NFL Free Agents and Potential Cap Casualties: Linebackers

2013's free agent Linebackers and potential cap casualties

2/14/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Here's a look at the top linebackers that will be on the market when NFL free agency begins on March 12th.

For a look at the free agent quarterbacks of 2013, click here.
For running backs, click here.
For wide receivers/tight ends, click here.
For offensive linemen, click here.

For defensive linemen, click here.
Blog Photo - NFL Free Agents and Potential Cap Casualties: Linebackers
We'll begin with pass rushing specialists, a group led by the Ravens' Paul Kruger. With Joe Flacco demanding a massive new contract, the Ravens are going to be hard pressed to bring back many of their other high-profile free agents. Reportedly seeking a contract in the $40 million range, Kruger may be forced to sign elsewhere. It should be known, however, that Kruger had only 1.5 sacks in the first six games while fellow linebacker Terrell Suggs was hurt, and racked up 7.5 in the final eight games with Suggs in the lineup and in game shape. It's possible that Kruger was a product of the attention directed towards Suggs, and he could end up being a free agent bust.

The Cowboys would love to have Anthony Spencer back in 2013, and Spencer has expressed interest in returning. Salary cap limitations, however, could keep the two from getting a new deal in place. Spencer had 11.0 sacks in 14 games in 2012.

At the beginning of the 2012 season, it was thought that the Texans could use the franchise tag on Connor Barwin, but after a disappointing season with only 3.0 sacks, that may not be the case any longer. Despite the disappointing 2012, Barwin had 11.5 sacks in 2011 and will draw plenty of interest if the Texans let him walk.

The Union-Tribue San Diego says Shaun Phillips "will be wearing different colors" in 2013. The Chargers don't have a lot of cap space and have younger options at outside linebacker than Phillips, who will turn 32 in May. He had a nice bounce-back campaign in 2012, racking up 9.5 sacks with two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. The Browns and Cardinals have been linked to the veteran pass rusher.

Now for the non-pass rushing outside linebackers. Daryl Smith missed most of 2012 due to a groin injury, but could end up being a great value in free agency. He was Pro Football Focus' No. 2 ranked outside linebacker in 2011.
Blog Photo - NFL Free Agents and Potential Cap Casualties: Linebackers
Philip Wheeler was a diamond in the rough for the Raiders during last year's free agency period, but scouts around the league have taken notice to his solid play. Even though it's not saying much, Wheeler was the best player on the Raiders defense in 2012 and put up career highs in tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, and passes defended.

The Vikings will probably want Erin Henderson back in 2013, but he was reportedly upset when the team didn't offer him a long-term deal last offseason. Though he struggles in pass coverage, Henderson plays the run very well and would draw plenty of interest on the open market.

The Bills released Nick Barnett due to a failed physical, and though it is not yet known what caused him to fail, he is expected to land a starting job somewhere. He was rated as a top-ten 4-3 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus in 2012, and is also capable of playing in a 3-4 scheme.

Thomas Howard tore his ACL in Week 2 of the 2012 season, but says he is on track to be ready for 2013. He was the Bengals leading tackler in 2011, and is considered likely to return to Cincinnati next season. Teammate Manny Lawson is also a free agent, but is less likely to be re-signed. After defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said he planned to use Lawson more as a pass rusher before the 2012 season, Lawson tallied only 2.0 sacks.

Leroy Hill stated 12 games for the Seahawks in 2012, but was arrested for the fourth time in the past five years less than a month ago, this time for domestic violence. Teams will be interested from a talent standpoint, but his off-field issues are sure to drive some potential suitors away.

Justin Durant led the Lions in tackles in 2012, and has expressed interest in returning, though the Lions have to pick and choose which players to re-sign due to limited cap space... Michael Boley struggled in 2012, leading to his release, but is still likely to latch on somewhere.

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