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2006 NFL Free Agents: Linebackers Part 2

NFL Draft News

2006 NFL Free Agents: Linebackers Part 2
By: Thomas J Gersey

Continued from linebackers part 1

4. Akin Ayodele, OLB, Jacksonville [72 tackles, 4 FF]

Very good athlete with tremendous size at the OLB spot. Ayodele has slowly been coming on the past few years, and is finally showing the talent that was promised. 6'2, 251 lbs, Ayodele is the type of player who, when he hits you, you stay hit. Shows great explosion and burst out of his stance, he blows up tight ends off the line, and wraps up well on ball carriers. His biggest problem has been a lack of wind, and coupled with mediocre pass coverage, he is limited to being a two-down player. Slightly limited in his hip movement, he can be beat by quick runners around the outside. However, given the opportunity to line up a ball carrier, he is lights out consistent.

GOOD FITS: Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, Oakland, Houston, Dallas

EARLY PICK: A Dallas native, there is no reason to think he wouldnt be interested in returning to the big D. With Dat Nguyen likely to retire, and Scott Fujita and Eric Ogbagu free agents, Ayodele would fit perfectly in the Tuna's scheme opposite the explosive DeMarcus Ware. Houston may also come calling if they dont believe Jason Babin can step up and take his place in the starting lineup. If not, a replacement for Shantee Orr may be on their list of priorities. Oakland and New Orleans will likely seek to bring in a player of his caliber, young and less expensive than the premier free agents. Jacksonville, however, does not lose much this year, and can likely afford to bring Ayodele back, even franchising him if need be.

5. Will Witherspoon, OLB, Carolina [80 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 int]

The key to Witherspoon is that he is playing at an exceptional level, while being young enough to continue to improve. Very active from the outside, Witherspoon can move through blockers to get to the ball carrier, arriving often at full speed. He is a ball hawk, looking for the turnover when he meets the football. He has very good sideline-to-sideline speed, and consistently makes the play in the open field. On a team like Carolina, he is lucky to see alot of runners get through the front line, and is left to fight Dan Morgan and Mike Minter for tackles, meaning that his total of 80 on the season is no small feat. Witherspoon would fit very well on a young defense that focuses versitile, speedy linebackers who look to force turnovers.

GOOD FITS: Miami, Chicago, Houston, Arizona, New Orleans, Dallas, Oakland

EARLY PICK: Can Carolina afford to let Witherspoon walk? There is little to indicate that they feel he is irreplacable, though he has become an integral part of their top three defense, and losing him would definitely create a hole. With greater needs, especiall at running back, it is likely that the Panthers will choose to spend their money elsewhere. It is unlikely they would franchise Witherspoon, and pay top dollar for a second tier linebacker. It is more likely that a struggling team will look to overspend for a player like Witherspoon, who still has alot of room to grow. Chicago would be a very intersting choice, as Witherspoon plays similar to Lance Briggs, and would likely excel in the Bears' defensive scheme. A Texas native, he would also look good in Houston, where he would fit well with a young team, or Dallas, where they would be able to continue to get younger on defense. Teams like New Orleans, Oakland and Arizona continue to be in the mix for every young, explosive linebacker.


Antwan Peek, OLB, Houston (RFA): The ex-Cincinnati Bearcat has a ton of potential, and finally got a look in Houston this season. It is likely that any term sheet he signs will be affordable, and quickly matched. Has the look of becoming everything Jason Babin was supposed to.

Ben Taylor, OLB, Cleveland: Very smart player who recognizes opposing schemes nad positions himself well to make the play. Put together 110 tackles while playing alongside all everything linebacker Andra Davis. Would fit well with a team looking to supplement an existing solid corps of linebackers.

Gary Brackett, OLB, Indianapolis: Another potential casuality as the Colts are stuck with numerous quality players about to become free agents. If Reggie Wayne walks, the Colts are sure to keep June and Brackett on board as the core of an elite defensive unit. If they decide to hold on to Wayne, June and James, there is likely to be little remaining for the solid Brackett (127 tackles, 3int). A good tackler in space, Brackett isnt spectacular, but he is consitent, and would fit good with a team like the Giants, Dolphins or Lions.

Nate Webster, OLB, Cincinnati: After losing his job to rookie Odell Thurman, Webster now looks to be expendable for the Bengals. Still young and athletic enough to start, Webster is likely to catch on somewhere where he will have an opportunity to start. Would be a great fit in New Orleans, Detroit, Arizona or Oakland.

Ronald McKinnon, ILB, New Orleans: The consumate pro. A great pass defender, McKinnon has also been a tackling machine over the years. Stuck in a bad situation in New Orleans, McKinnon was called upon to be the focal point of the defense. McKinnon would be better served along side other veterans, on a playoff calibur team, where he would likely put up numbers to rival Cato June's. That being said, a team like Indianapolis would be a perfect fit, as they need a solid veteran replacement should they lose any linebackers, and McKinnon's skill set would be ideal for the Colts' scheme. If not, the Giants are likely to come calling, or perhaps Philadelphia or Detroit.

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