The outside linebacker position will be an interesting one for the Eagles in 2010. The Eagles traded for Will Witherspoon at the deadline last season and he's back this year. But former starters Omar Gaither, Chris Gocong and Akeem Jordan are all about to become restricted free agents and Tracy White is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Keep all of that in mind as you check out the top 10 outside linebackers who are about to become available in free agency.
|1. Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos (RFA)
|Dumervil emerged as a pass rushing force in the Broncos' 3-4 scheme. Playing rush linebacker turned out to be a natural fit for him. Dumervil is only 5-11, but he has long arms and that enables him to keep blockers from getting to his body. He won't pass the eyeball test because of his build and lack of athleticism. Dumervil is just a football player that gets to the quarterback. He had 17 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2009.
|2. Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers (RFA)
|Davis was having a monster year when he tore his ACL in early November. He really thrived in Ron Meeks' scheme. Davis isn't huge at 6-0 and 240 pounds, but he is physical. Davis will hit anything. He has a good motor and flies to the football. I'm sure the Panthers will keep him around.
|3. Thomas Howard, Oakland Raiders (RFA)
|Interesting player. Howard is 6-3 and 240 pounds. He is athletic and experience as a four-year starter. He has good coverage skills. The one key problem is that Howard isn't the physical run defender. With the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league, do you make him your SAM linebacker with coverage ability and just overlook the run deficiencies? It will be interesting to see which teams pursue him.
|4. Shawne Merriman, San Diego Chargers (RFA)
|A few years back Merriman was an elite player. He was a dominant pass rusher that had the ability to take over games. He got injured and missed virtually the entire 2008 season. This year, he was able to start 14 games. Unfortunately, he wasn't the same kind of player. Merriman no longer had his explosion. He dropped from a double-digit sack guy to just four. I saw all four sacks and none of them came due to great burst off the edge. Merriman is only 25 years old. The hope is that he might get some of the burst back. He is still a big, strong, physical player. He still has a good motor. The Chargers placed the highest tender on him so he isn't likely to go anywhere.
|5. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs (RFA)
|Johnson struggled with the move to inside linebacker in the 3-4. He is a natural outside linebacker. Johnson only started three games all year. He still made plays. He had three interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. He also broke up five passes and had a forced fumble. Johnson has experience on the strong and weak sides in his career. The Chiefs will likely place a pretty high tender on him, but they will be looking to deal Johnson. The price just has to be right. He's a playmaking linebacker with size and athletic ability. Someone should make a move for him.
|6. Keith Bulluck, Tennessee Titans (UFA)
|Star linebacker would be ranked higher if not for a torn ACL. Unfortunately, the injury occurred in mid-December and will definitely affect the 2010 season. That's a short timeframe for a position that requires athletic ability. Bulluck is also set to turn 33 in April. His play isn't declining, but age and injury will greatly affect his value. The Titans want him back, but at their price.
|7. Rocky McIntosh, Washington Redskins (RFA)
|McIntosh is a good young player. He has started for the last three seasons and played well in each of them. McIntosh is what you want in a weakside linebacker. He has OK size at 6-2 and 238 pounds. He can be physical and is a good run defender. He's also athletic enough to be effective in coverage. He has shown playmaking ability. In his time as a starter he has five sacks, three interceptions and seven forced fumbles. The Redskins placed a second-round tender on him.
|8. Scott Fujita, New Orleans Saints (UFA)
|Classic SAM linebacker. Fujita is 6-5 and 250 pounds. He is a savvy veteran player. He is underrated athletically. Fujita isn't a big-time playmaker. He can set the edge, play the run and also cover. ESPN doesn't always show those highlights, but those skills help teams win games. He is going to turn 31 in April and did miss five games this year. Those factors will affect his value. Some 4-3 team will get a solid, veteran player.
|9. Nick Roach, Chicago Bears (RFA)
|Versatile young player has experience in the middle and on the outside. Roach started 15 games in 2009. He is an active, instinctive player. He showed potential as a playmaker. Roach had three forced fumbles, two sacks and broke up three passes. Some teams may look at him for the middle, but I think with his size (6-1 and 234 pounds) and skill set that he's more natural outside.
|10. Clint Ingram, Jacksonville Jaguars (RFA)
|Ingram is a solid player, but hasn't developed into the stud linebacker that the Jaguars hoped for. He plays on the strong side. Ingram has the talent to be a very good player, but hasn't been able to put all the pieces together. He's had to deal with some nagging injuries that cost him games and affected his performance in others. Ingram received the original-round (third) tender. That means the Jaguars are interested in keeping him, but that he's also available to another team at a reasonable price.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 5:18 p.m., March 3*