Shawne Merriman really struggled to bounce back from his knee injury, mustering just four sacks in 2009. He needs to prove his worth in 2010 to get a long-term deal.
Matt Roth (RFA), DE/OLB, Browns. Age: 27. Re-signed with Browns (1 year, $1.8 million)
Where did this come from? Matt Roth was thoughtlessly waived by the Dolphins in November. He signed with the Browns and went on to accumulate four sacks in his final six contests. Roth was already good against the run, so his ability to get to the quarterback was a huge spark for Cleveland's four-game winning streak at the end of the year.
Tully Banta-Cain was the only Patriot who could get to the other quarterback, notching 9.5 sacks on the year. It should be noted, however, that five of those sacks came against the Bills.
Tyjuan Hagler, OLB, Colts. Age: 28.
Tyjaun Hagler was having a good season before he landed on IR with a torn bicep.
Clint Ingram, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 27. Signed with Saints (1 year)
Clint Ingram really struggled when the Jaguars experimented with the 3-4. He's a traditional 4-3 strongside linebacker.
Ahmad Brooks (RFA), DE/OLB, 49ers. Age: 26. Re-signed with 49ers (2 years)
A ton of potential here - the athletic Ahmad Brooks had five sacks in the final five games of the season.
Derrick Burgess, DE/OLB, Patriots. Age: 32.
Derrick Burgess finished the year strong, coming up with three sacks in his last four games. He has a few productive years still left in the tank.
David Vobora (ERFA), OLB, Rams. Age: 24. Re-signed with Rams (1 year)
For a guy who was the final pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, David Vobora really made something of himself. He was solid for the Rams at strongside linebacker this season, and at just 24 years old, he should be able to keep improving.
Joey Porter, DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 33. Signed with Cardinals (3 years, $17.5 million)
Joey Porter had nine sacks in 2008, but at 33, he's not a consistent pass-rusher anymore. He can still be a rotational/nickel rusher in a 3-4 scheme, but he shouldn't be a starter any longer.
Jason Taylor, DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 36. Signed with Jets (2 years, $13 million)
Jason Taylor had seven sacks last year, but at 36, he obviously doesn't have much left in the tank. He can be a nickel rusher, but that's it.
Rashad Jeanty, OLB, Bengals. Age: 27.
One of the better backup linebackers in the NFL, Rashad Jeanty could be a solid starter for a number of teams.
Ricky Brown (RFA), OLB, Raiders. Age: 26. Re-signed with Raiders (1 year, $1.7 million)
Played in only five games because of an ankle injury. The Raiders will be glad to have Ricky Brown back in the lineup next year.
Thomas Howard (RFA), OLB, Raiders. Age: 27. Re-signed with Raiders (1 year, $1.7 million)
Thomas Howard moved to strongside linebacker toward the end of the season, which masked his weakness in coverage.
Keith Bulluck, OLB, Titans. Age: 33. Signed with Giants (1 year)
Keith Bulluck was having a very solid year until he tore his ACL in December. At 33, Bulluck may never be the same player again.
Scott Fujita, OLB, Saints. Age: 31. Signed with Browns (3 years, $14 million; $8 million guaranteed)
A marginal strongside linebacker who thrives against the run but struggles in coverage. Can be upgraded.
Chris Gocong (RFA), OLB, Eagles. Age: 26. Re-signed with Eagles (1 year, $1.1 million)
Chris Gocong really struggled in 2009, but I'm listing him as a 2-star free agent because he would be solid as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. I still have no idea what the Eagles were thinking when they drafted Gocong into their 4-3.
Bryan Scott moved from safety to weakside linebacker after Keith Ellison was placed on injured reserve. Scott actually played relatively well, but the Bills need to upgrade this area; you're not going to be good against the run with a 220-pound starting linebacker.
Keith Ellison, (RFA), OLB, Bills. Age: 26. Re-signed with Bills (1 year, $1.1 million)
A solid reserve at best, the Bills cannot go through another season with Keith Ellison as their starting weakside linebacker.