The more I think about it the more I feel as if this team could make the transition to a 3-4 scheme relatively easily.
Lets start with the linebackers.
I see Angerer and Brackett as 2 very good ILB options. I don't see an issue with starting those 2, and then bring Kavell Connor and Philip Wheeler as solid depth.
On the outside things get more interesting. I personally think that Mathis and Freeney could both play OLB in a 3-4. They have the speed and awareness to make the transition. I think that if they spend the offseason focusing on learning the coverage aspect of being a LB, the move could work out quite nicely. Also Jerry Hughes, Kavell Connor and Philip Wheeler all would be able to play OLB, allowing for real flexibility in certain situations.
Now lets talk about the DLine because thats where the real issues are.
To be honest I don't see this transition to be nearly as bad as people seem to think. Our DTs are undersized by 4-3 standards, but I could see (some of) them working out as 3-4 DEs as we transition.
The player I think would benefit the most from this would be Jamaal Anderson. I think Anderson could thrive as a DE in a 3-4 scheme. He has the size to stay on the line with the new scheme, and has gotten much better at using his hands to work his way through and around blockers.
I also think that both Drake Nevis and Fili Moala could hold down the spot of DE in the new scheme until we found a real difference maker to take over. Even though they were drafted as undersized 4-3 DTs I think that they are quick enough to fill the void at DE. I am not saying that this would be a position of strength, but definitely would be manageable.
The key to this transition is drafting a NT, and there are definitely a few serious options here. Assuming that Dontari Poe will be gone before we draft in the 2nd round, Alameda Ta'amu, Josh Chapman, Hebron Fangupo, and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste are all real NT options that will be available later in the draft. If we were to reach a bit for Ta'amu in the 2nd (he is projected as a mid-late 2nd rounder) or take Fangupo, Chapman or Jean-Baptiste in the 3rd then we get a serious space eater to anchor the defense. Also, with 2 slightly oversized DEs winging our NT, there is less pressure put on the NT then there normally would be.
While this rookie is adjusting to the NFL Antonio Johnson is big enough, and has the experience, to play the NT position.
Obviously this is not going to be an elite defense (we won't even talk about the secondary) by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely see this is a reasonable stopgap for Pagano to get his own people in place. I would be excited to see what Freeney and Mathis would do as OLBs. I think that throwing 2 big guys with average mobility in at DE would be balanced out by Freeney's and Mathis' explosiveness off the edge.
Anyway this is just something that I have been contemplating recently and I was curious what others thought. Is the transition actually such a difficult one?