Tennessee football’s top 10 NFL DEs ever

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Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

These were the best pro careers of Tennessee football Volunteers defensive ends.

Note: This is part of a series of posts looking back on Tennessee football players who had the best NFL careers at each position.

Dating back to the days of Robert Neyland, Tennessee football has produced legendary pro defensive ends. In fact, it may be the Vols’ most dominant position historically in the NFL despite the program’s label of Wide Receiver U.

Two of UT’s retired jerseys were the jerseys of guys who became Hall-of-Fame defensive ends at the pro level. Regardless of what system the Vols ran, they had a knack for filling the pros up with elite edge rushers.

Of course, many of those players were actually defensive tackles or linebackers when they played for Tennessee football, but their strength combined with their speed and athleticism led to coaches moving them over to defensive end in the pros. That have been a very common tactic over the years.

In this post, we’re going to rank the greatest NFL careers of UT defensive ends. To qualify for this list, they have to have played defensive end at the next level. What they played during their college days doesn’t matter.

We’ll judge them by their accomplishments and their longevity. Of course, some younger guys probably hope to be on this list one day, including Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett, the all-time career sacks leader in school history. Hey, he already has a Super Bowl.

All of the guys on this list, though, have already completed their careers, and many of them are among the most recognizable faces in pro history. In fact, the two Hall-of-Famers we mentioned happen to be the only two NFL Hall-of-Famers from UT right now, although Peyton Manning and Jason Witten are sure bets to go in the future.

So just how great were these guys at the next level? Did it replicate what they did on Rocky Top? Let’s break all of that down here. These are the top 10 Tennessee football defensive ends who had the greatest NFL careers.

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