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2019 Free Agent Preview: Middle Linebackers
There are no ‘wow’ ILBs available in free agency, but there is one ‘kinda wow’ and a few below the radar options that are interesting. The best ILB free agent (Jordan Hicks/PHI) will likely re-sign a nice deal with his draft team and then leave a mixed bag of options otherwise.
The best non-Hicks free agent ILB: Kwon Alexander, TB – Kwon could be on the move because Bruce Arians is taking over, and he’ll have plenty of other options. Kwon is not ‘his guy’, so Arians will probably let him go. There are a lot of his ex-Cardinals available in free agency this year on defense.
Alexander is a pretty nice playmaker, but he’s also been suspended previously (PEDs) and tore his ACL last season. Not a great time for him to hit free agency. A healthy Kwon Alexander is a nice piece for a defense. I wonder if Oakland, with Jon Gruden having TB connections, might be his new home?
The best ‘sleeper’ free agent ILB: Jake Ryan, GB – tore his ACL in summer 2018, so he should be all set for training camp. If Baltimore loses C.J. Mosley, perhaps they replace him with Ryan? John Harbaugh has connections to Michigan players often, for obvious reasons.
I like Jake Ryan’s game. He is way more athletic than given credit…he could rush the passer more than he did in Green Bay. He went through a bunch of changes in Green Bay over the years.
The best ‘deep sleeper’ free agent ILB: Bryce Hager, LAR – Hager was never able to make it to the starting lineup for the Rams. Was a key special teamer and had moments in preseasons, but never hit in the regular season. He’s a throwback middle linebacker. Very good tackler. He may not have enough juice to be a starting ILB, but maybe he gets a chance with his new team.
My guess is Cincinnati, where new HC Zac Taylor would have more knowledge of Hager.
Other ILB free agent notes…
-- Deone Bucannon is a free agent, so expect him to run straight to the Buccaneers to be with Arians. Bucannon could be slimmed down to play safety as well. The guy was a great safety and then a pretty good linebacker as well. A talent that I should’ve put as ‘the best free agent ILB’, but I know he’s going to Tampa…and it might be as a safety not a linebacker.
-- Denzel Perryman is an overrated ILB that has a ‘name’/’status’, which means he’s a sucker’s bet for some weak NFL team. So, Jets-Bengals-Raiders-Cardinals in the lead for his services.
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