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2009 NFL Free Agent Linebackers

By: Greg Davis

Ray Lewis, UFA, Baltimore Ravens
With over 1,600 tackles, 33.5 sacks, and 28 interceptions during his 13 seasons, Lewis isnít just a Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl winner, but also a future Hall of Fame inductee. Since entering the league, Lewis has been a force and helped the Ravens to be one of the leagueís best defensive units year in and year out. Heís been in Baltimore his entire career so itís hard to imagine him with another franchise; heís the face of the franchise. The Ravens will make him an offer that should lock him up until almost the end of his career and rumor has it that he is close to signing an extension.

Eric Barton, UFA, New York Jets
While Bartonís í07 production was down, he was playing for a defense that didnít get much help from the offensive unit. Brett Favreís arrival improved the offense somewhat, which helped alleviate pressure on the defense. Barton made 100 tackles and 4.5 sacks in í06, probably his best season since he left Oakland, and he had a similar effort with 119 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season. There are a fair amount of teams that could look to acquire Barton and save some money.

Mike Peterson, UFA, Jacksonville Jaguars
Peterson had played in just 15 games over the course of the last two seasons, but he played in all but one game this season. When healthy, he is one of the better middle linebackers around. He has six seasons in triple-digit tackles and the four seasons he failed to reach that mark were seasons in which he was unable to play in all sixteen games. In í05, his most recent full season, he had six sacks and three interceptions. His health concerns will scare some teams away, but Peterson may still have some quality seasons left in him. He had a single sack this season, along with 84 tackles, and is on the downturn of his career.

Bart Scott, UFA, Baltimore Ravens
Even though Scott was originally an undrafted free agent, he has managed to become a quality linebacker. While he has benefited from playing alongside Pro Bowlers like Ray Lewis, he has also helped them benefit from his own contributions. He had just one sack last season as the Ravens defense struggled more than usual, and only 1.5 this season, but he showed in í06 that he is capable of over 100 tackles and 9.5 sacks when he puts it all together. The Ravens will probably pay Scott enough to keep him around, but they may let him go if they are unimpressed with his play this year and are content pursuing Lewis and Suggs.

Jonathan Vilma, UFA, New Orleans Saints
Vilma returned from a serious injury and made a good impression with the Saints in New Orleans. He tallied 132 tackles, had an interception, a sack, and forced two fumbles. Prior to his shortened í07 season, Vilma had registered 108 tackles or more in three straight seasons, including 173 in í05; he also now has seven interceptions in his five seasons of work. Vilma is quick to the ball and consistently makes the right play. At 26 years of age, he will be a point of interest for several teams when he hits the market.

Michael Boley, RFA, Atlanta Falcons
Boley became a starter as a rookie because of injury and has held onto the role ever since. He was held without a sack this season, but had totaled three in each of the previous two seasons and has a five combined interceptions during his last three seasons. In í07, he was credited with 110 total tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, and two picks, making for a very strong showing. Boley isnít known as a star player, but he is a hard worker and a solid presence at the strong side position. At just twenty-six years of age, Boley has room to develop and could make a splash with a new team come next season.

Linebacker:
Jordan Beck, UFA, Denver Broncos
Monty Beisel, UFA, Arizona Cardinals
Angelo Crowell, UFA, Buffalo Bills
Channing Crowder, UFA, Miami Dolphins
James Farrior, UFA, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tyjuan Hagler, UFA, Indianapolis Colts
Willie McGinest, UFA, Cleveland Browns
Carlos Polk, UFA, San Diego Chargers
Sam Williams, UFA, Oakland Raiders

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