Skip to main content
Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles News

2010 Free Agency Rankings: Middle Linebacker

Stewart Bradley should return in 2010 to stabilize the turnstile that was the middle linebacker position in 2009. But who will be the backup? Jeremiah Trotter is about to hit the free agent market again. Joe Mays was a very good special teams player late last season, but it remains to be seen whether he can contribute on defense. Omar Gaither, Akeem Jordan and Chris Gocong - all of whom played in the middle at one point or another last year - are about to become restricted free agents. Here's a list of the top inside linebackers who are about to become available in free agency.

1. Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals (UFA)
Dansby is the best linebacker and one of the best players available in free agency regardless of position. He has played inside and outside. He's huge at 6-4 and 250 pounds. Dansby is a very good athlete. He has very good feet and covers ground like a much smaller player. The Cardinals used him very creatively. He lined up all over, including snaps at defensive tackle in some nickel and dime sets. I think he offers the most impact as an inside linebacker in the 3-4. Dansby has been a playmaker throughout his NFL career.

2. DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans (RFA)
Outstanding middle linebacker who has started since day one. He has been the man in the middle for all 64 of his NFL games. Ryans has excellent range. He is an outstanding tackler that has a nose for the ball. He is a natural leader. Ryans isn't the flashy playmaker that some teams covet. He is a traditional middle linebacker that makes a ton of tackles and controls the middle of the field.

3. Gary Brackett, Indianapolis Colts (UFA)
The leader of the Colts defense has been a good starter for the last five years. He was a backup and special teams star for a couple of years prior to that. Brackett has a short, squatty build. He is an outstanding tackler. He plays with good leverage. Brackett is more football player than athlete. He does have good enough range to cover the deep middle area, which is so vulnerable in the Cover 2. He also has good ball skills, as shown by his 11 career interceptions. The Colts absolutely want him back, but won't break the bank for him.

4. Barrett Ruud, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RFA)
Good young player is really a tackling machine. Ruud has almost 300 solo tackles in the last three years. He has pretty good size at 6-2 and 241 pounds. He's an OK athlete who moves well enough and covers enough ground to be effective in coverage. Ruud broke up 13 passes over the last two seasons. The Bucs should want him back.

5. D'Qwell Jackson, Cleveland Browns (RFA)
Jackson is a good player that flies under the radar a bit because he plays in Cleveland. Watch a Browns game closely and he'll show up all over the place. Jackson is a good run defender and solid pass defender. He's played in the 3-4 as a Brown, but he can easily play inside in the 4-3. Jackson did miss 10 games with a torn pectoral muscle this past season. He's expected to be fine for 2010. The Browns are going to use a high tender on him.

6. Kirk Morrison, Oakland Raiders (RFA)
Morrison has been a fixture in the Raiders defense since he got to the NFL five years ago. His reward is likely one more year in a silver and black uniform. Somebody rescue this guy. Morrison is a good player that not enough people know about. He is a strong, physical tackler. He'll make his share of coverage plays. I'd love to see Morrison get a chance to play on a winning team.

7. Stephen Tulloch, Tennessee Titans (RFA)
Ascending player who has started the past two seasons. Tulloch had to battle Ryan Fowler for the middle linebacker job. Tulloch did win the starting spot and has proven to be a good player. He has a short, squatty build at 5-11 and 235 pounds. He has some power when he hits. Tulloch's numbers have improved each season. He is only 25 years old so that trend could continue a couple of more years. He will get a high tender from the Titans.

8. Larry Foote, Detroit Lions (UFA)
Foote is a longtime Steeler that played in Detroit in 2009. He will turn 30 this spring, but remains a good player. Foote has shown the ability to play in the 3-4 and 4-3. He would be a good fit on a young defense that needs a veteran presence in the middle. Foote has pretty good size at 6-1 and 239 pounds. He isn't much of a playmaker, but is a good run stuffer.

9. Tim Dobbins, San Diego Chargers (RFA)
Interesting young guy. Dobbins only has 10 career starts. I think he's ready to be a starter for some team. He has good size at 6-1 and 250 pounds. I'm not sure he has the range for middle linebacker in the 4-3. He's been effective for the Chargers in their 3-4 scheme. Dobbins hits and tackles with good power. He can be an adequate coverage player, but is best at stuffing inside run plays. He's played well the past two years despite mostly being a role player.

10. Corey Mays, Kansas City Chiefs (RFA)
Mays is coming off his first year as a starter. He didn't have a great year, but looked like a promising player. Mays has good size at 6-1 and 245 pounds. He's more of a run defender than anything else, but that can be OK as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Mays has bounced around in his short NFL career, but may have finally found a home. At the least he could be a very good backup and special teams player.

-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 7:16 p.m., March 3*

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content