NFL Free Agency: Barrett Ruud & the Biggest Game-Changing LBs Available

Taylor GreenContributor IMay 2, 2011

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 30:  Linebacker Barrett Rudd #51 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers directs the defense against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium on November 30, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The 2011 NFL Draft has come and gone and in its path it has left several of the best linebackers in the league wondering who they will play for next season.  Some of these linebackers are game changers who can single-handily take over a game.

Many of the players included within this list have been on the team that drafted them their whole career, but that might be changing in 2011.  From sack masters to tackling machines, these linebackers are game changers and should have no problem finding a new team.

Whichever team lands one of these four players will see an immediate impact and improvement on the defensive side of the ball.


Barrett Ruud

2010 Stats: 120 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT

Ruud was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft and became a full time starter in 2007.  Since then, Ruud has had over 114 tackles in four straight seasons.  Ruud is a guy that flies around the field disrupting everything from passes over the middle to runs out in the flat.

The Bucs were on the verge of making the playoffs last year, so one would think that they would not want to lose the most productive defensive player they have on their roster.  However, the Bucs drafted Mason Foster in the third round of the draft this year, leading many to question that philosophy.

Between the selection of Foster in the third round and Dekota Watson last year, the Bucs are obviously rebuilding the core of their linebackers. This may push the Bucs over the edge in letting Ruud go.


Stephen Tulloch

2010 Stats: 160 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack

Tulloch played college football for North Carolina State and was taken in the fourth round of the 2006 draft by the Tennessee Titans.  Tulloch had a great season last year and compiled a monster number of tackles.  Tulloch trailed only New England Patriots' Jerod Mayo in tackles for the 2010 season.

Tulloch, who wants a long term deal, does not expect to re-sign, as the Titans have been hesitant to offer a long-term deal.  Look for Tulloch to re-team with Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who coordinated Tulloch in Tennessee.  The Lions have a need at two starting linebacker spots and Tulloch would be a huge signing to improve an already young and scary defense. 


LaMarr Woodley

2010 Stats: 50 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 INT

This guy can do it all, and at 26 he will be doing it for a long time.  Woodley has been a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have one of the NFL’s most physical and tough defenses.

Woodley is facing the dilemma a lot of NFL players seeking contract extensions this offseason are facing.  Several new rules during the uncapped 2010 season have made things very complicated; in particular, the NFL’s 30 percent rule is the biggest obstacle.

With James Harrison and James Farrior getting old, I find it hard to believe the Steelers will not re-sign him.  The Steelers will eventually need someone to replace those two and who better than Woodley, a player who knows the system better than anyone they can get off the street.


Paul Posluszny

2010 Stats: 151 tackles, 2 sacks

151 tackles and he missed 3 games! This kid is a ball player and is tough as nails.  Posluszny is consistent day in and day out, game in and game out.  In four seasons with the Bills, Posluszny has averaged just fewer than 100 tackles, one fumble, one interception, and one sack a season.

The problem with Posluszny being a free agent is that Buffalo was last in the league against the run.  There is no way they improve on that ranking if they don’t resign Posluszny (and in fact they have tendered him a restricted free agent).  Posluszny can look for other offers but the Bills will have the final say on whether he stays or goes.