Free Agent Candidates to Play Opposite C.J. Mosley
Another season gone by, another offseason trying to figure out who is going to be the man lining up next to starting linebacker C.J. Mosley. In the beginning of Mosley’s career, he benefitted heavily by playing next to veteran LB Daryl Smith, in route to a Pro Bowl rookie season.
After the departure of Smith, Zachary Orr stepped up and assumed the role of balancing out the equation alongside Mosley. But Orr has since retired, and the Ravens have endured a season with Patrick Onwuasor and the disappointing Kamalei Correa attempting to assume that role. Needless to say, it hasn’t worked out, as the middle of the field was a huge vulnerability for a Ravens defense that was otherwise performed admirably, save for some fourth quarter meltdowns.
With Free Agency just around the corner, here are my top linebackers that could be dropped into the situation and provide some semblance of stability and most likely won’t be re-signed by their current teams:
1. Derrick Johnson, LB, 35 years old: Although Kansas City showed their all-time leading tackler the door, Johnson has a couple more years left in the tank as evidenced by his 2017 campaign. He played 15 games, compiled 48 tackles, forced 1 fumble, and had 7 passes defensed. He may lack the quickness he once had, but the veteran savvy is something that Baltimore has lacked since Daryl Smith in 2014.
2. Jerrell Freeman, LB, 31 years old: Although popped with a 10-game suspension last season, 2 of which he has yet to serve, for PEDs, Freeman brings athleticism and a high motor to the position. He played very well in his time in Chicago, amassing 93 tackles and 4 passes defensed. He could come cheap since he is still serving suspension.
3. DeMario Davis, LB, 29 years old: Davis had a one year sabbatical in 2016 when he played 16 games in Cleveland, only to return to the New York Jets and make 97 tackles, 5 sacks, and 3 passes defensed. It’s possible that he re-signs with the Jets, but with plenty of other teams looking for quality LBs, he could get paid handsomely for his services.
4. NaVorro Bowman, LB, 30 years old: A force in the bay area for 8 seasons, Bowman put together 3 seasons with 100 tackles or more. Starting as Patrick Willis‘ sidekick, Bowman made a name for himself as Robin to Willis’ Batman. Since Willis’ retirement, Bowman has inherited the leadership skills of his former teammate and put up impressive stats to boot. Although he has a checkered injury history, he bounced back big in 2017, playing 15 games for the Oakland Raiders with 80 tackles, 3 passes defensed, and 1 INT. The Ravens could make a push for Bowman, but his injury history is a major red flag for an organization that tends to stay away from risks of that magnitude.
5. Avery Williamson, LB, 26 years old: Williamson has been a solid linebacker in his 4 seasons in Nashville as an elite run-stuffer, but he was never really known for his coverage. Having only missed 1 game in his career, he is the picture of production and durability. Compiling 52 tackles and 3 sacks in 2017, he is one of the most consistent tacklers in the NFL. At only 26, he has much room to improve and become more well-rounded for a team that looks to solidify the middle of the field.
Guest Blogger: Vasilios Nikolaou (@VtheNFLGuy)