NFL Free Agency: 10 Best Linebackers On The Market.
We took a break to see how the first few days of “Franchise Mania” would work out. At post time, no one on this list has cut a deal or gotten the tag. That could change in 5-4-3-2-1.
For now, let’s look at which linebackers are available that are set to bring the rain for their 2011 team or another lucky situation.
#10 Kirk Morrison
Solid is the best route to go when describing Morrison. His play recognition is strong and his instincts usually serve him well. I look for him to stay in Buffalo and execute very well as the strong side starter in their revamped 4-3 package. If not, somebody is about to get a steal.
#9 Bradie James
His best years are clearly behind him at 31 years old. He will leave Dallas and walk on somewhere else as the NFL’s best rotation LB. He may have lost every-down status, but James will still make big plays in crucial situations when he punches the clock.
#8 Channing Crowder
Crowder has always been something of a wild-card and that has held him back from making the most of his obvious talent.
The word is buzzing that he will follow former Dolphins defensive mastermind Mike Nolan to Atlanta. If so, he will most likely rotate with Curtis Lofton (you will see him later) on the inside. If not, who knows what other plans Crowder may have? He could retire, unretired and retire again all before you finish reading this.
If Geno Hayes leaves Tampa Bay, he has the most upside available in this year’s FA group to help another team long term.
He’s only 24, has a knack for making big hits and clearly enjoys playing the game. If Hayes can get together with a system that will help him curb his habit of hot and cold streaks, he can be one of this game’s great defenders. If he hits the street, it will be interesting to see how his situation pans out.
#6 David Hawthorne
Hawthorne, like Hayes, is another example of a young guy that most likely has his best football ahead of him. He is a run killer. Repeat, he is a run killer. Seattle wants him back albeit for rock bottom money as they feel that he is limited outside of stopping the run. He’s 26, so the kid can still progress his coverage skills and if so, he will be a special talent. Another name to watch if he takes a pass out of the Northwest.
#5 Anthony Spencer
He will probably see the franchise mark from Dallas. It’s a smart move for Dallas as it’s good time to measure what he can still do as he nears 30. Spencer has earned the right to be deemed amongst the league’s best at this position with an arsenal of footage that proves that he’s strong in all areas of his game.
#4 Stephen Tulloch
If both sides can agree on a deal that makes sense, Tulloch will remain in Detroit. If not, look for Tulloch’s sneaky athleticism to get him work elsewhere and fast. At 5’11 he has a tendency to greet running backs inside smaller gaps that some of the bigger LBs can’t get into. It’s an unsung trait but it’s one that a team such as the Eagles could really use. Be excited if he comes your way regardless of who is already on your roster.
#3 D’Qwell Jackson
There’s two things that are keeping Jackson from headlining this list. The first one are the injuries that have dogged him throughout his career and the second one is how those injuries will follow him through the rest of his career as he nears 30.
You can’t argue with his 2011 production though as he lead the AFC in tackles. The Browns may have offense on the mind, but he is the rock of their defense.
Mike Holmgren can’t afford to let him go. If so, I could only imagine what he could do for someone such as the New England Patriots that need defensive playmakers in the worst way.
#2 Curtis Lofton
We talked about him earlier in the Channing Crowder bit. The Atlanta Falcons must re-sign him long term if they are serious about making a Super Bowl run.
Lofton has been considered by many to be the best LB in the league to be consistently snubbed of the big time accolades.
Word is that new DC Mike Nolan has walked in the door and is talking about removing Lofton from nickel packages.
Coaching changes always shake things up but if for whatever reason Lofton leaves Atlanta, it will clearly place the weight on the world on their all-star OLB Sean Weatherspoon.
#1 London Fletcher
He tops this list out of pure respect for who he is, what he has done and how he plays the game. But there is no way he leaves Washington. He will retire as a Redskin and that is that.