In my last post I went over some free agents on the defensive line that the Bears could be (or should be) interested in. Today, I will go over the inside and outside linebackers.
The linebacker situation is an interesting situation. It seems there are a lot of linebackers on the squad. Once the injuries hit, we saw, however, that depth was a problem. What was also a problem was that some of the players were put in positions that they could not handle.
Jonathan Bostic has the talent to make an impact on the game. He had a mediocre rookie season, though. To be fair, with the injury to DJ Williams, Bostic was asked to play a lot more than was projected for him.
While playing at the middle linebacker position, it became clear to some that the middle may not be his strongest position. He had trouble reading plays off the ball and looked lost at times.
One answer to that problem is moving Bostic over to outside linebacker. He can back up Lance Briggs, and seeing that Briggs is nearing the end of his career, Bostic can learn under him and be ready to take over.
In the meantime, if the Bears do indeed go to a 3-4, there is a need for inside linebacker.
Donald Butler is a good young linebacker who can play all three downs. He had 84 tackles, half a sack, and an interception this season, after having missed the first three games with a groin issue. The San Diego Chargers management has spoken about him being such a good leader in the clubhouse so he should fit well in Chicago.
Vinny Rey started the season as Rey Maualuga’s backup. When Maualuga suffered a knee sprain in late October, Rey stepped in and showed what a player can do when given a chance. In three starts, he had 30 tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception.
It was interesting to see that Maualuga was given his starting spot when he came back. He was not as effective as Rey, however. Cincinnati fans clamored for Rey, but coach Marvin Lewis did not budge. Let’s see if Rey decides to bolt for another team that will have him as a starter.
Perry Riley had 115 tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception this past season. He will be getting a lot of attention in this year’s free agency period. As good as he has been for four years, Riley has not been talked about as much as, say, his teammate Brian Orakpo. Riley is as good and can only get better.
Shea McClellin has patrolled the defensive end position for a couple of years now, but many who have seen him play have said the same thing-he is more suited as an outside linebacker in the 3-4.
It sounds as if the Bears will give him his shot at outside linebacker. The problem with Shea is that he has good speed, not great. His body is a tweener, meaning he is too small for end, but is a big linebacker. He will get a chance now to better showcase his athletic abilities. In the meantime, there are some outside linebackers the Bears should look at.
After playing in obscurity in Jacksonville, Daryl Smith signed a one year “prove it” deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Boy, did he prove it. He recorded 123 tackles, 5 sacks, and 3 interceptions.
Smith is flexible, being able to play either on the inside or outside. He has a nose for the football and he has a high motor.
After underwhelming for the Pittsburgh Steelers the last couple of years, Jason Worilds felt he would have his shot this season as the starter. What happened in last year’s draft, however, made him think. The Steelers went ahead and drafted Jarvis Jones in the first round.
Of the two players, surprisingly, Worilds was the one who had a breakthrough season. He had 63 tackles and 8 sacks for the season after recording 65 tackles and 10 sacks in his first three seasons combined. Perhaps he got the message from management.
In a field of free agents lacking pass rushers, Brian Orakpo could be the biggest prize. He had 11 sacks this season, a year after he only played two games due to a torn pectoral muscle. He was relatively healthy this season, only missing one game.
Only five players had more sacks than Orakpo this season. He may not be the best pass rusher option in free agency this year, but he is the best pass rusher option at the linebacker position.
Washington has some cap problems, and they might have to decide on either Orakpo or Riley. A team with some flexibility can come in and make it difficult for the team to re-sign him.
Well, there you have the possible top free agent linebackers. Coming up next will be the cornerbacks and safeties.
Are there any other linebackers out there I have not mentioned that you like? Let me know.