2016 NFL Free Agents: Inside Linebackers

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2016 NFL Free Agency: Star rating is out of five. Age listing as of Sept. 1, 2016.
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  1. Brandon Marshall (RFA), ILB, Broncos. Age: 26.
    Tendered by Broncos (2nd)

    Brandon Marshall thrived playing inside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ scheme, though he was great before that as well. Marshall could be better in coverage, but he’s terrific otherwise. He’s just 27 in early September, so he’s going to be great for a while.

  2. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 33.
    Re-signed with Chiefs (3 years, $21 million)

    Derrick Johnson made a terrific, unexpected return from a torn Achilles. No one would have been surprised had he been just solid, but Johnson was exceptional. Unfortunately, he’ll be 34 around this upcoming Thanksgiving, so he doesn’t have too many great years left in the tank.

  3. Danny Trevathan, ILB, Broncos. Age: 26.
    Signed with Bears (4 years)

    Danny Trevathan didn’t play all three downs most of the time this season, but only because Brandon Marshall is so great. Trevathan could have easily done this, as he had a great season in Wade Phillips’ system.

  4. Rolando McClain, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 27.
    Re-signed with Cowboys

    Rolando McClain isn’t coming off his best year, but he was outstanding in coverage. He has been a huge surprise for the Cowboys, who took a chance on him after he was out of the league for a while. McClain appears to have turned his life around.

  5. Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Colts. Age: 30.
    Signed with Bears (3 years, $12 million)

    I don’t know what Jerrell Freeman did last offseason, but he should repeat whatever his workout regimen was because he improved dramatically in 2015. Freeman was constantly abused in the run game the year before, but he was an absolute force in that regard this past season. He was also solid in coverage.

  6. Karlos Dansby, ILB, Browns. Age: 34.
    Signed with Bengals

    Karlos Dansby was once one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. That’s not the case anymore, as he’ll celebrate his 35th birthday in November. However, Dansby still performed well last year, particularly in coverage. He should still have two or so quality seasons remaining.

  7. Bruce Carter, ILB, Buccaneers. Age: 28.
    Signed with Jets (1 year)

    Bruce Carter had an awful 2015 campaign in which he got benched for a mid-round rookie, but I explained why in the Top 10 Worst NFL Free Agent Signings of 2015 page. Carter sucks in the 4-3, but has played well in the 3-4 earlier in his career. He needs to stop chasing big contracts and settle with an organization that can actually utilize him properly.

  8. DeMeco Ryans, ILB, Eagles. Age: 32.
    DeMeco Ryans struggled mightily this past season, but blame clueless Chip Kelly for making the horrible mistake of installing a defense he wanted rather than one that fit the skills of his players. Ryans had never performed well in the 3-4, so perhaps he’ll rebound on a new team that utilizes the 4-3. Unfortunately for Ryans, he turns 32 in July.

  9. Demario Davis, ILB, Jets. Age: 27.
    Signed with Browns (2 years, $8 million)

    Demario Davis played well in 2014, but struggled mightily this past season. He definitely missed having Rex Ryan around to coach him up.

  10. Zach Brown, ILB, Titans. Age: 26.
    Signed with Bills (1 year)

    Zach Brown has always been expected to take the next step, but has yet to do so. He was just a marginal player for the Titans in 2015. He was fine in coverage, but struggled in run support.

  11. Craig Robertson, ILB, Browns. Age: 28.
    Signed with Saints

    Craig Robertson was given a second-round tender last offseason. He didn’t have quite the 2015 season the Browns were looking for, however, as he missed a chunk of it with a sprained ankle.

  12. Jon Beason, ILB, Giants. Age: 31.
    Announced retirement

    Jon Beason has played in just nine games the past two years, and he hasn’t been very effective when he’s been on the field. He used to be a very good player, but that’s not the case anymore.

  13. Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Lions. Age: 31.
    Signed with Eagles

    Stephen Tulloch was a big liability for the Lions last year, but was coming off a torn ACL. There’s a chance he could bounce back with a semi-decent 2016 campaign.

  14. Daryl Smith, ILB, Ravens. Age: 34.
    Signed with Buccaneers

    Daryl Smith had been a very good player for a long time, but it appears as though his career is nearly over. Smith declined rapidly last year, struggling in all aspects. He might have one decent season left in the tank, but that’s about it.

  15. James Laurinaitis, ILB, Rams. Age: 29.
    Signed with Saints

    James Laurinaitis looked like he would be a great pro for a very long time in his first couple of NFL seasons, but he has inexplicably regressed since. He was so bad last year that he could’ve been considered the worst starting linebacker in the NFL. I’m not sure what happened to Laurinaitis, and there’s still time to turn things around, but if he weren’t such a big name, I’d probably have him as a 1.5-star player; I’m just listing him here because he’s a big name and needs a write-up.

  16. Paul Worrilow (RFA), ILB, Falcons. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Falcons (1 year, $2.553 million)
  17. Keenan Robinson, ILB, Redskins. Age: 27. — Signed with Giants
  18. Donald Butler, ILB, Chargers. Age: 27. — Signed with Dolphins
  19. Sean Spence, ILB, Steelers. Age: 26. — Signed with Titans
  20. Jamari Lattimore, ILB, Jets. Age: 27.
  21. Erin Henderson, ILB, Jets. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Jets
  22. Audie Cole, ILB, Vikings. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Vikings (1 year)
  23. David Hawthorne, ILB, Saints. Age: 31. — Signed with Bills
  24. Kavell Conner, ILB, Chargers. Age: 30. — Signed with Ravens
  25. Jerod Mayo, ILB, Patriots. Age: 30. — Announced retirement
  26. Ty Powell (RFA), ILB, Bills. Age: 28.
  27. Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 28.
  28. Nathan Stupar, ILB, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Saints (3 years)
  29. Curtis Lofton, ILB, Raiders. Age: 30.
  30. Sean Weatherspoon, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 28. — Signed with Falcons
  31. Joe Mays, ILB, Chargers. Age: 31.
  32. Tank Carder, ILB, Browns. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Browns
  33. Justin Tuggle (RFA), ILB, Texans. Age: 27.
  34. Najee Goode, ILB, Eagles. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Eagles
  35. Desmond Bishop, ILB, Redskins. Age: 32.
  36. Steven Johnson, ILB, Titans. Age: 28. — Signed with Steelers
  37. Casey Matthews, ILB, Vikings. Age: 27.
  38. Julian Stanford (RFA), ILB, Jets. Age: 25.

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