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. When Carolina lost Dan Morgan for the season, and perhaps longer, Diggs had a real chance to step up; he tallied just 61 total tackles and failed to register a sack or interception in fifteen games. A handful of teams should still 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 for the 2005 season. He’s relatively young and a tackling machine—his 142 total tackles were good for fifth best in the NFL—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; if the Colts are unable to reach the Super Bowl, it 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. In 2005—with Ray Lewis lost to an injury for ten games—Thomas shined for the Ravens defensive unit and was credited with 86 total tackles, nine sacks, and two interceptions. This season—even with Lewis back from injury—Thomas continued upon his success with 83 total tackles, eleven sacks, and an interception. His free agent potential is enormous, and he could be one of the top two or three pursued players. Someone will throw big dollars his way, which means he could be lured away from Baltimore.
London Fletcher-Baker, UFA, Buffalo Bills
Fletcher is good, plain and simple. He’ll be 32 heading into next season, but he’s still producing as one of the top linebackers, with 146 total tackles, two sacks, and four interceptions credited to him during the 2006 season. Fletcher hasn’t missed a game in his career, and he’s also tallied 119 total tackles or more in every season since 2000. If the Bills don’t get him to sign an extension, expect Fletcher to garner attention from several teams looking for a veteran presence that can make things happen on the field. Wherever Fletcher ends up, he’ll be brought in to act as a defensive leader and to make big plays. Ultimately, he could be the cream of the crop in terms of available linebackers.
Joey Porter, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
Porter was released to open March, saving the Steelers from paying him a million dollar bonus and a four million dollar salary for the 2007 season. Porter will turn 30 later this month, and the linebacker will be looking for a new home in which he can try to wreak more havoc for opposing offenses. As a situational player, his numbers have still remained consistent—he’s tallied at least 54 tackle in each of the past seven seasons and has at least one interception in each of the past three. Porter is an aggressive player who also likes to talk. Teams will look at him as a possible defensive leader option that shouldn’t break the bank. Porter’s new destination is anyone’s guess at this stage.
Other Free Agent Linebackers
LaVar Arrington, UFA, New York Giants
Chase Blackburn, ERFA, New York Giants
Chad Brown, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Darling, UFA, Arizona Cardinals
Randall Godfrey, UFA, San Diego Chargers
Kawika Mitchell, UFA, Kansas City Chiefs
Rob Morris, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Continue with top free agent DB