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2019 Free Agent Preview: Outside Linebackers
It’s a very weak free agency year for players classified as ‘outside linebackers’. There are many veteran names like Terrell Suggs, Clay Matthews, etc., guys who are at the ends of their careers and will probably go one more year…and most of them back in the same place they were in 2018, and cheaper.
My picks for the ‘tops’ in the class…
The best free agent OLB: Za’Darius Smith, BAL – He’s played rotationally for the Ravens for years, never getting a true ‘starter’ role. He should be ready to make the jump to a three-down guy with a pass rushing specialty.
I suspect the Ravens bring back Terrell Suggs, because that’s their norm…and Smith moves on. I’ll be interested to see if his first D-C, Dean Pees/TEN will be jumping at him.
The best ‘sleeper’ free agent OLB: Anthony Barr, MIN – Splashed in the NFL right away, and then slowly faded off over the years. I don’t trust Mike Zimmer using talent to its fullest. Barr can rush the passer and play the run. He isn’t great covering the pass, but if he goes to a team where he can be more of an EDGE guy…watch out.
I like Seattle and NYG as possible landing spots. Seattle would like his SPARQ/speed data. Pat Shurmur would have some history with him in Minnesota.
The best ‘deep sleeper’ free agent OLB: Anthony Chickillo, PIT – There have been a few occasions, watching Steelers regular or preseason games, where Chickillo flashes sweet pass rushing ability. The most playing time he had was 2016, as a part-time OLB and he had 5 TFLs, 8 QB hits and 2.5 sacks.
Any team looking for a rotational pass rush specialist for depth here – maybe New England, perhaps Green Bay, possibly Oakland takes a look.
Other OLB free agent notes…
-- Shaq Barrett, DEN is fully free and could’ve been noted as the top ‘sleeper’ in this OLB class. Always productive, but always hidden behind Von Miller…and then Bradley Chubb.
-- Lorenzo Alexander, BUF had another fine year…defying the laws of age at 35 years old. A one-year deal for a productive veteran – he could be a very savvy pickup under-the-radar. Probably stays with Buffalo, though. But he’s another one I wonder if Bill Belichick has seen enough of him and could get him for a one-year bargain for another title chase.
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