This collection of players features both inside and outside linebackers, which in some ways gets tricky because the latter also serve as edge rushers and could technically be classified more of a pass-rusher than a true outside linebacker.
Here are the top five options for 2015:
top 5 free agent linebackers 2015
Top 5 free agent linebackers for 2015
4. Jason Worilds
Worilds is another young, potential-laden linebacker that very likely could be swapping jerseys before the 2015 season. Last year, he racked up 7.5 sacks and has 15.5 over the past two seasons. At 26, Worilds offers major upside.
The Steelers may elect to let Worilds test the free-agent market, and one potential landing spot could be in Tennessee, where his former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is now the assistant head coach.
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
3. Brandon Spikes
While in New England, Spikes was one of the best true inside linebackers in the league, especially when it came to stuffing the run. His weakness: playing on passing downs.
A tough, hard-nosed player, Spikes was a key part of the Bills’ improved run defense in 2014. First-year Bills coach Rex Ryan has already offered Spikes praise, so it seems as if he could be a piece of the puzzle. The team will likely extend an offer his way, but it may only be a one-year deal.
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
2. Pernell McPhee
McPhee graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second-best outside linebacker. Like his predecessors Paul Kruger and Arthur Jones, he’ll be coveted by other 3-4 defenses in need of an edge rusher.
At 26, McPhee just turned in a 7.5-sack season. He can slide in at numerous pass-rushing positions.
At times, he gets overshadowed in Baltimore’s star-studded defense, but one look at his tape will encourage teams to open their wallets for him.
(Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
1. Justin Houston
If not for some cat named J.J. Watt, Houston would very much be in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Over the past three seasons, Houston has accumulated 43.0 sacks, including 22.0 in 2014 alone.
Kansas City is likely going to do everything in its power to retain the elite pass-rusher, perhaps even using the franchise tag on him until both sides can reach a long-term deal.