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Free Agency Preview: Inside Linebacker

Posted Mar 9, 2013

With free agency just days away, Adam Caplan of TheSidelineView.com has provided PhiladelphiaEagles.com with his top 10 free agent rankings at each position. Here's a look at the players who are scheduled to become free agents at the inside linebacker position. In addition to the rankings, we provide a review of each player's career and whether he could be a potential target for the Eagles. Note that defensive stats are provided by NFL.com ...

1. Dannelle Ellerbe, Baltimore - Ht: 6-1, Wt: 240, Age: 27, Exp: 4

Career: Undrafted out of Georgia in 2009, Ellerbe is poised to strike it rich in free agency. Is coming off of a career-best season with 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks. In his first three seasons, he had 90 tackles and 1.0 sack. Played primarily as the weak inside linebacker last season and was an every-down player by midseason.

Fit: Would be an ideal fit for the Eagles if they incorporate elements of a 3-4 scheme into their defense. He can play downhill. He is athletic and can rush the passer. He is in the prime of his career. However, the Ravens have reportedly made keeping Ellerbe the team's top priority with Ray Lewis retiring.

2. Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 260, Age: 26, Exp: 4

Career: Former second-round pick in 2009, Maualuga has started in 59 of his 60 career regular season games. Generated a career-high 122 tackles for the Bengals this past season. Played over 1,000 snaps as a three-down linebacker in 2012. Also has 3.0 sacks, three interceptions and six forced fumbles in his four-year career.

Fit: Reports are that the Bengals could bring Maualuga back to play on the strong side, but he has not been effective enough in the middle to warrant a big money contract. He's athletic, but not consistent enough. Ideally, he would need to come off the field in pass situations.

3. Brian Urlacher, Chicago - Ht: 6-4, Wt: 258, Age: 34, Exp: 13

Career: A future Hall of Fame selection who in his prime boasted an amazing rare blend of size, speed, toughness and athleticism. Battled through injuries to post 68 tackles, an interception (which he returned for a touchdown) and two fumble recoveries. With off-the-chart intangibles, Urlacher has been the face of the Bears franchise for over a decade.

Fit: Obviously, Urlacher isn't the player he once was. Has played in the 4-3 his entire career. He's one of those players who it would be quite weird seeing in another uniform.

4. Nick Barnett, Buffalo - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 230, Age: 31, Exp: 10

Career: After an eight-year career in Green Bay, Barnett spent the past two seasons with the Buffalo Bills before being released last month. Barnett was still productive with 130 tackles in 2011 and 112 tackles last season working as the starting weakside linebacker in their 4-3 scheme. Barnett has registered over 100 tackles in eight of his 10 NFL seasons.

Fit: Has experience in both the 4-3 and the 3-4 schemes. Even with a minimum veteran deal, Barnett would not be guaranteed a starting spot and teams in general are going to look for more upside or special teams value at backup spots.

5. Paris Lenon, Arizona - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 240, Age: 35, Exp: 11

Career: Undrafted out of Richmond in 2002, Lenon has carved out a nice 11-year career with stops in Green Bay, Detroit, St. Louis and Arizona. Lenon has started every game in the past three seasons for the Cardinals and accumulated 103 tackles, 2.0 sacks and an interception last season.

Fit: Even though the stats were still decent, Lenon was a liability despite playing next to a talent in Daryl Washington. Arizona is focused on upgrading that spot. No need for the Eagles to look here.

6. Bart Scott, New York Jets - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 242, Age: 32, Exp: 11

Career: Another undrafted player, Scott played alongside Ray Lewis in Baltimore and in 2006 had a breakout season with 103 tackles and 9.5 sacks as he earned Pro Bowl honors. When Rex Ryan took over the Jets in 2009, he made sure to bring Scott to be the fiery leader for his defense. This past season, Scott had his lowest tackle total since 2004 with just 60 total stops and was relegated to situational duty by the end of the year. Was part of the Jets' massive housecleaning earlier this offseason.

Fit: Boasts an intense and fiery personality, but he no longer has the game to back it up.

7. Larry Foote, Pittsburgh - Ht: 6-1, Wt: 239, Age: 32, Exp: 11

Career: Continuing the trend of players who started their NFL careers in 2002, Foote has spent all but one season - 2009 with Detroit - in Pittsburgh. Thrust back into a starting role in 2012, Foote had 113 tackles, 4.0 sacks and two forced fumbles. Amazing that Foote put together his best all-around season from a statistical standpoint at 32 years old while playing nearly 1,000 snaps.

Fit: None. Foote told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he either wants to re-up with the Steelers for 2013 or retire. Pittsburgh is weighing whether to use Foote as a band-aid for another season or go younger now.

8. Stewart Bradley, Arizona - Ht: 6-4, Wt: 258, Age: 29, Exp: 6

Career: A former third-round pick of the Eagles in 2007, Bradley was a player on the rise after a solid 2008 season but he lost his 2009 campaign with a knee injury and wasn't the same in 2010. Still, he received a big-money contract from the Arizona Cardinals. However, Bradley would disappoint with one start in his two seasons as he was relegated to special teams duty.

Fit: Pass. Once considered a centerpiece of the Eagles defense, the Eagles made the right decision not to give him a long-term deal a few years back.

9. Bradie James, Houston - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 246, Age: 32, Exp: 10

Career: James played in the state of Texas in 2012, but for a different team. After nine seasons with the Cowboys, James played in Houston under a one-year deal as he reunited with Wade Phillips, who coached him in Dallas. James was a starter in Dallas for seven seasons and put together a stretch of five straight 100-tackle seasons. In 2008, James posted 8.0 sacks which is half of his career total. He was the signal caller for the Texans defense last season and had 77 tackles and 0.5 sacks.

Fit: No need to bring in a long-time Cowboy who is on the decline. The Texans have reportedly shown no interest in bringing him back and want to add another playmaker at inside linebacker with Brian Cushing.

10. Dan Skuta, Cincinnati - Ht: 6-2, Wt: 250, Age: 26, Exp: 4

Career: After all of the experienced players on this list, there's Skuta who played under a restricted free agent tender in 2012. Undrafted out of Grand Valley in 2009, Skuta has played in 56 games with four starts in his career. He's never had more than 31 tackles in a season.

Fit: Has experience at both strongside and middle linebacker positions in the 4-3. Played mostly on early downs last season as a run stopper. Still young, would not command a big contract and is a core special teams player.

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