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Needing help at a few skill-position spots, the Dolphins have identified a high-end target to chase. They are interested in Aaron Jones, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, who notes the interest in a potential agreement is mutual.

© Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates a victory against the Los Angeles Rams during their NFL divisional playoff game/

The Dolphins are also interested in bolstering their receiving corps. They are believed to be targeting both slot and boundary wide receivers, with names like Marvin Jones and T.Y. Hilton on their radar. Jones could certainly help in multiple areas, having excelled in four seasons with the Packers.

Green Bay has until March 15 to negotiate exclusively with Jones. Given his pedigree as likely the top back available, the standout runner may well have a deal in place before the legal tampering period concludes. The new league year begins March 17. The Packers and Jones went through extensive negotiations last year but could not hammer out a deal. Jones changed agents during this process. While the Packers are believed to have offered their starting back a deal that paid him north of $12M annually, that offer was low on fully guaranteed money.

It would be interesting to see Miami devote considerable funding to its running back spot, given the team’s needs at wide receiver. The Dolphins also return Myles Gaskin, who showed promise last season. Matt Breida is on track for free agency. While Miami has avenues to increasing its cap-space figure, the team has just more than $20M as of Tuesday. That figure sits 10th in the league, per OverTheCap.

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Full screen 1/31 SLIDES © Chris Graythen/Getty Images The best rookie seasons from NFL running backs The NFL has seen its fair share of great rookie seasons from running backs. These 30 seasons stand out among the rest. 2/31 SLIDES © Nate Fine / Getty Images 1964: Charley Taylor, Washington Taylor won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1964, accumulating 1,569 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns in 14 games. He had 199 carries and 53 receptions, and would move to wide receiver two years later. Taylor eventually made the Hall of Fame following eight Pro Bowl appearances. 3/31 SLIDES © Bettmann / Getty Images 1965: Gale Sayers, Bears Sayers had a brief but terrific career with Chicago, being named an All-Pro in his first five seasons. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1965 with 1,374 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and he also led the NFL in all-purpose yards as his team's punt and kick returner in his rookie season, adding two more scores in that role. 4/31 SLIDES © Focus on Sport / Getty Images 1971: John Brockington, Packers Brockington's NFL career started with a bang, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after accumulating 1,203 yards from scrimmage with five scores. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and have 1,105 yards rushing in 1971, but that average plunged to 3.7 yards per carry the following year. Brockington was an All-Pro in his rookie season, and also made the Pro Bowl in the next two years. Slideshow continues on the next slide 5/31 SLIDES © Clifton Boutelle / Getty Images 1973: Boobie Clark, Bengals Clark comprised one part of a terrific one-two punch in the Cincinnati backfield alongside Essex Johnson in 1973. While Clark averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, he had 988 yards rushing and 45 catches for 347 yards, also finding the end zone eight times. Clark had a productive eight-year career, but would never repeat the success he had in his rookie season. 6/31 SLIDES © Bettmann / Getty Images 1977: Tony Dorsett, Cowboys Dorsett had his first of eight 1,000 yard rushing seasons in his rookie year, rushing for 1,007 yards and scoring 13 times to win Offensive Rookie of the Year with Dallas. He also had an excellent playoff run en route to a Super Bowl victory. 7/31 SLIDES © Bettmann / Getty Images 1978: Earl Campbell, Oilers Campbell had one of the best starts to a career of any running back in NFL history, winning Offensive Player of the Year in his first three seasons with Houston. His career began in 1978 with the first overall draft choice matching the hype, leading the NFL with 1,450 yards rushing and 96.7 yards rushing per game. He also found the end zone 13 times. Campbell made the Pro Bowl five times in his eight-year career. 8/31 SLIDES © Ronald C. Modra / Getty Images 1979: Ottis Anderson, Cardinals Anderson's prominent 14-year career started with the Cardinals, as he was an All-Pro and won Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for a career-high 1,605 yards and scoring 10 times. Anderson had 4.8 yards per career, but was never able to match that mark during the rest of his career. He did rush for over 1,000 yards six times, including his first three years in St. Louis. 9/31 SLIDES © Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images 1980: Billy Sims, Lions Two years after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, Sims was the first overall pick in the 1980 draft. He started a very short but productive career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns and adding 51 catches for 621 yards and three scores. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards two more times in his career, but had his NFL time cut short by injuries, retiring after only five seasons. Slideshow continues on the next slide 10/31 SLIDES © Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images 1981: George Rogers, Saints Rogers was quite the workhorse for the Saints after going first overall in the 1981 draft. He led the NFL in carries (378) and rushing yards (1,674), adding 13 rushing touchdowns. The 1981 Offensive Rookie of the Year rushing for more than 1,000 yards three more times in his seven-year career, and also led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns in 1986 while in Washington. 11/31 SLIDES © The Sporting News / Getty Images 1982: Marcus Allen, Raiders Allen started his terrific 16-year career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year with a league-high 1,098 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns over nine games in a shortened NFL season. It was his first of two career All-Pro designations. 12/31 SLIDES © Owen C. Shaw / Getty Images 1983: Curt Warner, Seahawks Warner made his first of three career Pro Bowls with a terrific rookie campaign, rushing 335 yards for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had 325 yards receiving on 42 receptions. The Seahawks running back was still upstaged by Eric Dickerson for Rookie of the Year. 13/31 SLIDES © Owen C. Shaw / Icon Sportswire 1983: Eric Dickerson, Rams Dickerson not only won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1983, but had one of the best running back seasons of his era. He led the NFL with 390 carries for 1,808 yards and 2,212 yards from scrimmage, adding 20 touchdowns. Dickerson would go on to rush for 2,105 yards the following year, a record that still stands. 14/31 SLIDES © Kevin Reece / Icon Sportswire 1989: Barry Sanders, Lions Sanders started his historic career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1989, rushing for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 24 catches for 282 yards. It was his first of 10 career Pro Bowls and six career All-Pro designations. Slideshow continues on the next slide 15/31 SLIDES © Michael Zagaris / Getty Images 1992: Ricky Watters, 49ers Watters added to the high-powered 49ers offense, with 1,418 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. He had his first of seven career 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a 10-yard career that included stints with the 49ers, Eagles, and Seahawks. 16/31 SLIDES © George Gojkovich / Getty Images 1994: Marshall Faulk, Colts Faulk helped the Colts improve from 4-12 to 8-8 with his great rookie season, with 1,804 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He had a career-high 314 carries, rushing for 1,282 yards and 11 scores en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. 17/31 SLIDES © Focus on Sport / Getty Images 1995: Curtis Martin, Patriots Martin started his 11-year Hall of Fame career in New England with 368 yards for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns, adding 30 catches for 261 yards. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and made his first of five Pro Bowls. The rushing production started a streak of 10 consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons. 18/31 SLIDES © Peter Muhly / AFP / Getty Images 1997: Warrick Dunn, Buccaneers The versatile Dunn made the Pro Bowl and won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1997 with 1,440 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. He started 10 of 16 games for the Bucs, rushing for 978 yards and also catching 39 passes for 462 yards. Dunn made three Pro Bowls during his 12-year and finished with more than 15,000 yards from scrimmage. 19/31 SLIDES © Robert Laberge / Getty Images 1998: Fred Taylor, Jaguars The speedy Taylor fulfilled the hype as the eighth overall pick in the 1998 draft, finishing with 1,644 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. Despite the production, which included 1,223 yards rushing, Taylor failed to make the Pro Bowl and trailed Randy Moss in the Offensive Rookie of the Year vote. 20/31 SLIDES © Henry Ray Abram / AFP / Getty Images 1999: Edgerrin James, Colts Indianapolis drafted James after trading Marshall Faulk to the Rams in 1999. James filled the enormous void with arguably the greatest rookie season ever by a running back, finishing with 2,139 yards from scrimmage and a league-leading 17 touchdowns. He led the NFL with 369 carries and 1,553 rushing yards. James won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors but was even better in his sophomore season, with 2,303 yards from scrimmage and 18 scores. 21/31 SLIDES © John W. McDonough / Icon Sportswire 2000: Mike Anderson, Broncos Following up on the rookie success of Terrell Davis (1995) and Olandis Gary (1999) in Mike Shanahan's Broncos offense, Anderson emerged as a sixth-round pick to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 with 297 carries for 1,487 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He never came close to matching that success after 2000, though Anderson did rush for more than 1,000 yards once more in 2005. 22/31 SLIDES © Getty Images 2002: Clinton Portis, Broncos Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan hit once again with a rookie running back, as Portis won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 with 1,872 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. He averaged a spectacular 5.5 yards per carry, finishing with 1,508 yards rushing on 273 carries. Portis had another great year with Denver in 2003 before getting traded to Washington. 23/31 SLIDES © Tony Medina / Icon Sportswire 2006: Joseph Addai, Colts Addai had back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons to begin his career. He helped the Colts win a Super Bowl in his rookie season alongside fellow running back Dominic Rhodes, finishing the regular season with 1,081 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, while adding 325 yards receiving. 24/31 SLIDES © Icon Sportswire 2007: Adrian Peterson, Vikings Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards per game (95.8) in his rookie season, helping him win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He totaled 1,609 yards from scrimmage and 1,341 rushing yards in 14 games, along with 13 total touchdowns. Peterson rushed for over 1,000 yards seven times in 10 seasons with Minnesota, and continues to impress with his longevity. 25/31 SLIDES © Jeff Haynes / Icon Sportswire 2008: Matt Forte, Bears Forte was a centerpiece of the Bears offense for eight seasons, and his rookie year was one of his best seasons. He had 1,715 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 2008, seeing a career-high 379 touches. Forted ended up playing 10 seasons and making two Pro Bowls. 26/31 SLIDES © Anthony J. Causi / Icon Sportswire 2012: Alfred Morris, Washington Head coach Mike Shanahan's success with little-known rookie running backs continued in Washington after he set the standard in Denver. Morris, a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, had 335 yards for 1,613 yard and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. His success continued the following two seasons, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and making the Pro Bowl in both seasons. 27/31 SLIDES © Rich Kane / Icon Sportswire 2012: Doug Martin, Buccaneers Martin had the best season of his seven-year career in his rookie year, with 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He had 319 carries for 1,454 yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground, helping him make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. 28/31 SLIDES © Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports Images 2016: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys The highly-touted Elliott was the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, and fulfilled expectations by leading the NFL in carries (322) and rushing yards (1,631) as a rookie. He added 15 rushing touchdowns and also had 363 yards receiving on 32 catches. While Elliott was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler as a rookie, he lost out on the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award to teammate Dak Prescott. 29/31 SLIDES © Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images 2017: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs Hunt replaced the injured Spencer Ware as the Chiefs starting back in his rookie season and led the NFL in rushing for 1,327 yards. He also had 53 catches for 455 yards and 11 total touchdowns to make the Pro Bowl. Hunt got off to another hot start in 2018 but was released late in the year due to off-field issues. 30/31 SLIDES © Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images 2017: Alvin Kamara, Saints Kamara beat out fellow third-round rookie running back Kareem Hunt for Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, with 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, averaging an incredible 6.1 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per touch. He's made the Pro Bowl in his first three NFL seasons. 31/31 SLIDES © Noah K. Murray / USA Today Sports Images 2018: Saquon Barkley, Giants The Giants spent the second overall pick in the 2018 draft on Barkley, and he paid off quickly with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in his rookie season. His production included 1,307 yards rushing and 91 catches for 721 yards receiving. Unfortunately, Barkley has struggled with injuries in the following two years. 31/31 SLIDES

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The Saints now have $4.34M in extra cap room to work with, thanks to David Onyemata. The defensive tackle has agreed to convert a portion of his $7M base into a signing bonus, kicking a portion of his hit into 2022 and granting the Saints some flexibility in the near term.

© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93) tackles Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (10) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. 

Onyemata cracked the Saints’ starting lineup in 2019 and re-upped with the Saints last year on a three-year, $27M deal. The move garnered mixed reviews since Onyemata wasn’t a tremendous performer in his platform year, per the advanced metrics. Then, he silenced the critics with 44 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and one interception. Pro Football Focus graded him as the seventh-best interior defender in the NFL, behind only Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, Mario Edwards Jr., Vita Vea, DeForest Buckner and Cameron Heyward.

Meanwhile, the Saints have also re-signed defensive back J.T. Gray, Rapoport hears. The special teams specialist will stick around on a two-year, $4M deal that includes $2M in guarantees.

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Full screen 1/26 SLIDES © Mike Powell/Getty Images Forgotten NFL stars of yesteryear: Defense Sports have a way of ensuring some stars are remembered for generations while other standouts' legacies are overlooked. This occurs often in a sport with 22-man lineups. Here are some of the NFL (or AFL) defensive greats whose quality careers have, to some degree, slipped through the cracks. No Hall of Famers or one-year wonders here, just high-end performers who were among their era's best. 2/26 SLIDES © Tom Hauck-Icon Sportswire Eric Allen Allen played on Eagles and Raiders teams with legends but stood out as a 14-year starter. A highlight mainstay in Philly, Allen expertly patrolled the flanks for Buddy Ryan's aggressive defense and the Eagles' all-time 1991 unit. He notched four pick-sixes in 1993 -- including this tour de force -- and eight in his career (one shy of Deion Sanders' total). A starter into his mid-30s, Allen finished with 54 INTs and helped the Raiders' senior tour-styled roster return the franchise to the playoffs. Retiring just before Oakland's 2002 Super Bowl run may work against Allen, as does those Eagle teams' playoff underachievement. 3/26 SLIDES © Bob Falcetti-Icon Sportswire Jessie Armstead Part of two teams that received "30 for 30" treatment (Carter High and the Miami Hurricanes), Armstead saw some of his Giants teammates become better remembered due to playing in the iconic Super Bowl XLII. The 1993 Round 8 pick was an essential piece of the first 21st-century Giants Super Bowl team. The outside linebacker started for six seasons in New York, making five Pro Bowls, and served as a Michael Strahan wingman of sorts for the 2000 team that lost a one-sided Super Bowl to the Ravens. Despite not being an edge rusher, Armstead recorded 40 sacks. He was essential for three top-10 defenses as the Giants built a contender. 4/26 SLIDES © Focus on Sport-Getty Images Coy Bacon The NFL has not retroactively charted sacks before 1982, minimizing the work of previous eras' pass rushers. Bacon qualifies, having taken his sack prowess on the road in the 1970s. Bacon made just three Pro Bowls, but he compiled 130.5 unofficial sacks, per NFL historian John Turney. He registered either 21.5 or an insane 26 (accounts differ) in a 14-game season with the 1976 Bengals. Bacon did that at age 34; the 270-pound edge and inside rusher started for the Rams, Chargers, Bengals and Washington until age 38. Despite a sack total that would rank 15th all time, Bacon was never even a Hall of Fame semifinalist. Slideshow continues on the next slide 5/26 SLIDES © Sporting News via Getty Images Al 'Bubba' Baker In a similar position to Bacon, Baker came along a bit later (1978) but saw his best seasons lost to history. Particularly, the 6-foot-6 defensive end's rookie slate needs more attention. The Lions credited Baker with 23 sacks as a rookie; Michael Strahan's official record sits at 22.5. The 1978 Defensive Rookie of the Year, Baker finished with an unofficial 132 sacks in a 13-year career spent with the Lions, Cardinals, Vikings and Browns. Housing an ahead-of-his-time bevy of pass-rush moves, Baker made three Pro Bowls and averaged 12.5 sacks a season through 1984. The NFL needs to do better with its sack forefathers. 6/26 SLIDES © George Gojkovich-Getty Images Bill Bergey Perhaps the NFL's best middle linebacker for a stretch, Bergey was certainly one of his era's top defenders. An agreement with the quickly defunct World Football League led to the Bengals trading him to the Eagles for an incredible haul in 1974 -- two first-round picks and a second -- but it led to a run of five straight Pro Bowls and eventually the formation of a top-end Eagles defense. The hard-hitting linebacker displayed a remarkable knack for acquiring the football, intercepting 27 passes and recovering 21 fumbles in 12 seasons. Bergey helped the Eagles' No. 1 defense to Super Bowl XV in 1980, his final season. 7/26 SLIDES © George Gojkovich-Getty Images Matt Blair The Vikings' voyages to Super Bowls in the 1970s are generally credited to Fran Tarkenton, the Purple People Eaters defensive line and their other Hall of Famers -- including all-time INT leader Paul Krause and multiple O-linemen. A burgeoning star on some of those teams and the top player on lesser early-'80s Vikes squads, Blair was destined to be underrated. But the all-around outside linebacker talent grew into a premier cog for several seasons. The six-time Pro Bowler is credited with 39 fumbles forced or recovered and 16 interceptions. He also was an all-time field goal and PAT blocker, swatting 19. 8/26 SLIDES © Focus on Sport-Getty Images Bobby Boyd Boyd became one of the NFL's all-time ball hawks, intercepting 57 passes in just nine seasons. That total ranked third in league history when Boyd exited after the 1968 season and still sits fifth among pure cornerbacks. The former college quarterback intercepted at least seven passes in five Colts seasons, wrapping up his career with eight as part of an overlooked (because of Super Bowl III's result) dominant defense. Never a Hall of Fame finalist despite being on the All-Decade 1960s team, Boyd may be enshrined had his career not transpired in between Baltimore's championship seasons (1958-59, '70). 9/26 SLIDES © Michael J. Minardi-Getty Images Joey Browner On the wrong side of the Herschel Walker trade, the late-1980s Vikings paused the Bears' NFC Central run and assembled back-to-back No. 1-ranked defenses. Combining a ferocious style with quality ball skills, Browner was Ronnie Lott's top competition for several years. A Pro Bowler from 1985-90, the Viking strong safety intercepted at least five passes in five straight seasons (including six in the strike-shortened 1987, when Minnesota fell just short of Super Bowl XXII) and landed on three All-Pro first teams. The Vikes running into better teams in January and fading after the Walker deal may have affected Browner's lasting appeal. Slideshow continues on the next slide 10/26 SLIDES © Mike Powell-Getty Images Dale Carter Beyond Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, the stacked Chiefs defenses of the 1990s housed a star in the secondary. The Chiefs depended on Carter's elite coverage skills during his seven-year Kansas City stay. He lit up the NFL as the 1992 Defensive Rookie of the Year, intercepting seven passes and returning two punts for TDs. The standout cornerback made four straight Pro Bowls from 1994-97 and helped two top-ranked Chiefs defenses cement 13-3 seasons. A full-season drug suspension sidetracked Carter's career in 2000; his post-Missouri seasons (on four teams) obscured the dominance he displayed at his peak. 11/26 SLIDES © Rick Stewart-Getty Images Ray Childress With Bruce Matthews and Mike Munchak blocking for Warren Moon's Run and Shoot attack, Oilers defenders were bound to be overshadowed. Despite being at a defensive disadvantage due to its high-octane offensive style, Houston played top-10 run defense from 1988-93. Childress keyed that consistency. The Oilers moved the 1985 top-five pick from defensive end to D-tackle midway through his career. Regardless of position, Childress thrived. He was a five-time Pro Bowler who recorded 76.5 sacks. Three straight 1990s Oiler playoff collapses and their subsequent relocation likely worked against Childress, legacy-wise. 12/26 SLIDES © Focus on Sport-Getty Images Nolan Cromwell Enjoying a rare transition from 1,000-yard rusher as a college option quarterback to full-time NFL safety, Cromwell shined as a back-line defender for the Rams in the 1970s and '80s. The supreme athlete vacillated between safety and slot cornerback, serving as a game-wrecking chess piece on Bud Carson's defenses early in his career and a steady hand for the John Robinson-era Rams teams that returned the franchise to playoff mainstay. Cromwell was the best safety in the game for a few years, earning All-Pro acclaim from 1980-82 and notching 20 INTs over his first three years as a starter (1979-81). 13/26 SLIDES © Bob Campbell/San Francisco Chronicle-Getty Images Dave Grayson Whether at safety, cornerback or kick returner, Grayson could locate running room. An AFLer in nine of the league's 10 seasons -- as a Dallas Texan/Kansas City Chief and Oakland Raider -- Grayson retired after the 1970 season and did so with the fifth-most interception return yards ever. Fifty years later, Grayson's 933 yards remain in the top 20. The Texans/Chiefs corner and Raiders safety intercepted 48 passes -- his 47 in the AFL were by far the most in league history -- and was a six-time Pro Bowler. He ended his career with six Raiders seasons, playing a role in the franchise's ascent. 14/26 SLIDES © Steve Larson/The Denver Post-Getty Images Rich 'Tombstone' Jackson Jackson landing with a better team and staying healthier a bit longer may have vaulted him into the Hall of Fame, but the feared defensive end's status with the then-woeful Broncos and knee injuries cutting his career short walled off that avenue. Former SI NFL czar Paul Zimmerman slotted Jackson on his All-Century team, and the Broncos credit the three-time All-Pro with three straight double-digit sack seasons (in 14 games) from 1968-70. Jackson's freakish strength enabled him to be a dominant run player as well. Jackson's prime being limited to barely four seasons has relegated him to NFL folklore, but the stories are legendary. Slideshow continues on the next slide 15/26 SLIDES © Damian Strohmeyer-Getty Images Albert Lewis Had Lewis played during the social media era, he would be one of the NFL's most popular players. A quality cornerback who dropped 4.3-second 40 times and was part of a top-tier Chiefs secondary, Lewis carried a skill that generated a slew of unusual highlights. He finished a 16-year career as the NFL's all-time punt blocker, spoiling 11 regular-season punts. Lewis added a block-six in a 1986 wild-card game, wrapping a season in which he blocked four punts and tackled a punter for a de facto fifth. This preceded a four-year run of Pro Bowls. Lewis (42 INTs) also reeled off a 1990 stretch with three blocks in three games. An all-action player. 16/26 SLIDES © Robert Riger-Getty Images Gene 'Big Daddy' Lipscomb The late-1950s Colts championship teams featured two Hall of Fame defensive linemen and a gargantuan defensive tackle working with them. A part-time wrestler, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Lipscomb towered over his competition. But the nomadic behemoth moved exceptionally well for a player his size, regularly chasing down ball carriers for the Rams, Colts and Steelers. "Big Daddy" did not join Gino Marchetti or Art Donovan in the Hall of Fame and tragically died of a drug overdose at age 31 -- after his third Pro Bowl season -- but he made enough of an impression to be named a finalist for the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team last year. 17/26 SLIDES © George Gojkovich-Getty Images Greg Lloyd Kevin Greene is in the Hall of Fame from the Steelers' 1990s "Blitzburgh" defense, but Lloyd was the heart of the unit that led the franchise back to prominence. A dominant outside linebacker, Lloyd stood as maybe the 1990s' most intimidating player and managed to operate as a traditional linebacker on some downs and Greene's edge-rushing mate on others. Lloyd forced a stunning 27 fumbles from 1991-95 -- a span featuring five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro nods -- and landed as an All-Decade performer. Injuries shortened Lloyd's prime, but he was one of the NFL's best players for several years. 18/26 SLIDES © Stephen Dunn-Getty Images Karl Mecklenburg The ability to function as a stalwart at just about every front-seven position ended up working against Mecklenburg. He was the extraordinarily rare inside linebacker who spent many passing downs rushing quarterbacks from a defensive end position. This multidimensionality limited Mecklenburg's numbers, but he anchored Denver's front seven on three Super Bowl defenses. The 12-year veteran amassed 79 sacks and was a first-team All-Pro three times in the 1980s. The Hall of Fame has made a few worthy Bronco defenders' roads difficult, but Mecklenburg's uniquely productive career probably warrants enshrinement. 19/26 SLIDES © James Flores-Getty Images Tommy Nobis Nobis was essentially sentenced to NFL obscurity by being sent to an expansion team -- one that never made the playoffs during his career. A superstar at Texas who played both ways, the middle linebacker went No. 1 overall to the expansion Falcons in 1966. Despite Nobis unleashing his sideline-to-sideline tackling ability immediately and making the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons, this had little impact on woeful teams. Nobis led the Falcons in tackles in nine of his 11 seasons, but knee injuries slowed him in the latter stages of his career. He drew comparisons to Butkus and Nitschke but enjoyed a lower-profile career. 20/26 SLIDES © Focus on Sport-Getty Images Leslie O'Neal A master craftsman on the edge, O'Neal was one of the NFL's best pass rushers for over a decade. The longtime Chargers defensive end blazed to eight 10-plus-sack seasons from 1986-97 and sits 14th with 132.5 career sacks -- more than Dwight Freeney or Hall of Famer Charles Haley. Although O'Neal was the top pass rusher on the Chargers' 1994 Super Bowl team, Junior Seau led the '90s Bolts defenses. O'Neal shined on forgettable pre-Seau teams, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year acclaim in 1986, and produced into his 30s on forgettable late-'90s Rams squads as well. But he has fallen short of Canton. 21/26 SLIDES © George Gojkovich-Getty Images Lemar Parrish and Ken Riley One of the NFL's lowest-profile franchises has seen many contributors' work lost to history, but their two ace cornerbacks from the 1970s deserve more recognition. Riley's 65 INTs remain fifth in NFL history and first among pure corners; he anchored the Cincinnati secondary as a 15-year starter. Though never a Pro Bowler, Riley picked off eight passes at age 36 in 1983 to earn All-Pro acclaim. The flashier Parrish was the better regarded of the two, soaring to eight Pro Bowls in a 13-year career (with Cincinnati, Washington and Buffalo). He compiled 12 TDs -- five as a return man. Together, he and Riley combined for nine pick-sixes and helped form arguably the best position group in Bengals annals. 22/26 SLIDES © Mitchell Layton-Getty Images Michael Dean Perry William "The Refrigerator" Perry did not make a Pro Bowl; his younger brother went to six. Yet outside of Cleveland, the guy with the iconic nickname is far better known. This unusual Q-rating gap aside, the younger Perry was one of the NFL's best defensive tackles for many years. Short like his brother, the 6-foot-1 interior cog was an All-Pro by his second season -- when he helped the Browns to their most recent AFC championship game (1989). Stout against the run as well, Perry is Cleveland's No. 2 all-time sacker (51.5). Though Perry made his final Pro Bowl in Denver, the Broncos cut him a month before their Super Bowl XXXII win. 23/26 SLIDES © Nate Fine-Getty Images Isiah Robertson "Butch" Robertson was the guy Earl Campbell trucked on that famous uniform-unraveling run, but he accomplished plenty outside of that memorable visual. Possessing supreme speed for a 1970s linebacker, Robertson intercepted 25 passes and forced 24 fumbles. The six-time Pro Bowl outside 'backer earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1971, and his snazzy pick-six in the 1974 divisional round snapped a two-decade-plus Rams championship-game drought. Robertson provided a big boost to a Rams defense exiting its "Fearsome Foursome" era and helped the Bills to multiple playoff berths in his 30s. 24/26 SLIDES © George Gojkovich-Getty Images Fred Smerlas Joining Robertson on some forgotten early-'80s Bills playoff teams, Smerlas hung around through several subsequent lean years. Departing the Bills months before their Super Bowl streak began further obscured the five-time Pro Bowler. One of the forefathers of the often thankless 3-4 nose tackle position, Smerlas thrived at the point of attack as the Bills rose to the No. 1 defense in 1980. The team fell off for much of the '80s, but Smerlas was still around when they resurfaced -- blocking a field goal to seal the Bills' 1988 AFC East title. Smerlas played six games as a 49er; they came for the 1990 team that just missed its three-peat shot. 25/26 SLIDES © Bettmann-Getty Images Abe Woodson One of the NFL's first great return specialists, Woodson also operated as a lockdown cornerback for several 49ers teams from the late 1950s to mid-'60s. Woodson blazed to seven return touchdowns, including a 1963 season in which he took three kicks back. (His 105-yarder in 1959 required unusual navigation.) As a corner, Woodson intercepted just 19 passes but was one of the first players who forced quarterbacks to look elsewhere for completions. Woodson never playing in a playoff game in 10 seasons with the 49ers and Cardinals left him prone to be somewhat omitted as the decades passed. 26/26 SLIDES © Focus on Sport-Getty Images Louis Wright Irking Bronco fans for years, the Hall of Fame has passed on a few of the eight-Super Bowl franchise's greats. Despite being an All-Decade cornerback viewed alongside Hall of Famers Mel Blount and Mike Haynes in the late 1970s and early '80s, Wright was never a finalist. Wright's 26 INTs are largely a product of defenses avoiding him, and no advanced metrics existed to illustrate coverage skills at the time. But he was a true shutdown corner who played in two Super Bowls -- both blowout losses. The "Orange Crush" defense ceded 10.6 and 12.4 points per game in 1977 and '78, respectively. It does not reach those heights without Wright. 26/26 SLIDES

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