From top five free agent to non-existant in one easy step.

When it comes to the NFL, little is seen as more exciting (and increasingly disappointing) every offseason than the midnight kickoff to the free agency period. Every year, as that day in spring approaches, the soon-to-be available players become known and speculation and evaluation begins on their prospective landing spots and impacts on those teams.

In 2010, one of the top free agents, according to many analysts and writers, was Baltimore’s run-stuffing defensive end Dwan Edwards. Edwards, who took over starting at end during week six in 2009, has never been a stat-master, as is the case with most 3-4 defensive linemen. Over his six years in the NFL, the 51st pick in the 2004 draft appeared in 56 games with 23 starts, 119 tackles (89 solo), 2 sacks, 4 passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble. With numbers that low, it is easy for the casual fan to overlook a player, yet the majority of those who cover the NFL agreed that Edwards’ run-stuffing ability and impact on the Ravens’ defense was a monumental one and many had him ranked among the top five defensive – and some had argued, overall – players in the upcoming free agent class.

Edwards began his career in Baltimore with a modest four appearances at defensive tackle his rookie year, leading to twelve appearances  (with one start) in 2005 where he posted a then-high 23 tackles. In 2006, he only saw action in a few games, registering just seven tackles before his breakout year of 2007 where he totaled 41 tackles and a sack in thirteen starts at defensive end. Spirits and expectations were high heading into his contract year of 2008 until Edwards went down with a spinal injury in the preseason and needed season-ending surgery to repair it. Dwan got the necessary treatment and sat out the entire 2008 campaign, which lost him any leverage he may have had in negotiating a free agent deal after the season. After signing on for a one-year accord with Baltimore, he returned to the field in 2009 to appear in every game, starting each one from week six on. In this past year, he racked up 47 tackles and a sack while helping his team to have the best rush defense and top overall defense during the regular season.

Due to his increased backfield presence and nose for the ball, Edwards was looked upon as a hot commodity in a not-so-special group of players available. Why was it, then, that when the Buffalo Bills landed him (and former Denver ILB Andra Davis) in early March to assist in their shift to a new 3-4 base defensive scheme, that he became a non-factor?
Many news outlets published the story as another bland signing by the club, and certain writers and personalities (such as ESPN’s John Clayton) have repeatedly ignored his signing when ‘evaluating’ the Bills’ offseason moves. For a team who is looking to improve on a 30th ranked run defense, this was a huge move that will quietly be one of the smartest decisions made in the early goings of the Buddy Nix era. Starting on a hefty line alongside nose tackle Torrell Troup and fellow defensive end Marcus Stroud, Edwards looks to help his new defensive co-ordinator (former Dolphins’ ILB coach George Edwards) with a quick transformation to an effective, feared unit.

It’ll be great to see him out there improving the guys around him, possibly helping young end Alex Carrington along the way, but no matter what, don’t be surprised if he never gets any attention during his tenure here – even if as an effective player.

Just goes to show you, in the national media’s eye, all you have to do to be irrelevant is to have Ralph C. Wilson Jr. signing your checks.

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