Miami Dolphins Free Agency Preview: Linebacker Kevin Burnett

Michael Heck Correspondent IIJuly 9, 2011

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Linebacker Kevin Burnett #99 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a play against the New York Jets during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Channing Crowder's career has been a series of all talk and "what ifs?" Since the talkative linebacker has tried to replace Zach Thomas, he's been a highlight film of injuries and one dimensional tackles. He only has one year left on his contract and is being paid $2.5 million this season—this is absolutely absurd.

The only highlights I connect Channing Crowder to are his fight with Matt Light and watching him ride the exercise bike during practices. We've all been waiting for Crowder to do something, anything, with all of the talk he's put forth. And...nothing, this team's gotten nothing.

The 3-4 defense requires all four linebackers to be productive. All four linebackers must play a game at a high level; able to cover, blitz, zone-blitz, and tackle. I've only seen Channing Crowder stop the run with decency, when he's not hurt.

Crowder's stats reflect a linebacker who has had a decent career, as he has two seasons of over 100-plus tackles. However, after having a great statistical season in 2008, when the Fins went 11-5, he's been hurt. His role was to police the line of scrimmage—five yards behind the LOS and five to 10 yards beyond it.

It is Karlos Dansby's job to be the star, and that he is. Dansby has piloted the defense skillfully. Unfortunately, the spot next to him has been unsettled. It seems to me that Crowder's body is giving into the wear and tear of an NFL life. His season in 2008 proves that Miami really needs a quality middle linebacker in both spots.

The Dolphins have tried to plug in several guys and, with great disappointment, this has failed. The Miami Dolphins are in need of another middle linebacker who can play off of Karlos Dansby's strengths; some one who can make several game changing plays. This player doesn't necessarily have to be a Pro Bowl player, just a valid part of the defense. 

Meet Kevin Burnett. In his seven years in the NFL, his productivity has gone up. Last year was his best all around season: 95 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions. Crowder has never had a season like this after being a third-round draft pick by the Dolphins. 

After watching highlight film of Burnett, you'll witness a more athletic, highly capable 3-4 middle linebacker. He is more instinctual than any other MLB on the Dolphins roster not named Karlos Dansby. Burnett is capable of making great open field tackles and rushing the quarterback. His lone touchdown came on an interception against Peyton Manning, the pass was over his head. It was a good pick six. 

There has been some talk of A.J. Edds seriously competing for time in the middle. That's respectable. However, I want someone who has proven himself on all different areas of the field. Edds proved himself in college. The Dolphins need a proven pro. To have Burnett and Edds for the same spot would be deep for the Dolphins.

While Crowder has proven himself a capable tackler, he will probably be better served in a 4-3 defense. The 4-3 defense will allow Crowder to play to his strength, tackling. Crowder can still be traded for some value. Channing Crowder could take his talents to a team like Giants, who need a middle linebacker. 

My vote is for Kevin Burnett. He one former Dallas Cowboy who actually makes sense.