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Top 2007 Free Agent LB


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patsox23

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By: Greg Davis
QB | RB | WR | OL | DL | LB | DB | K

Lance Briggs, UFA, Chicago Bears
Briggs benefits from having Brian Urlacher as a teammate, but that’s no reason to doubt that Briggs is a really good linebacker in his own right. He may be the most sought after linebacker in this free agent class, and the Bears will have difficulty in retaining all of the defensive talent they have in the next few seasons if they wish to spend more money on offensive help and re-sign other current players. The Bears could slap the franchise tag on Briggs to keep him around, but if they don’t, expect him to be leaving the Windy City and taking up residence for a new team that will try and feature him on defense. Teams needing a tough linebacker to plug holes and make tackles will put Briggs high on their list. Given the Bears history in this type of matter, it’s likely that Briggs will find a new place to punish offenses.

Na'il Diggs, UFA, Carolina Panthers
Diggs has been a steady linebacker for the Green Bay Packers since his second season in the league. Injuries forced him to miss seven games last season and he now has just a single season to prove to the Panthers that he deserves a larger contract. Diggs, while steady, isn’t necessity for Carolina, so expect to see him hit the market in the hopes that someone appreciates what he does on the field, maybe even over-appreciates what he does on the field. Staying healthy will be the first step towards a successful contract year, and if he can perform like he did in Green Bay, a handful of teams should be interested in bringing Diggs into the fold. Anyone looking for a veteran linebacker to make some tackles and hold his own will show an interest.

Cato June, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Recent legal trouble could hurt his stock, but June was a first time starter in the Pro Bowl this past season. He’s relatively young and a tackling machine, so it’s likely that the Colts will do what they can to retain his talents. There’s good chance that June hits the market, though, to see what other organizations have to offer him financially; the Colts inability to reach the Super Bowl may also factor into a decision to leave. June’s not an overpowering player, so a team interested in him will be looking at utilizing his speed as a top priority, in the same way that the Colts have done. June will be the most sought after linebacker on the market, and perhaps the most sought after defensive player.

Adalius Thomas, UFA, Baltimore Ravens
It could be difficult to keep Thomas around because of his emerging status as one of the better linebackers in the NFL. Last season, with Ray Lewis lost to an injury for ten games, Thomas shined for the Ravens defensive unit. Credited with 86 total tackles, nine sacks, and a returned touchdown on one of his two interceptions, he boosted his free agent potential and he could be one of the top two or three pursued players if he has a successful ’06 campaign. Someone will throw big dollars his way, which means he could be lured away from Baltimore.

Other Free Agent Linebackers
Chase Blackburn, ERFA, New York Giants
Chad Brown, UFA, New England Patriots
James Darling, UFA, Arizona Cardinals
London Fletcher, UFA, Buffalo Bills
Randall Godfrey, UFA, San Diego Chargers
Kawika Mitchell, UFA, Kansas City Chiefs
Rob Morris, UFA, Indianapolis Colts



Count me in BIG TIME for Briggs and semi-big time for London Fletcher and Adalius Thomas. Otherwise...maybe Diggs. The rest don't fit our system and/or are junk.
 
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DGameguy

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Count me in on Briggs. He has been a terror. I have to say I really wouldn't mind London Fletcher wearing the silver and blue.

Although hell be 32, I believe he hasn't missed a game since he came into the league. He's a smart player and a great tackler.
 

ironwasp

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I'm really not sure there are any realistic alternatives to going after one of these guys. The collective age and declining speed of the linebacking corps - particularly on the inside - is now the team's major point of vulnerability for next season and beyond, and short of being able to draft someone with the potential of someone like AJ Hawk, it must be pretty doubtful that a rookie will be able to fill the void. That means making a signing in free agency - or a trade I guess - although I would not be remotely surprised to see them go after one of the guys with a little less profile in whom they upside that others might have missed.
 

shatch62

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Here is a partial list of front 7 players that are free agents (or RFA) in 2007 and some of my thoughts

Dwight Freeney | DE | TEAM: Indianapolis Colts
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 268 / 26
Speed to burn coming off the corner. Averaged 12.75 sacks per year coming into this season but has yet to get 1 in 2006. Would be HUGE money and would need to play OLB in the Pats system. Probably never going to happen.

Justin Smith | DE | TEAM: Cincinnati Bengals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 275 / 27
High effort guy that has been a bit of a disappointment being the #4 overall pick in the 2001 draft. Is currently tied for 4th in the NFL with 6 sacks. Is a little small for a Pats DE but is roughly the same size as Jarvis Green.

(RFA) Jared Allen | DE | TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'6' / 265 / 24
Top pass rusher - 24 sacks in 2.5 years – but has some off the field issues. Has been arrest twice in the past year for DUI. RFA so it will cost a draft pick to get him. Depending on the KC offer it will either be a 4th rounder or a 1st. With two 1st rounders he is a possibility.

Chris Kelsay | DE | TEAM: Buffalo Bills
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 275 / 26
Former 2nd round pick having his best season – 5 sacks so far this year. Not a game changer but would be a nice, young player to add to the Pats. Bonus would be taking him from a divisional rival.

(RFA) Robert Geathers | DE | TEAM: Cincinnati Bengals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 280 / 23
Former 4th rounder that has really shown a burst to get the QB – 6 sacks in 2006. Restricted so would cost a pick.

Donnie Edwards | ILB |TEAM: San Diego Chargers
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 227 / 33
Highly productive player that is getting up there in age – so he would fit right into BBs LB style. Extremely light at 228 pounds.

London Fletcher | ILB | TEAM: Buffalo Bills
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 5'10' / 245 / 31
Stocky LB who is a tackling machine. He has never missed a game in his 9 year career.

Gerald Hayes | ILB | TEAM: Arizona Cardinals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6'1' / 241 / 26
Young ILB that is really coming into his own this year. Missed all of last season with a knee injury but is on pace for 112 tackles this year.

Kawika Mitchell | ILB | TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 253 / 27
Had a lot of issues early in his career but has turned into a solid ILB the last two years. Gets by more with athletic ability than instincts.

Bryan Thomas | DE/OLB | TEAM: New York Jets
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 266 / 27
Was a bust a DE but has been solid at OLB. Should not cost a fortune and has the right size/speed for OLB in NE.

Adalius Thomas | OLB | TEAM: Baltimore Ravens
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 270 / 29
Stud OLB who is huge and fast. Will not be cheap

Antwan Peek | OLB | TEAM: Houston Texans
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'3' / 238 / 26
Never has done much in Houston – who has – who could be another player like Vrabel blossoming in NE.

Cato June | OLB | TEAM: Indianapolis Colts
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'0' / 227 / 26
Too small to play in NE but has been productive in the past.

(RFA) Shaun Phillips | OLB |TEAM: San Diego Chargers
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'3' / 262 / 25
After totaling 7 sacks all of last year he has turned his game up a notch this year as he already has 6 sacks. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a right calf injury in Week 7 against Kansas City.

Lance Briggs | OLB | TEAM: Chicago Bears
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 238 / 25
Highly productive player who reportedly wants a bigger contract that current teammate Brian Urlacher.

E.J. Henderson | LB | TEAM: Minnesota Vikings
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 245 / 26
More of a thumper than athlete. Would bring some nice young size to NE.
 

patsox23

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Antwan Peek, please.
 

cstjohn17

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Thanks Shatch! great stuff.

Looking at the list, I think we can rule out anyone who is a RFA or under 245. The Pats history is not to chase the top end free agents which rules out Freeney, Briggs and Thomas (although Thomas would be a great fit).

I would like to see them extend Alexander and TBC for cheap money to provide some young backups with knowledge of the system. Draft an OLB and ILB and then selectively sign 1 or 2 FAs.

Of the list below I like:
Bryan Thomas | DE/OLB | TEAM: New York Jets
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 266 / 27
- will have some knowledge of the system from the Jets and should not be very expensive

E.J. Henderson | LB | TEAM: Minnesota Vikings
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 245 / 26
- NFL caliber starter, solid should be cheap



shatch62 said:
Here is a partial list of front 7 players that are free agents (or RFA) in 2007 and some of my thoughts

Dwight Freeney | DE | TEAM: Indianapolis Colts
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 268 / 26
Speed to burn coming off the corner. Averaged 12.75 sacks per year coming into this season but has yet to get 1 in 2006. Would be HUGE money and would need to play OLB in the Pats system. Probably never going to happen.

Justin Smith | DE | TEAM: Cincinnati Bengals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 275 / 27
High effort guy that has been a bit of a disappointment being the #4 overall pick in the 2001 draft. Is currently tied for 4th in the NFL with 6 sacks. Is a little small for a Pats DE but is roughly the same size as Jarvis Green.

(RFA) Jared Allen | DE | TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'6' / 265 / 24
Top pass rusher - 24 sacks in 2.5 years – but has some off the field issues. Has been arrest twice in the past year for DUI. RFA so it will cost a draft pick to get him. Depending on the KC offer it will either be a 4th rounder or a 1st. With two 1st rounders he is a possibility.

Chris Kelsay | DE | TEAM: Buffalo Bills
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 275 / 26
Former 2nd round pick having his best season – 5 sacks so far this year. Not a game changer but would be a nice, young player to add to the Pats. Bonus would be taking him from a divisional rival.

(RFA) Robert Geathers | DE | TEAM: Cincinnati Bengals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 280 / 23
Former 4th rounder that has really shown a burst to get the QB – 6 sacks in 2006. Restricted so would cost a pick.

Donnie Edwards | ILB |TEAM: San Diego Chargers
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 227 / 33
Highly productive player that is getting up there in age – so he would fit right into BBs LB style. Extremely light at 228 pounds.

London Fletcher | ILB | TEAM: Buffalo Bills
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 5'10' / 245 / 31
Stocky LB who is a tackling machine. He has never missed a game in his 9 year career.

Gerald Hayes | ILB | TEAM: Arizona Cardinals
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6'1' / 241 / 26
Young ILB that is really coming into his own this year. Missed all of last season with a knee injury but is on pace for 112 tackles this year.

Kawika Mitchell | ILB | TEAM: Kansas City Chiefs
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 253 / 27
Had a lot of issues early in his career but has turned into a solid ILB the last two years. Gets by more with athletic ability than instincts.

Bryan Thomas | DE/OLB | TEAM: New York Jets
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'4' / 266 / 27
Was a bust a DE but has been solid at OLB. Should not cost a fortune and has the right size/speed for OLB in NE.

Adalius Thomas | OLB | TEAM: Baltimore Ravens
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'2' / 270 / 29
Stud OLB who is huge and fast. Will not be cheap

Antwan Peek | OLB | TEAM: Houston Texans
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'3' / 238 / 26
Never has done much in Houston – who has – who could be another player like Vrabel blossoming in NE.

Cato June | OLB | TEAM: Indianapolis Colts
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'0' / 227 / 26
Too small to play in NE but has been productive in the past.

(RFA) Shaun Phillips | OLB |TEAM: San Diego Chargers
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'3' / 262 / 25
After totaling 7 sacks all of last year he has turned his game up a notch this year as he already has 6 sacks. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a right calf injury in Week 7 against Kansas City.

Lance Briggs | OLB | TEAM: Chicago Bears
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 238 / 25
Highly productive player who reportedly wants a bigger contract that current teammate Brian Urlacher.

E.J. Henderson | LB | TEAM: Minnesota Vikings
HEIGHT/WEIGHT/AGE: 6'1' / 245 / 26
More of a thumper than athlete. Would bring some nice young size to NE.
 

mcbee

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I'd pass on all of those. Briggs'd be good but more money than Urlacher? Sounds a little rich.

How about Cain on end and Vrabel and Bruschi inside and draft 2 rookies in the 2-4 round. BB should have a good eye for linebackers.
 

cstjohn17

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mcbee said:
I'd pass on all of those. Briggs'd be good but more money than Urlacher? Sounds a little rich.

How about Cain on end and Vrabel and Bruschi inside and draft 2 rookies in the 2-4 round. BB should have a good eye for linebackers.

I could see Vrabs moving inside if necessary, seems to be easier to find DE/OLB than ILBs. It will be interesting to watch Colvin, IMO he has under performed and is has a $6.5M cap hit next year.

Is this the right Cain?
http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/players/7123
He appears to be a little small, 6'1, 235. Most of our OLBS are way over 250, Willie was closer to 265.
 

Digger44

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Chad Brown just signed with the Stealers. I am not sure if it is fir 1 year or not, but most likley. We wouldn't consider him anyway.
 

shatch62

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mcbee said:
I'd pass on all of those. Briggs'd be good but more money than Urlacher? Sounds a little rich.

How about Cain on end and Vrabel and Bruschi inside and draft 2 rookies in the 2-4 round. BB should have a good eye for linebackers.
I am all for getting a talented LB in rounds 2-4 but the odds of it happening are slim. Even if the Pats do it and hit on a Lance Briggs type player it usually takes a year or two for them to develop and I am not sure the Pats have the luxury of waiting. If they can get a Hayes at a reasonable salary I say they should do it.
 

RayClay

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Thanks guys, great lists. It seems they'll go the free agent route and the have to get new talent.

I'm still hoping maybe they'll draft one this year. Two #1's.

I think they'd draft a top pass rusher olb/de. Any in the draft?
 
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