Listen to the talking heads. What do you hear them saying? They’re saying that the Panthers have several areas of need and after letting Dan Morgan go one of those needs has been underlined in red ink – linebacker. That need is an appreciable one since the team will lack depth.
Lucky for the Carolina Panthers there will be several linebackers, though with varying degrees of talent, available in free agency.
OLB, Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears : Maybe it was the franchise tag that was placed on him last year that prevented him from being a free agent. Maybe it was the drama that played out after being locked into Chciago. Maybe it was the fact that Briggs is best suited to play in the middle but was used on the outside. Whatever it was, it had a major impact on Briggs’ production in ’07. (102 tackles – 83 solo, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) Brian Urlacher made it clear last year when he offered to take a pay cut that he wants Briggs in a Bears’ uniform. The odds are that he has played his final game in the Windy City. He will be the most sought after linebacker this offseason. The team that lands him may get the ’07 version or the ’06 version that made the Pro Bowl. Either way, someone will land one of the most prized free agents in this year’s bidding war.
ILB, Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots : It would be hard to imagine Bruschi wearing any jersey other than a Patriots’ jersey. Sure, it’s safe to say that you either love New England or you hate them. But it’s hard not to respect a player who came back from a stroke to have a season with 92 tackles (64 solo) and 2 sacks playing in the middle. There are two questions that need to be answered – do the Pats want him back and does he want to come back for another season. He’s most valuable to New England but could be considered a good veteran mentor for another team should he choose to play one more year.
OLB, Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals : Listing Dansby here could be a moot point since the team is expected to make him their franchise player. But just in case…Dansby had a solid season in ’07 with 97 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. At only 26 years old he would be a major target for teams looking to fill a need at linebacker but the Cards will probably lock him up.
OLB, Demorrio Williams, Atlanta Falcons : There are big changes coming in A-Town with a new coaching staff and “GM.” This could spell the end of Williams’ short four-year stay with the Falcons. His production has been declining and there could be concern over injury issues especially given his lack of prototypical size (6’0″ 226 lbs.). But he is still only 27 years old and would likely have some interest among the other 31 teams if he leaves Atlanta.
OLB, Boss Bailey, Detroit Lions : Bailey is another player who has missed playing time due to injuries but was able to remain relatively healthy last season. His numbers aren’t terribly impressive (51 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble) but he does have some fairly solid football instinct. With only 5 seasons under his belt and at 28 years old Bailey may test the free agency waters.
OLB, Danny Clark, Houston Texans : Clark has a lot of airline tags on his luggage. He’s been with Oakland, New Orleans and Houston in three seasons. In ’05 he tallied some good numbers but his production and playing time suffered in the Big Easy in ’06. Last season in Houston he appeared in 13 games while managing 51 tackles, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. He could be a target of teams looking to add quality depth.
For a complete list of available players see our Free Agent Page.
When the Panthers released Dan Morgan they allowed a lot of experience to walk out the door with him. His injury problems and subsequent lack of playing time simply didn’t warrant re-signing him. Still, the team will probably have to make a move or two to add some depth and even potentially a starter to their group of linebackers. Will this happen in free agency or the draft? Time will tell but I’m guessing they make an effort to bring in a veteran if the price is right at least to provide depth.
We’ll be looking at the free agent defensive backs tomorrow.