The NFL's Top 12 Outside Linebackers, 2000-2009
Continuing my positional rankings for the decade that was, outside linebackers are now on the table. The challenge in this ranking is the difference in schemes, OLBs from 4-3s and 3-4s have very little in common, at least in most alignments. But with plenty of research some clear leaders did emerge, I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave your feedback.
There was a requirement of 64 games played or four full seasons in the league. The guys who just missed the list were Peter Boulware, Jessie Armstead, and Dexter Coakley, a few guys like Mo Lewis and Mark Fields only fell short because they played most of their games in the 90s.
No. 12 Takeo Spikes
Spikes has been one of the more consistent linebackers of the decade. Between 2000 and 2009 he compiled 640 tackles, 22.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries and four defensive TDs, for his efforts he went to two Pro Bowls and was named first team All- Pro after the 2004 season.
No. 11 Adalius Thomas
A recent addition to the free agent market, Thomas may finally be slowing down but it's hard to forget the impact he had during the prime of his career.
Since his rookie year in 2000, the converted defensive end has 401 tackles, 53 sacks, seven interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and six defensive touchdowns.
Thomas is a two-time Pro Bowler and was named first team All-Pro after the 2006 season, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens after the 2000 season and was a member if the 2007 New England Patriots who finished the regular season at 16-0.
No. 10 Jason Gildon
Jason Gildon is the Steelers All-Time sack leader and hardly anyone knows it. Even though he played most of his career in the 90s he still had enough production this decade to make the list.
His stats for the decade include: 43.5 sacks, 199 tackles, eight forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and two defensive TDs. Gildon also went to three Pro-Bowls.
No. 9 Terrell Suggs
Suggs entered the league as a first round pick and a pass rush specialist in 2003, he has developed his all around game nicely since then but may not be the feared pass rusher he once was.
His career stats include 57.5 sacks, 307 tackles, five interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 11 recoveries and two defensive touchdowns. He has also been named to three Pro Bowls in his career.
No. 8 Mike Vrabel
Mr. Versatility has played just about every linebacker position known to man and has also helped out at defensive end, tight end, fullback and in all areas of special teams during his career.
He is a three-time Super Bowl champion and a one-time All Pro, during the decade he amassed 51 sacks, 451 tackles, 11 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles and 17 fumble recoveries.
No. 7 Keith Bulluck
In my opinion, Bulluck is easily one of the more under appreciated players of the last decade.
Bulluck played in all but three games the entire decade for the Titans and had 770 tackles, 18 sacks, 19 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries, and five defensive TDs while only being voted to one Pro Bowl.
No. 6 James Harrison
Undrafted free agent James Harrison climbed his way from training camp fodder, to 2008's DPOTY and Super Bowl XLIII hero. His stats for the decade include 38.5 sacks, 282 tackles and 19 forced fumbles; he just went to his third consecutive Pro Bowl.
No. 5 Lance Briggs
Playing on a defense that has been near the top and near the bottom in the last five years, Briggs has been one of the more consistent pieces. His stats for the decade include 630 tackles, 10 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns; Briggs has been to five Pro Bowls in five years.
No. 4 DeMarcus Ware
The youngest person on the list, is also the most likely to top next decade's list. With only five seasons under his belt Ware has already been to four Pro Bowls and been named a first team All-Pro three times. His stats include 64.5 sacks, 280 tackles, 23 forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns.
No. 3 Julian Peterson
Perhaps the most physically gifted player on the list, Peterson has been a top linebacker since his rookie season in San Francisco. His stats for the decade include 50.5 sacks, 542 tackles, eight interceptions, nine fumble recoveries and 21 forced fumbles. He is also a five-time Pro Bowler.
No. 2 Joey Porter
Hothead, mouth runner, cocky. All those things can be used to describe Porter, great linebacker is another label that fits.
I was actually surprised to see him climb this high on the list but he sacked more QBs than any other linebacker this decade and is one of the few that has been a force in all 10 seasons, having only missed eight games in his 11 year career.
His stats for the decade include 90 sacks, 444 tackles, 12 interceptions, 22 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries. Other highlights are four Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team and one Super Bowl championship.
No. 1 Derrick Brooks
Some of the other spots are admittedly debatable, No. 1 is not.
Just this decade the future Hall of Famer has been to eight Pro Bowls, named to four All-Pro teams and helped bring the Buccaneers their first championship. His stats over that span include 806 tackles, 17 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles and an amazing seven defensive touchdowns.