2015 NFL Free Agents: Outside Linebackers

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2015 NFL Free Agency: Star rating is out of five. Age listing as of Sept. 1, 2015.
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  1. Justin Houston, DE/OLB, Chiefs. Age: 26.
    Franchised by Chiefs

    One of the top defensive players in the NFL, Justin Houston recorded 22 sacks in his fourth NFL season, falling one short of breaking Michael Strahan’s record. The scary thing is that there’s still plenty of growth with Houston, who is only 26.

  2. Jason Worilds, DE/OLB, Steelers. Age: 27.
    Announced retirement

    Jason Worilds doesn’t have much starting experience, but he was Pittsburgh’s top pass-rusher this season. He had 7.5 sacks, giving him 15.5 over the past two years. He wasn’t great in run support, but he was one of the few Steelers to put constant pressure on the quarterback.

  3. Sean Weatherspoon, OLB, Falcons. Age: 27.
    Signed with Cardinals (1 year, $4 million)

    It’s quite difficult to rank Sean Weatherspoon. He’s a very talented linebacker, but has an extensive injury history. He tore his Achilles in June and was already battling knee issues that caused him to miss nine games in 2013. It’s possible he may never be the same player again.

  4. Justin Durant, OLB, Cowboys. Age: 29.
    Signed with Falcons

    Justin Durant had been playing well for the Cowboys as an every-down strongside linebacker before tearing his bicep in late October.

  5. Danny Lansanah (RFA), OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 30.
    Re-signed with Buccaneers

    Danny Lansanah was quite the surprise this past season. Signed off the Jets’ practice squad, Lansanah started at strongside linebacker for the Buccaneers, containing the run well. He wasn’t a liability in coverage either.

  6. Akeem Ayers, DE/OLB, Patriots. Age: 26.
    Signed with Rams (2 years)

    Akeem Ayers proved to be well worth the sixth-rounder the Patriots surrendered to get him from Tennessee; his presence helped improve the team’s run defense.

  7. Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears. Age: 34.
    Lance Briggs is still strong against the run, but he’s just a two-down linebacker at this stage of his career. He turns 35 in November, so there’s no guarantee that he won’t regress further in 2015.

  8. James Harrison, DE/OLB, Steelers. Age: 37.
    Re-signed with Steelers (2 years)

    James Harrison was dragged out of retirement in late September. He wasn’t expected to make that much of an impact, but he was exceptional in 2014. Playing about two-thirds of the snaps, he generated a good amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and held up well against the run. He’ll be 37 in May, unfortunately.

  9. Bruce Carter, OLB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
    Signed with Buccaneers (4 years, $20 million)

    Bruce Carter was miscast as a 4-3 outside linebacker when the Cowboys made a scheme switch. He should go to a team with a 3-4 defense so he can play inside linebacker again.

  10. Brooks Reed, DE/OLB/ILB, Texans. Age: 28.
    Signed with Falcons (5 years, $22 million)

    Brooks Reed never became a consistent pass-rusher – he has 7.5 sacks over the past three seasons – but he can play the run well and is capable of lining up anywhere in a 3-4 linebacking corps.

  11. Geno Hayes, OLB, Jaguars. Age: 28.
    Geno Hayes is a two-down linebacker who specializes in coverage. He has previously struggled against the run, but was solid in that regard this season.

  12. Jacquian Williams, OLB, Giants. Age: 27.
    Jacquian Williams played all three downs for the Giants until landing on injured reserve because of a concussion. Williams probably should’ve been used on just two downs because of his poor play in coverage. He was very strong in run support, however.

  13. Parys Haralson, DE/OLB, Saints. Age: 31.
    Re-signed with Saints (1 year)

    Parys Haralson is a solid defender against the run, but has never been able to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback.

  14. Malcolm Smith, OLB, Seahawks. Age: 26.
    Signed with Raiders

    Malcolm Smith was named MVP of the Super Bowl in February, but he didn’t exactly parlay his success in the big game to a strong 2014 season. Smith struggled in every regard this past year.

  15. Mark Herzlich, OLB, Giants. Age: 28.
    Re-signed with Giants (2 years)

    Mark Herzlich is very effective in run support, but he can be a major liability in coverage. He needs to be on the field for just the first two downs.

  16. Philip Wheeler, OLB, Dolphins. Age: 30.
    Signed with 49ers

    Philip Wheeler is one of many busts the Dolphins have brought in via free agency over the past few seasons. They let him go after just two seasons into his 5-year, $26 million deal. Wheeler was decent in run support, but totally lost in coverage. He’s just a two-down linebacker at this point in his career.

  17. Ashlee Palmer, OLB, Lions. Age: 29.
  18. Josh Bynes, OLB, Lions. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Lions
  19. O’Brien Schofield, DE/OLB, Seahawks. Age: 28. — Signed with Falcons
  20. Dan Skuta, DE/OLB, 49ers. Age: 29. — Signed with Jaguars
  21. Heath Farwell, OLB/ST, Seahawks. Age: 33.
  22. Keith Rivers, OLB, Bills. Age: 29. — Signed with Cowboys
  23. Chase Blackburn, OLB, Panthers. Age: 32.
  24. Andy Studebaker, DE/OLB, Colts. Age: 29.
  25. Orie Lemon (RFA), OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 27.
  26. Spencer Paysinger, OLB, Giants. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
  27. Jonathan Freeny (RFA), DE/OLB, Dolphins. Age: 26.
  28. Larry Dean, OLB, Bills. Age: 27. — Signed with Buccaneers
  29. Chris Carter, OLB, Bengals. Age: 26.
  30. Kaelin Burnett (RFA), OLB, Titans. Age: 25. — Re-signed with Titans

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