Now, onto the list of 2013 Notable Free Agent Linebackers.
1. ILB Karlos Dansby, Miami Dolphins (31) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Cardinals (1 year @ ?) - 5/10/2013
Free Agent Analysis: The Dolphins release of Dansby struck me as a bit peculiar as he set a career high in tackles in 2012. The signings of Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe indicate a possible scheme alteration in Miami. Although 31, Dansby will have no trouble finding a starting spot somewhere. We will have to sit tight and see how the cards fall. Stay tuned...
Interested NFL Team(s): New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Dansby will be reunited with his old team in Arizona after signing a one year contract. He will fill in for WILB Daryl Washington while he serves his four game suspension and will likely still be an every-down linebacker on the strong side even after Washington's return. He should post LB2+ numbers for the 1st quarter of the season with the possibility to sustain LB3 numbers the rest of the year.
April 12 News Update: Free agent ILB Karlos Dansby is visiting the Bengals Wednesday.
2. ILB Dannell Ellerbe, Baltimore Ravens (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Dolphins (5 years @ $26 million, $13 million guaranteed) - 3/12/2013
Free Agent Analysis: After living in the shadow of Ray Lewis for multiple seasons, Ellerbe finally got a chance to prove himself in 2012. He played well against the run and was a serious pass rushing threat from the inside. The Anquan Boldin trade frees up some money which the Ravens will likely use to bring Ellerbe back. If he stays in Baltimore, there's no reason to think he can't put up LB2+ numbers.
Interested NFL Team(s): Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Ellerbe will likely take over the vacated role of Karlos Dansby which could mean good things for his IDP value. Consider him an LB2+ value.
March 12 News Update: The Rams have expressed interest in free agent LB Dannell Ellerbe.
March 11 News Update: NFL Network's Albert Breer reports the Ravens plan to huddle with free agent ILB Dannell Ellerbe on Tuesday morning.
March 9 News Update: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the Browns have been in contact with free agent ILB Dannell Ellerbe.
3. OLB Phillip Wheeler, Oakland Raiders (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Dolphins (5 years @ $35 million, $13 million guaranteed) - 3/12/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Wheeler was one of the lone bright spots on the Raiders defense last year and definitely outplayed his 1 year, $700k contract. The Raiders are said to want him back, but there is speculation that Wheeler wants out of Oakland. The Rams could prove to be a viable landing spot for the 28 year old. If he doesn't re-sign, his fantasy value is likely to take a hit.
Interested NFL Team(s): St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders
Fantasy Impact of Signing: I think the Dolphins overpaid here, but Wheeler is one of the better strong side players in the game. It's hard to judge his value at this time until we know how Kevin Coyle plans on using him, but my best guess is that his fantasy value will take a dip.
March 11 News Update: The San Francisco Chronicle says there is a "good chance" free agent OLB Philip Wheeler doesn't re-sign with the Raiders.
4. OLB Nick Barnett, Buffalo Bills (32) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Barnett's release was more of a salary cap/youth movement issue rather than a talent/versatility issue. He hasn't missed a game in the last two seasons and graded out as a top 10, 4-3 OLB in 2012. He's always been productive in the box scores and should continue to provide LB3+ value, provided he lands an every down role. He has experience in multiple schemes which should increase his probability of landing a full time gig.
Interested NFL Team(s): Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Chicago Bears
March 22 News Update: According to the Chicago Sun Times, free agent Nick Barnett is "believed" to be on the Bears' radar.
February 11 News Update: Nick Barnett's release from the Bills was officially listed as a failed physical on the league's transaction wire.
5. ILB Brad Jones, Green Bay Packers (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Packers - 3/21/2013
Free Agent Analysis: The season-ending injuries to Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith paved the way for Jones, previously an OLB, to establish himself as a three-down presence in the middle of the Packers defense. He excelled against the run and held his own against the pass. Jones' seems to have several suitors vying to obtain his services. He should be able to find a starting job with a linebacker-needy team. His value will swing wildly depending on the situation, role, and scheme in which he lands.
Interested NFL Team(s): Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: After somewhat of a breakout season, Jones received relatively little interest on the market despite early reports from his agent that up to 8 teams were interested in his services. This is a solid re-signing for the Packers and Jones will likely get a shot to start over A.J. Hawk at SILB. Not a great landing spot for his overall IDP value unless he can manage to carve out an every down role.
March 20 News Update: Free agent LB Brad Jones met with Packers officials for roughly an hour on Wednesday.
March 15 News Update: Free agent LB Brad Jones is visiting the Titans.
March 11 News Update: The player rep for free agent LB Brad Jones claims eight teams are showing interest in his client.
6. ILB D.J. Williams, Denver Broncos (30) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Bears (1 year @ $900k) - 3/22/2013
Free Agent Analysis: It's not a surprise that Williams was cut. He was owed $6 million this year and he has fallen out of favor in Denver after multiple run-ins with the law that caused him to be suspended. He's still got a decent amount of gas left in the tank at age 30 and shouldn't have a hard time finding a team to take a chance on giving him a starting job. This is a fantasy situation to closely monitor.
Interested NFL Team(s): Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens
Fantasy Impact of Signing: I like this signing by the Bears quite a bit. Williams is still only 30 years old and is an upgrade over Brian Urlacher at MLB. The Bears are mitigating any risk by structuring Williams' contact in a way where there is no guaranteed money and an ample amount of incentives. As for right now, I'd expect Williams to be the Bears every-down MLB (there are reports they may be interested in free agent LB Nick Barnett as well). If this holds true, he will find himself back into the LB2/LB3+, top 25-30 draft range.
March 11 News Update: The player rep for free agent LB Brad Jones claims eight teams are showing interest in his client.
7. OLB James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers (35) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Bengals (2 years @ $4.45 million ) - 4/24/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Dude is old as dirt and injury prone, but he's nasty when it comes to getting to the QB and he plays the run just about as well as any 3-4 OLB in the league. He'll likely have to sign a short term, incentive-laden deal, but as long as he can stay healthy, he's worth a late round selection as a LB3- in leagues that reward heavily for big plays.
Interested NFL Team(s): Cincinnati Bengals
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Despite reports that several teams were interested in Harrison's services, only the Bengals even made him an offer. He will transition to SAM linebacker in Cincinnati's 4-3 defense. Harrison plays exceptionally well against the run, so he should be able to adjust quickly. The bigger question is whether or not he can stay healthy. If he can, there may be some fantasy value here.
April 14 News Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Bengals and free agent OLB James Harrison will "try to complete a deal" this week.
March 18 News Update: SI's Peter King calls free agent James Harrison the "coldest name" at this week's league meetings.
March 14 News Update: The Ravens are "in touch" with free agent James Harrison and the sides are scheduled to speak again on Saturday.
March 11 News Update: The Eagles are the latest team free agent James Harrison would love to play for.
8. SLB DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Lions (3 years @ $9.75 million) - 3/6/2013
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Levy was seen as the priority signing over teammate Justin Durant this off-season. If Durant isn't brought back, Levy has a good chance of carving out an every down role, which would bump his value into the low-end LB3- range.
9. OLB Justin Durant, Detroit Lions (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Cowboys (2 years @ ?) - 3/26/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Durant has expressed his desire to re-sign with the Lions. However, the Lions have several key free agents on the roster at this point and they have already re-signed WLB DeAndre Levy to a multi-year deal. With this said, it's probably best for fantasy owners if Durant lands somewhere other than Detroit (a place with very high tackle competition). Definitely a situation to monitor moving forward as he's a player coming off his best season and entering into his prime.
Interested NFL Team(s): Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Assuming the financials are on par with what we expect, this should turn out to be a good signing for the cap-strapped Cowboys. Durant will step in at the strong side linebacker position alongside Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. He will serve as a two-down player who will mainly contribute in run support. Not much value here unless Carter or Lee goes down with a long-term injury.
March 24 News Update: Free agents SLB Justin Durant and S Will Allen will visit the Cowboys on Monday.
March 14 News Update: The Newark Star-Ledger reports the Giants have expressed interest in free agent LB Justin Durant.
March 2 News Update: Free agent SLB Justin Durant reiterated his desire to re-sign with the Lions.
10. OLB Kevin Burnett, Miami Dolphins (30) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Raiders (2 years @ $3.715 million) - 3/17/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Much like (now former) teammate Karlos Dansby, Burnett was a solid contributor for the Dolphins during his time there. He posted 3 straight 80+ solo seasons and had 11 sacks during that time span as well. He has a pretty good shot at landing a starting job before too long. I'm gonna wait and see where he lands before making an evaluation on his worth this season.
Interested NFL Team(s): ?
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Burnett and Phillip Wheeler essentially ended up swapping teams during free agency. Miles Burris' put up solid fantasy numbers at the WLB position last year in Oakland, despite poor on-the-field play. With this said, Burnett should be able to post LB3-LB3+ numbers in that same role as he'll likely play in an every down capacity and blitz a good portion of the time.
11. OLB Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Browns (5 years @ $40 million) - 3/12/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Due to the Achilles' injury suffered by Terrell Suggs in the preseason, Kruger found himself in an every-down starter role for the first time in his career. The 8.5 sacks were impressive, but not totally unexpected. Kruger is an above average talent who was a nice fit for the Ravens' scheme. A team is likely going to overpay for Kruger as the LB market is quite thin this year. He's nothing more than an LB4+ unless you play in big play scoring formats or he's classified as a DE in your league. If the latter is the case, he's a solid DL2+ option.
Interested NFL Team(s): Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Kruger's value takes a hit here as he's not likely to be classified as a DE in any league management systems. As a linebacker, he's only worth a roster spot as an LB4 in most leagues.
March 12 News Update: Sources tell the Baltimore Sun that the Browns are "closing in" on free agent OLB Paul Kruger.
March 11 News Update: FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager hears that the Browns, Colts, and Saints are all "very interested" in free agent OLB Paul Kruger.
March 11 News Update: NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah passes along a "a lot of buzz out there" about the Browns being "VERY" aggressive in free agency.
March 10 News Update: The Baltimore Sun reports the Colts and Browns will soon engage in a "bidding war" for free agent OLB Paul Kruger.
12. ILB Larry Foote, Pittsburgh Steelers (33) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Steelers (3 years @ $5.5 million, $2.5 million guaranteed) - 3/12/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Despite below average play across multiple defensive categories, Foote finished as a top 30 fantasy LB in most scoring formats. He's not a sexy option, but he's a steady one. There's a good chance the Steelers will bring him back for at least one more season, and if he can continue in a near three-down role, he will still have value as a matchup play LB. Foote has stated if he's not re-signed, he will retire.
Interested NFL Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Somehow Foote managed to gain interest from multiple teams (chalk it up to veteran leadership skills?) which forced the Steelers to act quickly and re-sign him. If he can snag a near every down role, he's worth a look as a week-to-week filler.
March 12 News Update: CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora says the Cardinals are "strong favorites" to sign free agent ILB Larry Foote.
February 19 News Update: Free agent ILB Larry Foote says he's been talking "back and forth" with the Steelers.
13. WLB Thomas Howard, Cincinnati Bengals (30) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Howard has been a victim of the injury bug the last couple seasons, most recently missing nearly all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL. This type of injury isn't nearly as big of a deal as it was 10 years ago so Howard should be able to bounce back reasonably well. Rumors are abound that the Bengals plan on re-signing Howard. If that's the case, Rey Maualuga will likely not be brought back. This could open the door for Howard to be a three down player and consequently a sneaky value play late in deep drafts.
Interested NFL Team(s): Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins
March 15 News Update: Free agents LB Thomas Howard and OG Lance Louis visited the Dolphins on Thursday.
February 18 News Update: According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the "conventional wisdom" is that the Bengals will re-sign free agent LB Thomas Howard.
14. MLB Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears (35) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Urlacher had one of his worst statistical seasons of his career in 2012. He admitted early in the season that his knee issues were most likely chronic and it definitely had a profound effect on his on-the-field play as he struggled mightily against the run. Although recognizably past his prime, Urlacher will likely be brought back by the Bears for one more season as he's willing to give a significant hometown discount and not re-signing him would be an unpopular move. He's probably a player to avoid for fantasy purposes in most leagues, however, as he's likely to be overdrafted/overvalued based on his name.
Interested NFL Team(s): ?
April 5 News Update: A source with knowledge of the situation tells Profootballtalk.com that free agent Brian Urlacher is only considering playing for a contender.
March 20 News Update: The Bears announced they were unable to reach an agreement with free agent Brian Urlacher, and "both sides will move forward."
March 18 News Update: Bears president Ted Phillips stated at the NFL Owners Meetings Monday that the club hopes to sign free agent Brian Urlacher to a contract allowing Urlacher to finish his career with Chicago.
March 13 News Update: ESPN 1500 Twin Cities reports it's a "long shot" the Vikings would have more than just "cursory interest" in free agent MLB Brian Urlacher.
March 8 News Update: The player reps for free agent Brian Urlacher have made a contract offer to the Bears.
15. ILB Paris Lenon, Arizona Cardinals (35) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Lenon has become the classic example of a below average talent that somehow finds himself as an every down player in a productive scheme. Despite being absolutely ATROCIOUS against the run last year, he still managed over 100 total tackles and 2 sacks. The Cardinals figure to replace Lenon via the draft or free agency, but if Lenon somehow sticks around, he may provide owners with waiver wire, bye-week filler value.
Interested NFL Team(s): ?
January 31 News Update: AZCardinals.com "wouldn't be surprised" if the Cardinals don't re-sign impending free agent ILB Paris Lenon.
16. OLB Shaun Phillips, San Diego Chargers (32) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Broncos (1 year @ $1 million) - 4/30/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Despite registering near double digit sacks a year ago, Phillips drastically underperformed in nearly every regard. The Chargers are likely too cap-strapped to bring him back, but there are a few 3-4 teams that have seemed to show interest. He's not undraftable at this point, but his better days are definitely behind him.
Interested NFL Team(s): Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Phillips lands in Denver were he will primarily play defensive end. Current starting RDE, Robert Ayers, has failed to live up to expectations with only 6.5 sacks in four seasons. Phillips will be just a nickel rusher to start the season, but don't be surprised if he starts seeing starter snaps before too long.
February 10 News Update: The Union-Tribune San Diego says impending free agent OLB Shaun Phillips "will be wearing different colors" in 2013.
17. OLB Connor Barwin, Houston Texans (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Eagles (6 years @ $36 million, $8 million guaranteed) - 3/14/2013
Free Agent Analysis: After an impressive 2011 campaign, Barwin came crashing back down to Earth in 2012. He has the physical skill-set to be a fairly dominating pass rusher in the league. If he lands with the right team who can properly utilize his talents, he could find his way back to LB3-/LB4+ relevancy.
Interested NFL Team(s): New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles
Fantasy Impact of Signing: The money Barwin garnered from Philadelphia is staggering considering he wasn't considered an elite pass-rushing free agent and received relatively moderate interest from other teams. This long-term signing signals that Trent Cole's future with the Eagles may be coming to end (which is probably a good thing for most fantasy owners). All in all, expect Barwin to have similar value to year ago.
March 5 News Update: Free agent OLB Connor Barwin suggested the Patriots and Colts as possible landing spots.
18. WLB Daryl Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars (31) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Daryl Smith has long been one of the more under appreciated 4-3 OLBs in the game (playing in Jacksonville will do that to a player). He struggled with a nagging groin injury last year which caused him to miss all but two games. At age 31, he's a bit past his prime and on the down slope of his career, but he could still provide stopgap value for a team looking for veteran leadership. His fantasy value will likely get dinged moving out of tackle-friendly Jacksonville, but he may be worth a look as a LB4 matchup-type play in tackle-heavy leagues.
Interested NFL Team(s): Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams
April 3 News Update: Free agent LB Daryl Smith left his visit to St. Louis without a deal.
March 2 News Update: The Florida Times Union suggests the Giants as a potential landing spot for free agent SLB Daryl Smith.
*Re-signed by the Bengals (2 years @ $6.5 million) - 3/18/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Maualuga has been a severe disappointment to the Bengals and fantasy owners alike. He graded out as one of the worst 4-3 ILBs in the NFL last season. If I were a betting man (which I am), I would argue that Maualuga won't be brought back. Regardless, he should only be on your "players to monitor" list for now.
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: The Bengals obviously see something in Maualuga that other NFL teams do not to bring him back (with a multi-year deal nonetheless). He drew slight interest from the Giants and Cardinals, but ultimately left town without contracts from either. He graded out as the worst starting ILBs in football last year. Coach Marvin Lewis recently stated that Maualuga will remain in the middle. My gut tells me that won't last long. He's a player to avoid in most leagues unless he shows drastic improvement this off-season.
February 11 News Update: The Sideline View's Adam Caplan confirms that the Bengals are unlikely to re-sign free agent MLB Rey Maualuga.
20. WLB Erin Henderson, Minnesota Vikings (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Vikings (2 years @ $4 million) - 3/12/2013
Free Agent Analysis: Henderson was signed to a one year deal in 2011 after not gathering much interest on the free agent market. He continued to be an underrated run defender in 2012, but still remained a liability in pass coverage. Until he can shore up this deficiency, he will likely not see enough snaps to be fantasy relevant over the course of an entire season. The Vikings may choose to bring him back as they have a couple holes at linebacker they need to fill. However, it sounds as though Henderson may not want to re-sign.
Interested NFL Team(s): Minnesota Vikings
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Much of Henderson's value will depend on who the Vikings bring in at MLB. If that person isn't able to lock down a three down role, that responsibility may slide to Henderson. This would bump up his value quite a bit. However, he's proven to be a liability in coverage so it's not likely this scenario plays out.
January 19 News Update: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune suspects impending free agent WLB Erin Henderson may not want to return to the Vikings in 2013.
21. OLB Michael Boley, New York Giants (31) - Unrestricted FA
Free Agent Analysis: Year in and year out, Boley finds ways to be productive from a fantasy standpoint. However, that all may come to end this season as he struggled greatly against both the run and the pass and was eventually benched by the Giants for the last three games of the season. He's likely going to find himself in a reserve-type role in 2013.
Interested NFL Team(s): ?
May 3 News Update: Following news of his "secret arrest" in February on child abuse charges, the Giants seem "very unlikely" to re-sign free agent OLB Michael Boley.
Are there any other 2013 Free Agent Linebackers that you think should be included in this conversation? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hit me up on Twitter.
Last Updated: May 22, 2013 Related Posts: