn might become available soon and Cliff Avril's future is up in the air. They're 11th in the waiver order, though, and they're only likely to sign him if he clears because the Lions are short on cap space.
Cincinnati Bengals: Another easy connection due to the aggressive, wide-nine, 4-3 attack they run in Cincy. The Bengals never shy away from guys like this, and I think Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer would be fired up to bring him in.
Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta could plug Babin in opposite John Abraham and experience an immediate upgrade to a so-so pass rush. They were apparently interested in him last offseason, so I'd fully expect the Falcons to make a run if he clears waivers. They would, however, have to make room financially.
And some sleepers
Cleveland Browns: Don't rule out the possibility that Babin reunites with Joe Banner in Cleveland. Banner gave Babin that original contract, after all. The problem is that the Browns already have a lot of talented young dudes on that defensive front and they aren't going to want to overpay him for a lost 2012 season. With their waiver position, he's probably theirs if they want him.
Baltimore Ravens: Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted Tuesday that he expects the Ravens to "pounce" on Babin if he clears waivers. Baltimore, though, is strapped for cash. And the fact that they run a 3-4 could be a factor, too. Still, the Ravens' pass rush could use the boost.
Chicago Bears: There's a schematic fit here, it seems, but the Bears' pass rush is already rolling quite well. Not sure they'll be willing to cough up a new contract, but it's definitely a possibility. Beat guy Sean Jensen says not to rule it out.
My favorite potential suitors nobody's talking about
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Really, anyone in contention should consider it, especially teams like Tampa Bay. The Bucs already have a strong defensive front, but they lost Adrian Clayborn and Quincy Black and they only have 18 sacks this season. Babin could help them immensely in the playoff race.
Washington Redskins: They're doing everything possible to dial up the pass rush and keep the pressure off that secondary, and they know Babin well from playing him within the division. Who knows how he'd fare having to stand up as a situational pass rusher and outside linebacker, but it'd be an intriguing risk. And he could definitely help prep the 'Skins for a Week 16 matchup with Philly.