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2016 Free Agents: Outside Linebackers

The 2016 free agent series continues with Outside Linebackers.

Needs

The Green Bay Packers have some back-up and future starter needs at OLB. Nick Perry (+3.1) and Mike Neal were big contributors at outside LB in 2015. Both players hit free agency this offseason. Julius Pepper is 35 years old and on the last year of his three year deal signed prior to 2014.

Minnesota needs a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Chad Greenway (33) is a free agent and played poorly in 2015. Gerald Hodges was traded during the season by the Vikings. Anthony Barr is a great SAM LB.

The Bears should be set at OLB with Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Lamar Houston having good and solid years there in 2015. However, 4th OLB Sam Acho is a free agent.

The Lions may need a SAM LB with the free agency of Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. However, Josh Bynes (+4.9) and former 2nd round pick Kyle Van Noy could fit the bill at SAM LB for Detroit in Teryl Austin’s scheme. DeAndre Levy returns on the weak side in 2016.

3-4 Starting OLBs

If Von Miller isn’t franchised, I will be shocked. Miller is an absolute beast pass rushing and run stopping 3-4 OLB and earned a 100 million contract with his performance the past four years for the Broncos.

Tamba Hali is another stud pass rusher but is 32 years old. Hali has been an anchor on the Chiefs strong defense for years since the 2005 draft. Hali had 6.5 sacks, 10 hits and 55 hurries. Hali earned a +6.8 mark in run defense. If the Chiefs don’t franchise him or re-sign him to a long term deal, Hali will a hot commodity for any 3-4 defensive team.

Nick Perry has been solid the past two seasons for the Packers. Perry had a +3.1 grade due to strong run defense. Perry was average in run defense with a +.6 pass rush mark. Perry only had 2.5 sacks, 0 hits and 11 hurries during the regular season though. Perry has coverage issues as well (-1.7) and played limited run defense snaps. Perry is more of a pass rusher and had injury concerns in his first two seasons.

Courtney Upshaw is a former 1st round pick from the Ravens. Upshaw is very strong in run defense but struggles with pass rush and coverage. Upshaw would be a nice two down LB for a team needing to boost their run defense.

Dwight Freeney had a good year for the Cardinals. If he doesn’t retire, he could be a solid 3-4 OLB for a team despite his age.

4-3 OLBs

Bruce Irvin is 29 years old and a staple on the Seahawks defense as a pass rushing SAM LB. Irvin is a former first round pick from 2011 and played five years for Seattle. Irvin had 5.5 sacks, 12 hits and 21 hurries in 2015 and was solid in run defense and strong in coverage. Irvin wants a big contract for his second contract and should get a nice pay day as the top 4-3 OLB available.

Nigel Bradham had a poor year with a -15.9 overall grade with the Bills. Bradham is a young weak side LB but needs to develop more in run defense after four years in the league. Bradham has plenty of experience with the Bills and should earn a 2-3 year deal.

Tahir Whitehead can play outside as a SAM LB and ILB. Whitehead earned a +4.0 grade in 2015 and is an asset in coverage and good in run defense. The Lions should try to re-sign Whitehead before free agency begins on March 9.

Backup OLBs

Mike Neal is an experienced OLB from the Packers. Neal has issues in coverage though and isn’t a consistent pass rusher but makes a few plays every year for Green Bay (4 sacks).

Sam Acho had an average season for the Bears and has experience with the Cardinals. He fits the 3-4 defense as a veteran. He should be added on a very cheap deal.

Mark Barron converted from safety to 4-3 OLB and earned a +3.4 grade for the Rams in 2015. The former 1st round pick of Tampa Bay is a very athletic LB that can tackle and should covere well as a former safety.

Chad Greenway is a former 1st round pick from the Vikings in the 2006 draft. Greenway is a veteran that had a solid career but Greenway was a weak link in the Vikings defense in 2015. Greenway may get a cheap one year deal with a team this offseason due to his veteran experience.

Junior Galette was a very good pass rusher for the Saints that was suspended a year from a domestic violence issue. Some team may give Galette a one year deal despite his year off from football. The Redskins took a shot at Galette last offseason and may get him back because of that in 2016.

Calvin Pace is an experienced pass rusher from the Jets. Pace is 35 years old and may only have one year left.

Lamar Woodley, Quinton Coples (former 1st rounder), Anthony Spencer(32) have some talent to earn a roster spot as a back-up still.

Summary

There are some very good starters available for 3-4 and 4-3 teams. If Hali hits the market, someone is getting a very good pass rusher. Bruce Irvin could really help a 4-3 team as well. The back-ups are pretty average overall but could provide some depth.