Free Agent Linebacker Rankings

[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacks, running backs, fullbacks,tight ends, centers, guards, offensive tackles, wide receivers, safeties, and cornerbacks.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

Outside of Chad Greenway on the strong side, the Vikings have reached somewhat of a crossroads at the linebacker position.  Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson were not the world’s best starters at their respective positions in 2012, and each are scheduled to be free agents next month along with backup Marvin Mitchell.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings re-signed one or both of their starters at some point this offseason, but there are also plenty of opportunities to think about outside of the current roster.  The Draft has some interesting prospects, but free agency also contains some plausible options:

Top Tier

Perhaps the best linebacker set to be a free agent is one coming from our rivals in Green Bay.  Brad Jones filled in very well for the injured Desmond Bishop last season, and it is clear that he should remain a starter somewhere.  He could be a solid fit for the Vikings in the middle, and stealing from a divisional foe is always and added bonus.

It can be hard to spot decent individual talent on the Riaders, but weakside linebacker Phillip Wheeler earned himself a decent contract by sticking out during Oakland’s miserable season.

The Ravens already know that Ray Lewis is a goner, so that makes it even more crucial to re-sign Dannell Ellerbe, who was one of the NFL’s better linebackers this season.

With the starting duo staying healthy this season Larry Grant of the Niners did not get to see extensive action like he did in 2011.  Still, if Grant can go elsewhere and play like he did two seasons ago as a starter, then he will soon be name hear a lot about.

Second Tier

5.  Nick Barnett, BUF

6.  Daryl Smith, JAC

7.  Leroy Hill, SEA

8.  Erin Henderson, MIN

9.  Manny Lawson, CIN

10.  Chase Blackburn, NYG

11.  Thomas Howard, CIN

12.  Justin Durant, DET

13.  Scott Fujita, CLE

14.  Bradie James, HOU

15.  Barrett Ruud, HOU

16.  Nick Roach, CHI

17.  Keith Rivers, NYG

18.  Larry Foote, PIT

19.  Brian Urlacher, CHI

Third Tier

20.  Kaluka Maiava, CLE

21.  Keyaron Fox, PIT

22.  Marvin Mitchell, MIN

23.  Kirk Morrison, BUF

24.  DeAndre Levy, DET

25.  Lorenzo Alexander, WAS

26.  Jasper Brinkley, MIN

27.  Rey Maualuga, CIN

28.  Keith Brooking, DEN

29.  Ernie Sims, DAL

30.  Michael Boley, NYG

31.  Rocky McIntosh, STL

32.  Will Witherspoon, TEN

33.  Brady Poppinga, DAL

The Rest

34.  Mario Haggan, STL

35.  Dan Skuta, CIN

36.  Geno Hayes, CHI

37.  Tracy White, NE

38.  Jason Phillips, Carolina

39.  Moise Fokou, IND

40.  Niko Koutouvides, NE

41.  Leon Williams, KC

42.  Gerald McRath, TEN

43.  Mike Peterson, ATL

44.  Demorrio Williams, SD

45.  Akeem Jordan, PHI

46.  Omar Gaither, OAK

47.  Zac Diles, TEN

48.  Gary Guyton, SD

49.  Jonathan Casillas, NO

50.  Tim Dobbins, HOU

51.  Bryan Scott, BUF

52.  Ashlee Palmer, HOU

53.  Tavares Gooden, SF

54.  Brandon Siler, KC

55.  Scott Shanle, NO

56.  Paris Lenon, ARI

57.  Brandon Johnson, PIT

58.  Jordan Senn, CAR

59.  Xavier Adibi, TEN

60.  Ramon Humber, NO

61.  Bryan Kehl, WAS

62.  Ricky Brown, BAL