NFL free agent breakdown: Inside Linebacker

The Redskins' situation at the inside linebacker position opposite Will Compton is foggy. There are a handful of free agents that could potentially clear that up.

The Redskins have offseason needs at several positions on the defensive side of the ball, and the inside linebacker position is no different. Both Mason Foster and Keenan Robinson are unrestricted free agents. Will Compton, meanwhile, is an exclusive-rights free agent.

Foster started alongside Compton down the stretch, but on a better defense--which the Redskins hope to have after forfeiting the fifth-most yards per game last season--Foster isn't a starting-caliber player. Robinson, meanwhile, flashed promise at the beginning of the season before inconsistencies started to seep into his game and eventually landed him on the bench.

Perry Riley, whose 2015 season was cut short due to a stress fracture in his right foot, could help shore up the Redskins’ second level. The 27-year-old is entering the final year of his contract. If the Redskins were to cut him, they could save $4 million in cap space, so he’s not a surefire lock to make the roster. In addition to injury concerns, Riley has yet to provide a credible sample size to garner confidence in his ability as a starter.

It’s clear that the Redskins need reinforcements at inside linebacker this offseason, whether they find them through the draft or free agency. The official start of the latter looms roughly two weeks away on March 9, and there figure to be several players on the market that could help solidify the palpitating heart of the Redskins 3-4 defense.

Derrick Johnson (2015 Team: Kansas City Chiefs)

At 33, Johnson figures to be in the twilight of his career, but his production suggests otherwise. After a 2014 season lost to a torn Achilles, Johnson came back in fine form last season, recording 116 tackles along with four sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. 

Jerrell Freeman (2015 Team: Indianapolis Colts)

Freeman, 29, demonstrated a weakness against the run in 2014, but his tackling improved significantly in 2015. So much so that Pro Football Focus gave him as the second-best inside linebacker grade in the league. Freeman tallied 112 tackles, three sacks and one interception in 2015.

Danny Trevathan  (2015 Team: Denver Broncos)

The Super Bowl champions had one of the league’s best defenses last season, but several of its key players are hitting free agency. Along with Trevathan, OLB Von Miller and DE Malik Jackson are potentially unrestricted free agents. All indications are that the Broncos will rightfully slap a franchise tag on Miller if they can’t work out a long-term deal before March 9. In addition to the big money they’ll be paying him, the Broncos will have to shell out serious cash in order to keep ILB Brandon Marshall, who is a restricted free agent.

Coming off a stellar season at just 25 years old, Trevathan will see plenty of zeros on offer sheets from other teams once he hits the free-agent market.

Rolando McClain (2015 Team: Dallas Cowboys)

Character red flags come to mind first when discussing the mercurial McClain, but there are no doubts surrounding the former University of Alabama star’s superior athleticism. He played 11 games for the Cowboys in 2015, recording 80 tackles along with two sacks and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.

James Laurinaitis (2015 Team: St. Louis Rams)

The Rams released Laurinaitis on Friday along with two of his former teammates, DE Chris Long and TE Jared Cook. During his first four seasons, the idea that Laurinaitis would ever be voluntarily released was laughable. But in the three seasons since, the 29-year-old’s numbers have dropped significantly. If the seven-year pro can find his rhythm again—and it’s a significant “if”—he could be the bargain of the top-heavy, ILB free-agent class.


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