2011 NFL Free Agency: Top 5 Linebackers
With the NFL lockout currently in place, it's uncertain whether or not we'll have a free agency period this offseason.
However, that doesn't mean we can't look forward to what may be in a matter of weeks.
This year's class is headlined by some big-time names, including Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Williams.
There is also a great set of linebackers.
Here is my power ranking of the best available free-agent linebackers.
Note: This is considering all players don't re-sign with their current teams.
On the Outside Looking in
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There's a second-tier of free-agent linebackers this year that were just short of making my Top 5.
David Harris (New York Jets): He was stout in the playoffs, which goes to show his ability to make plays when it matters the most. He's got great potential and has an empowering presence up the middle.
Barrett Rudd (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): He's a solid, classic-style middle linebacker who would be an upgrade for many teams.
5. LOLB Paul Posluszny (Buffalo Bills)
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Paul Posluszny may have been overshadowed by an underperforming team, but let's not forget about his talents.
Sure, he has a bit of an injury history which is why he isn't higher on this list. However, when healthy, he's one of the best and should be commended for it. In fact, last year, he had a whopping 151 tackles in just 14 games.
4. ROLB James Anderson (Carolina Panthers)
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The Carolina Panthers may be a two-win team, but their linebacker corp is one of their few bright spots and, interestingly enough, one of the best in the league.
James Anderson was a breakout player last year and proved he could make plays all over the field as he finished with 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception.
He hasn't established himself as a household name yet, but that could change if he continues to play like this.
3. MLB Stephen Tulloch (Tennessee Titans)
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Stephen Tulloch has made major strides in his game over the past three seasons. In 2007 he had 45 tackles, 84 the year after, 121 in 2009 and 160 last season.
Even though he's only 5'11", 240 lbs., he's a force to reckon with up the middle and would upgrade any team's run defense.
2. ROLB Tamba Hali (Kansas City Chiefs)
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In my opinion, Tamba Hali is a high-risk/high-reward player.
He's always been considered a solid pass rusher, but last season he took his skills to the next level, recording 14.5, good for second in the NFL. He also had two sacks in a Wild Card playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. He obviously has a tremendous impact on the Chiefs defense.
At the same time, nine of those sacks came in merely four games, so he's a bit streaky and tends to disappear at times (no significant plays in six games). Moreover, he's a one-dimensional player as his coverage can be shaky.
Considering the rarity of a double-digit pass rusher being available in free agency however, he's probably worth taking a chance on.
1. LOLB Lamarr Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers)
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In a league that's full of teams transitioning to the 3-4 defense, a premier pass rushing outside linebacker is becoming a highly sought after commodity.
One of the best in the business, Lamarr Woodley should be the most coveted linebacker on the market.
He's just 26 and, in the first four years of his career, he's already registered 39 sacks (35 in the past three) along with seven forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Of course it's highly doubtful that the Steelers let him go.