Around the League: Free Agent Linebackers

The Vikings, no doubt, will be looking for linebackers in free agency, and there are a few speedy playmakers available. We go around the league with input from the beat writers on their feelings of some the top LBs scheduled for free agency.

  • Carolina Panthers LB Will Witherspoon will be an unrestricted free agent on March 3 but said he wants to re-sign with Carolina. "I hope this was not my last game in a Panther uniform," Witherspoon said in the locker room after the Panthers' playoff loss to Seattle. "It's a long time from now until all of that kind of stuff gets worked out. So we'll just go day-by-day." Witherspoon is the Panthers' leading tackler over the past four seasons and an all-around great guy in the locker room. But he's likely going to look for Dan Morgan-type money (five years, $25 million) and the Panthers may not be willing to dish out that kind of dough when they have last year's first-round draft pick Thomas Davis waiting in the wings. Witherspoon is close friends with Morgan

  • San Francisco 49ers LB Julian Peterson has twice been made a franchise player, but don't expect the 49ers to tag him again this year. His salary would jump to $8.7 million, and the 49ers appear inclined to allow him to hit the free agent market. It is doubtful they would pay that much in guaranteed money to keep him. Peterson was a disappointment this season, as he didn't seem to grasp the new defense. Also, he did not exhibit the same speed that made him one of the game's premier linebackers. Peterson returned after missing 10 games in '04 with a torn Achilles' tendon.

  • Dallas Cowboys OLB Scott Fujita, who took over as a starter for the injured Al Singleton, is an unrestricted free agent and may not return.

  • New York Giants LB Nick Greisen filled in when Barrett Green was hurt and is expected to keep the starting job if Greisen doesn't leave via free agency.

  • Green Bay Packers OLB Paris Lenon, who's regarded more for intangibles than talent and wound up starting 12 games at both outside spots, could be out the door as an unrestricted free agent.

  • New Orleans Saints MLB Ronald McKinnon, playing in place of injured Courtney Watson, filled in nicely against the run and was the leading tackler on the team, but his best years are behind him. He will be an unrestricted free agent.

  • Oakland Raiders LB T.J. Slaughter, a late pickup in the preseason, will be an unrestricted free agent.

  • 49ers OLB Andre Carter is scheduled to be a free agent. The 49ers would like to bring him back, but it will have to be at the right price.

  • San Francisco's ILB Derek Smith is the player the 49ers want to hold onto. He led the team in tackles for the fifth straight season. He ended up being the team's best player.

  • 49ers LB Brandon Moore started when Jeff Ulbrich went down and might have helped his stock on the free agent market with his performance.

  • New England Patriots LB Matt Chatham and Don Davis, two veteran special teamers, are free agents.

  • Cincinnati Bengals LB Nate Webster, an unrestricted free agent, will likely not be back.

  • Cleveland Browns LB Ben Taylor will be an unrestricted free agent and not likely to be re-signed. He made too many of his 139 tackles 7 or 8 yards downfield.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars LB Akin Ayodele, who becomes a free agent this spring, hasn't matured into a dominant player.

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