6 BEST LINEBACKERS STILL AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY
Linebacker, like running back, is a devalued position in the modern NFL, in spite of how important it is. What makes it undervalued is pretty much the same reason as well, the sheer number of talented guys coming out of college every year and available in free agency. If you’re not an elite, next level LB like Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks, Levonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts, you can pretty much guarantee most of these guys will suit up for different teams in their careers.
As such, there’s some real value available here so as teams wrap up their OTAs and get a good look at what they have under contract. All of these guys should be getting some DM slides very soon.
6. TAHIR WHITEHEAD formerly of the Carolina Panthers
2020: 51 tackles, one fumble recovery, one pass defended
Whitehead took a one-year deal in Carolina, making nine starts and appearing in 15 games. It was not the best work of his career, but it was also the first time he’s not been counted on as a full time starter since 2015 with the Detroit Lions. From 2016-2019 Whitehead recorded at least 108 tackles a season and 78 solo takedowns.
Perfect fit: Cincinnati Bengals
Cincy is in horrible shape on the inside of its defense, with really only Germaine Pratt taking the field as a proven starter. The Bengals did absolutely nothing to address the issue in April’s draft and, frankly, it would be smart for them to add a couple of the guys from this list.
5. KWON ALEXANDER formerly of the New Orleans Saints
2020: 57 tackles , three for a loss, one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, four passes defended
Alexander wouldn’t be on this list if not for a season ending torn Achilles suffered back in December. The Saints traded for Alexander at the deadline and he, along with Demario Davis, were as good a linebacker tandem as there was in the league.
Perfect fit: New Orleans Saints
According to his doctor, Alexander is already jumping and doing position drills. The season remains three months away and the preseason two months away. As Alexander improves, and the clock winds down, it’s difficult to see the Saints not actively adding him back to the roster after the results they got last season.
4. AVERY WILLIAMSON formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers
2020: 111 tackles, three for a loss, one sack, three passes defended
Williamson was acquired from the New York Jets in a deadline trade that worked out pretty well for the Steelers. They got the inside of their defense solidified and, in one game, against the Indianapolis Colts, Williamson recorded 14 tackles and a sack in a 28-24 come from behind win. Williamson has recorded 100-plus tackles in four out of his six seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Jets and Steelers. He had 78 with seven for a loss as a rookie in 12 starts in 2014 as a fifth round pick.
Perfect fit: Indianapolis Colts
Outside of Leonard, the Colts don’t have much at the linebacker position so it’s impossible to see how Williamson wouldn’t be a boost, even in a reserve role, to an already potent defense. There are a lot of outsized expectations in Indianapolis this season, and a division that just got a lot tougher thanks to the addition of Julio Jones. No reason not to make the defense as strong as it can be.
3. B.J. GOODSON formerly of the Cleveland Browns
2020: 91 tackles, two for a loss, 0.5 sacks, one fumble recovery, six passes defended
Goodson is looking to join his fifth team in his first six years in the league at the right time. A full time starter in his lone season with the Browns, Goodson put up career numbers across the board after a lackluster beginning with the New York Giants and a solid 2019 with the Green Bay Packers.
Perfect fit: Tennessee Titans
The Titans made big news this week adding Julio Jones, but their courting of Goodson has gone under the radar. This was a defense that underperformed in every way last season and Goodson is a young guy, just not finding his game, that the team should be able to count on for a couple of years.
2. DE’VONDRE CAMPBELL formerly of the Arizona Cardinals
2020: 99 tackles, seven for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, three passes defended
When the Cardinals drafted Zaven Collins out of Tulsa in the first round of April’s draft, there was little chance that they and Campbell would be reunited after a solid 2020 season on a one-year deal. Campbell was a four year starter for the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted him in the fourth round out of Minnesota in 2016. His best year was 2019 when he recorded 129 tackles, six for a loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, two interceptions and five passes defended.
Perfect fit: New York Giants
Campbell would be an instant upgrade over Reggie Ragland and exactly the same age and NFL experience as Ragland was drafted two rounds ahead of him by the Bills in 2016. New York needs to keep building up with young, bargain priced pieces and Campbell fits that bill, with some long term prospects if he can put up a third consecutive elite season.
1. K.J. WRIGHT formerly of the Seattle Seahawks
2020: 86 tackles, 11 for a loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 10 passes defended
Wright has been a fixture in Seattle’s since the team drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He’s started all but four games in which he was healthy enough to play and recorded more than 100 tackles five times. Two seasons ago, he had 132 tackles (a career high) to go with three picks (a career high) and 11 passes defended (a career high).
Perfect fit: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams don’t come off their draft board, even when they have roster needs staring them in the face. As such, they need to add a quality inside linebacker and Wright makes too much sense for them. They certainly have the film on him. Los Angeles did pick up Ernest Jones out of South Carolina in the third round of April’s draft, but the rest of their ILB depth charter – Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder and Kenny Young are all replaceable and certainly not anywhere near Wright’s caliber.
The NFL season begins on Thursday, Sep. 9 and the Week 1 Schedule is already up and taking bets at BetOnline.AG.