Monday, March 19, 2012

Free agency catchup: outside linebacker

Outside linebacker

Top 10 UFA OLBs:
1 - Mario Williams (signed by Bills)
2 – Wesley Woodyard: 25, coming off career year with 97 tackles, special teams captain, plays weakside or middle (re-signed by Broncos)
Kamerion Wimbley: (cut by Raiders 3/16, signed by Titans 3/20)
3 – Jo-Lonn Dunbar: 27, undersized but quick, had breakout season in '11 with 80 tackles, can play strongside or middle (Signed by Rams, 4/2)
4 - Philip Wheeler: a top-15 OLB last season with 85 tackles, but average athlete coming off a foot injury (signed by Raiders 3/31)
5 - Erin Henderson: only 25, good-sized Will backer with 70 tackles last year, Vikings are slow-rolling him (Re-signed by Vikings, 3/23)
6 - Manny Lawson: 27, scheme-diverse, good run defender, has been a good pass-rusher, grades as one of top 4-3 LBs (Re-signed by Bengals, 3/29)
7 - Rocky McIntosh: didn't get big contract last year, play dropped off quite a bit and he got in trouble for breaking curfew (signed by Rams, 6/15)
8 - Gary Guyton: current Patriots benchwarmer, had 85 tackles two years ago (Signed by Dolphins 4/14)
9 - Erik Walden: seemed to have big games whenever I watched the Packers, but never took over the strongside job there. Packers weren't happy with his pass-rushing. (Re-signed by Packers 4/24)
10 – Geno Hayes: 3-year starter in Tampa, lost job to Quincy Black. (Signed by Bears)
11 - Chris Chamberlain: valuable special teams player who's never entered a season as a starting linebacker, but has finished a couple there. (Signed by Saints, 3/23)

Sleepers: Looking for a longshot free agent? How about Patriots backup Gary Guyton? He's only 26, has elite speed and makes plays sideline-to-sideline. Instinctive run defender who fights off blocks well and can disrupt the backfield. Rarely blows a tackle and is improving as a pass defender. Has been productive whenever he's been on the field. Not sure what I'm missing here, but if I were a real scout, I'd be trying to break out lots of tape on this player.

Wild card: Leroy Hill: a physical weakside linebacker who can get you 80-plus tackles and four sacks like he did last season? Remove a traditional Ram-killer from division rival Seattle? Sign me up, please. Three marijuana arrests and a domestic violence charge in the past four years? Uh, not so fast. Then again, he got let off his most recent charge because he passed a drug test administered right after the arrest. (Re-signed by Seahawks 4/13)

Tag you're it: Anthony Spencer

Out of the running: Kirk Morrison (re-signed by Bills), Patrick Bailey (re-signed by Titans), Heath Farwell (re-signed by Seahawks), Jarret Johnson (signed by Chargers), Kenny Onatolu (signed by Panthers), Tracy White (signed by Patriots)

Voting present: Ernie Sims, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Johnson (signed by Steelers 6/13), Jordan Senn (re-signed by Panthers 4/10), Jarvis Moss, Antwan Applewhite (re-signed by Panthers 3/30), Omar Gaither, Mario Haggan (signed by Rams 5/15), Jason Hunter (re-signed by Broncos 3/30), Bryan Kehl (signed by Redskins 4/24), Quentin Groves (signed by Big Dead 5/24), Travis LaBoy (cut by Chargers 5/8), Keith Brooking, Kevin Bentley, David Vobora, Xavier Adibi, Cody Brown

The doctor will see you now: Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder), Mike Peterson (torn triceps), Matt Roth (concussion), Bryan Thomas (torn Achilles / re-signed by Jets 3/14)

Gawd no: Clark Haggans (re-signed by Big Dead 6/5) or Joey Porter. The two Cardinals graded as the two worst OLBs in the league by Pro Football Focus. Also Bobby Carpenter (signed by Patriots 4/6), or Ashlee Palmer (signed by Lions 3/23), because that is totally a girl's name.

RamView’s moves: The Rams have struggled at the outside linebacker positions for a while now, and last year was no exception. The plan last year was to go with free agent veterans. Brady Poppinga was no worse, or better, than average, and probably talked his way out of St. Louis for good by slamming Gregg Williams in a recent interview. Ben Leber was a total disaster and didn't even last the season, while Zac Diles didn't even last training camp. While Poppinga could at least hold down one side, it was a revolving door on the weakside. Bryan Kehl got the next try at WLB after Leber, but like 2010, the player to end the season at the position was Chris Chamberlain, who showed the most playmaking ability of anyone the Rams tried. Chamberlain's also a valuable special teams player, and though the new regime appears to be showing little interest in him, I'd be happy to have him back as linebacking depth. I'd go after Guyton in free agency, but he, Chamberlain and Josh Hull, who lost all of 2011 to an ankle injury, sound more like linebacking depth than linebacking starters. With no real outside linebackers on the roster at the moment, and cap room running out, I'm getting a little nervous for the Rams to make a move. There are a few young, playmaking, unsigned, OLBs hanging around; the Rams need to get a move on. I'll target Lawson to join the other veterans I have but also plan to draft a LB.

Shoot the moon: I'm not entertaining the idea beyond mentioning it here, but I've seen some suggest the Rams sign (Curtis Lofton? Steven Tulloch?) or draft (Luke Kuechly?) another inside linebacker and move James Laurinaitis outside. Laurinaitis reportedly isn't opposed to the idea.

Prediction: The Rams still have about $10 million to play with under the cap, with quite a few good linebackers still out there. I have a feeling they have one last significant free agent move on the way, and it'll be at LB, and Laurinaitis could indeed be moving outside. They don't seem very involved in the Lofton or Tulloch sweepstakes at the moment - let's see if they're keeping their powder dry for someone like David Hawthorne, who would be an awesome pickup. More about him next when I get to the ILBs.


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