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Best interior defensive linemen available in the 2021 NFL Draft and free agency

Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (left) celebrates with defensive lineman Christian Barmore after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially team-building season for the NFL, and that means all 32 franchises are spending countless hours figuring out how to shape their rosters for 2021 and beyond. And one of the big decisions is whether to address positions of need via the 2021 NFL Draft, the upcoming free-agency period or the trade market.

Teams assess their weaknesses and look at all potential options in a given position group. In this series, we’ll investigate the strengths and weaknesses of all positions this offseason, with an eye toward the draft, free agency and the potential trade options.

Here’s a look at the 2021 market for interior defensive linemen.

Best interior defensive linemen Available via Free Agency (Free-Agent board rank)

  1. Leonard Williams (19)
  2. Dalvin Tomlinson (39)
  3. Shelby Harris (46)
  4. Ndamukong Suh (98)
  5. Sheldon Rankins (99)

Editor's note: PFF’s 2021 NFL free-agency rankings offer three-year player grades, updated contract information, in-depth player analysis and PFF’s newly developed Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric for all of the top NFL free agents. Click here to view the full list.

It’s not a great group of free-agent interior defensive linemen, especially for teams looking for a high-end pass-rusher.

Williams is the best all-around option, and his durability and run-stopping ability are big reasons why he has finished as one of the five most valuable players at his position in two of the last three seasons. While Williams did tally a career-high 13 sacks this season, his 69.9 pass-rush grade is right in line with his career baseline, so don’t overrate this most recent performance — he’s still more of a “five-to-eight sack” kind of player. 

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