2020 Free Agency Positional Preview – Linebackers
Leading up to the beginning of free agency (3/18 at 4pmET), we’ll be looking position by position at the available free agent pool and discussing the state of the pool (for gems, sleepers, busts) and making some throwaway predictions on the landing spots of the top free agents.
Today, we look at: Linebackers
Wow! I did not realize the depth of linebacker names (especially interior/middle) available in free agency. There are legit, long-term linebackers a team can secure. There are great veteran hands to plug up a gap for a season or two. There are nice sleeper names out there. A very fruitful year of linebacker talent to look over.
Blake Martinez/GB and Cory Littleton/LAR headline the group. But there are also guys like Christian Kirksey and Tahir Whitehead and Patrick Onwuasor out there with veterans like Sean Lee and Nigel Bradham.
Not only interior linebackers, but some nice outside linebacker options like Jamie Collins, Jordan Jenkins, Kyle Van Noy. Von Miller could be a free agent, it’s Denver’s ‘option’ to keep him at $19M for this season…I assume they will keep him or restructure an extension. He won’t hit free agency, I suspect. If he does, what a thunderbolt into the free agent period!
Before we predict landing spots on the top names and guys of interest (for fantasy/IDP), let’s name the Best, the Bust, the Sleeper and Deep Sleeper of the 2020 linebacker free agent group…
BEST = Blake Martinez…great interior linebacker with the bonus of being a sensational coverer of running backs out of the backfield. He’s an underrated LB talent and is a guy that people seem to think ‘grades’ poorly, but there are things/factors/style of play that places like PFF and their grading cannot grade properly. Martinez could be a bit of a bargain because of it.
BUST = Alec Ogletree…the Rams dumped him on the Giants and left them with the exploding hot potato. Now, the Giants are done with him. There will be some sucker team for his services, I’m sure. Once Ogletree got paid, he started declining ever since.
SLEEPER = Finally! Jatavis Brown can escape the Chargers. One of the great hidden assets in the NFL. A high-end athlete who could play inside linebacker, outside linebacker or rush edge in a pinch if needed to. He’s been a high-end producer every time he gets the chance, but Anthony Lynn likes old school, slow tough guy linebackers so he looks right past Jatavis every time. An NFL team is going to get a gem right here, I can’t wait to see what team it is.
DEEP SLEEPER = Tyler Matakevich/PIT has been buried for years in Pittsburgh. A great run stopper, special teams, high energy leader. You know who knows him best/lit this firework in college, where he was a tackling machine and conference Defensive Player of the Year? Matt Rhule when he was at Temple. Guess where I’m predicting he signs when it’s time?
Blake Martinez/GB = If Green Bay wanted him badly, they would have extended him last season. The Packers don’t have a ton of money and Martinez is free to cash in. I wonder if Vic Fangio might make his move here to plug up the middle – he has seen Martinez plenty back in his NFC North days. Denver is my #1 guess followed by Detroit.
Cory Littleton/LAR = The Rams really want him back, but not bad enough they didn’t do this last season. Wade Phillips is gone, and the Rams are tight on money. I think Littleton bolts for a big payday in Cincinnati.
Alec Ogletree = A team in need of linebacker help, but one that misses on all the real names because no one with options wants to play there…so Cincy or Jacksonville. Cleveland doesn’t need any more ILB help.
Christian Kirksey = A sneaky, stable option…if he can stay healthy. I like the Eagles possibly, a cheap/bargain -- but I think the Jets would have an inside track with Gregg Williams as D-C (they know each other from Williams’ CLE days). I’ll guess the Eagles in the end, because Kirksey wouldn’t want to willingly play for Williams, I suspect.
Jamie Collins = He should return to the Patriots, but this is likely his last big contract…and he should go where he can get the most money – and I think that will be Detroit, to be back with a needy Matt Patricia.
Jordan Jenkins = Sneaky OLB worker…I’m watching the Chiefs on this one.
Patrick Onwuasor = Back to Baltimore when little interest is shown otherwise from the NFL.
Kyle Van Noy = Another guy who should stick with the Patriots, who gave him life…but is more likely to go get paid/leave NE as the Patriots are starting to freefall a bit. He’s another guy who would serve a desperate Matt Patricia well, but the Lions screwed him early in his career as a 2nd-round pick who went to waste. I’ll bet he goes with Joe Judge or Brian Flores, to help them ‘rebuild the culture’. The Texans/Bill O’Brien might chase him hard as well. In the end, I’ll be my nickel on Houston.
Vontaze Burfict = Teams just stay away, and he starts the season as an unsigned free agent.
Nigel Bradham = The Jets or the Browns…where ex-Eagles personnel people now run the show.
Sean Lee = Teams should sign him as part-time LB, part-time defensive coordinator and future coach when he’s finished playing. Who would be that wise? Bill Belichick or Sean McDermott. I’m going go with Buffalo over New England and over Indy.
Jatavis Brown = The hidden, inexpensive gem of this draft. I think him being grabbed by the Carolina Panthers would be a sign, a North Star moment…that the Panthers new regime, and their analytics group, is going to take the NFL by storm in a year or two.
Elandon Roberts = A perfect fit to go with Brian Flores in Miami, as ex-Patriots are prone to do.
Deone Bucannon = Why doesn’t a team move Bucannon back to safety? He may have too many miles/injuries to matter anymore. No clue where he goes, if anywhere. He seems to have worn out his welcome.
Tyler Matakevich = My lock prediction of the free agency…he signs with Matt Rhule/Carolina.
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