The free agency period for the 2014 season begins at 4:00pm on Tuesday, March 11th, and the Finsiders have you covered with the top names at each respective position when the market opens.
Today’s preview focuses on the men at the back end of the front seven, and typically the defensive signal callers in the linebackers.
Here is a list of select linebackers who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year. These players can re-sign with their current teams at any time and can begin to negotiate with other teams beginning on Saturday (3/8).
Jon Beason/OLB/Giants (6-0, 235lbs): The University of Miami product was traded after Week 4 last season from the Panthers to the Giants, Beason became a stabilizing force on a Giants defense that struggled at times, but came on strong late. He played in 12 games last year, starting 11 for the G-Men, making 93 combined tackles. Beason is a three-time Pro-Bowler (2008-2010), and a two-time All Pro (2008,2009). (UPDATE 3/13: Jon Beason has re-signed with the New York Giants.)
Karlos Dansby/ILB/Cardinals (6-4, 250lbs): After being released by Dolphins during the 2013 offseason, Dansby returned to the team that drafted him in the Arizona Cardinals. The 32 year old inside linebacker was a defensive playmaker last year, picking off quarterbacks four times, and was all over the field racking up a combined 122 tackles. (UPDATE 3/12: Karlos Dansby has signed with the Cleveland Browns.)
Erin Henderson/MLB/Vikings (6’3, 244lbs): The 27 year old undrafted veteran out of Maryland will be entering his seventh season in the league, and is coming off of a season in which played in 14 games, and started 12 of them at middle linebacker for Minnesota. He made a total of 112 tackles last year, and also intercepted quarterbacks twice, and sacked them four times. He’s been a rotating starter for the past three season with the Vikings. He does have several off the field issues, as he was arrested twice during the 2013 season, which attributed to him losing his starting job during the year, and eventually being released after the season. He could face additional NFL discipline from the incidents.
D’Qwell Jackson/ILB/Browns (6-0, 240lbs): An eight-year veteran who spent his entire career with the Cleveland Browns, Jackson was released last week. In 2013, Jackson was 7th in the league in combined tackles with 141. A model of consistency for the past three seasons, the 2006 2nd round pick has started in 48 straight games. (UPDATE 3/6: D’Qwell Jackson has agreed to terms with the Indianapolis Colts.)
Perry Riley/ILB/Redskins (6-0, 238lbs): A full-time starter with the Redskins for the second year in a row, Riley may be the long-term replacement for London Fletcher in Washington. If he does move on, he has the numbers to back up being a starter in this league, with 244 total tackles the past two seasons, to go with 6.5 sacks and 15 pass defenses. (UPDATE 3/11: Perry Riley has agreed to terms to remain with the Washington Redskins)
Daryl Smith/ILB/Ravens (6’2, 248lbs): Smith had unbelievably big shoes to fill this year, taking over for soon to be Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, and made 123 combined tackles in his first year in Baltimore. He showed a playmaker gene similar to the Lewis, racking up five sacks, picking off quarterbacks three times, including taking one back for a touchdown. He also forced two fumbles. Smith had previously spent the past nine seasons before last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. (UPDATE 3/14: Daryl Smith has re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens.)
Brandon Spikes/MLB/Patriots (6’2, 255lbs): More of a two-down run stopping linebacker, the University of Florida product played in all 16 games last season despite a knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve after the regular season, and did not play in the postseason for the Patriots. (UPDATE 3/14: Brandon Spikes has signed with the Buffalo Bills.)
Wesley Woodyard/MLB/Broncos (6’0, 233lbs): Going from a full-time starter to a nickel-package linebacker this season, the man nicknamed “the Lumberjack” was still well respected inside the Denver locker room enough to be one of the team’s captains. Woodyard played in 14 games last season, starting in 10. Woodyard excelled as a coverage linebacker, but found himself on the field less and less as the Broncos made their run at Super Bowl XLVIII. Through six seasons (all with Denver), Woodyard has 434 total tackles, 15 pass defenses, and five interceptions. (UPDATE 3/14: Wesley Woodyard has signed with the Tennessee Titans.)
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