2008 Free Agents: Outside Linebackers

The starters for the Vikings are set at linebacker, but, depending on what they do with at least one of their own free agents, they might end up looking for depth at the position. We list the outside linebackers scheduled for unrestricted and restricted free agency in March.

At the beginning of the Brad Childress era in Minnesota, some in the media were insistent that the weakness of the defense was the linebackers.

Questions were waged throughout the 2006 offseason about the unknowns at the position. How good could free agent Ben Leber be if he was supplanted as a starter in San Diego by a youngster named Shawn Merriman? Could Napoleon Harris handle the switch to a Tampa-2 defense? How would E.J. Henderson perform in a new defense with another new defensive coordinator? Where would first-round pick Chad Greenway fit in, and would he be able to overtake a starting job?

By the middle of the season, all was quiet on the Vikings' linebacker front. Leber was solid. Harris was adequate at middle linebacker. Henderson had one of his best seasons as he continued his ascent up the NFL linebacker ranks. And Greenway, well, he was injured in the first preseason game on a special teams play before ever playing a down on defense.

But throughout the 2006 season, the questions quieted and the linebackers performed admirably in what proved to be not only the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense that season but almost the best in the modern era of the league.

Jump forward to the 2007 offseason and a few questions were posed again. The Vikings let Harris go to Kansas City via free agency and E.J. Henderson was given a five-year, $25 million contract extension and moved back to middle linebacker. Greenway, without any NFL game experience, was handed the starting job at weakside linebacker.

Through it all, the Vikings still have no need to obtain a starting linebacker when free agency hits on March 3. However, if they don't get a contract extension worked out with Dontarrious Thomas, the primary backup at all three linebacker positions, they might look for depth.

Here are the players at outside linebacker scheduled to be unrestricted and restricted agents in March (with their years of NFL experience in parentheses):

UNRESTRICTED

Calvin Pace, Arizona Cardinals (4)
Demorrio Williams, Atlanta Falcons (4)
Nick Greisen, Baltimore Ravens (6)
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens (5)
Mario Haggan, Buffalo Bills (5)
Leon Joe, Buffalo Bills (4)
Josh Stamer, Buffalo Bills (5)
Donte Curry, Carolina Panthers (7)
Terrence Melton, Carolina Panthers (4)
Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chicago Bears (5)
Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears (5)
Landon Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals (4)
Dhani Jones, Cincinnati Bengals (8)
Caleb Miller, Cincinnati Bengals (4)
Keith Adams, Cleveland Browns (7)
Matt Stewart, Cleveland Browns (7)
Chaun Thompson, Cleveland Browns (5)
Boss Bailey, Detroit Lions (5)
Tracy White, Green Bay Packers (5)
Charlie Anderson, Houston Texans (4)
Rocky Boiman, Indianapolis Colts (6)
Keyaron Fox, Kansas City Chiefs (4)
Derrick Pope, Miami Dolphins (4)
Donnie Spragan, Miami Dolphins (7)
Junior Seau, New England Patriots (18)
Kawika Mitchell, New York Giants (5)
Reggie Torbor, New York Giants (4)
Victor Hobson, New York Jets (5)
Marquis Cooper, Pittsburgh Steelers (4)
Clark Haggans, Pittsburgh Steelers (8)
Kevin Bentley, Seattle Seahawks (6)
Roderick Green, San Francisco 49ers (4)
Brandon Chillar, St. Louis Rams (4)
Raonall Smith, St. Louis Rams (6)
Gilbert Gardner, Tennessee Titans (4)
Rich Scanlon, Tennessee Titans (4)

RESTRICTED

Darryl Blackstock, Arizona Cardinals (3)
Michael Boley, Atlanta Falcons (3)
Kris Griffin, Cleveland Browns (3)
Heath Farwell, Minnesota Vikings (3)
Matt McCoy, New Orleans Saints (3)
Isaiah, Ekejiuba, Oakland Raiders (3)
Andre Frazier, Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
Marques Harris, San Diego Chargers (3)
Antoine Cash, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3)
Kurt Campbell, Tennessee Titans (3)


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