Of all the Browns’ position groups, perhaps few are as strong as Cleveland’s linebackers.
Second-year middle linebacker Joe Schobert earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in his first year as a starter. Christian Kirksey recorded at least 138 tackles for the second-consecutive season. Jamie Collins Sr. looked ready for a strong finish before a midseason knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year. In his place, James Burgess Jr. stepped up, as the Browns featured one of the league’s best run defenses.
Joe Schobert — 16 games, 16 starts; 144 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 FF, 1 INT
Christian Kirksey — 16 games, 16 starts; 138 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF
James Burgess Jr. — 14 games, 9 starts; 75 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 FF
Jamie Collins Sr. — 6 games, 6 starts; 31 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT
B.J. Bello — 16 games; 6 tackles
Dominique Alexander — 4 games, 1 tackle
Hitting the market
Josh Keyes (restricted) — 8 games; 4 tackles
Tank Carder - missed 2017 with injury
Top LBs available (Rankings from NFL.com’s Top 101 free agents)
17. Zach Brown, Redskins
Brown has been one of the league’s most productive linebackers, posting 247 tackles and 6.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
24. Nigel Bradham, Eagles
En route to the Super Bowl, Bradham was a key cog on Philadelphia's dominating defense.
25. Avery Williamson, Titans
A four-year starter for the Titans, he averaged 94 tackles a season along with 11.5 sacks and 2 interceptions.
39. Tahir Whitehead, Lions
He recorded a career-high 132 tackles in 2016 and posted 110 last season.
47. Preston Brown, Bills
A production machine for Buffalo, he amassed 512 tackles over four seasons.
50. Anthony Hitchens, Cowboys
He posted a career-best 84 tackles last year.
59. Demario Davis, Jets
Traded back to New York last spring, the former Browns linebacker had his best season as a pro with the Jets, totaling 135 tackles and five sacks in 2017.
64. NaVorro Bowman, Raiders
The veteran could be looking for his second new home after seven seasons with the 49ers and this past year in Oakland.
73. Todd Davis, Broncos
Solid in his second year as a full-time starter, Davis was second on the Broncos with 82 tackles.
84. Jerrell Freeman, Bears
He missed all but the season opener with a pectoral injury.
92. Derrick Johnson, Chiefs
Johnson has 1,154 tackles in 13 seasons in Kansas City.
What about the draft?
The Browns are set at linebacker when it comes to the top of the depth chart as Kirksey, Schobert and Collins remain in the team’s long-term plans. Cleveland could use the draft to address depth at the position, though Burgess performed admirably in 2017 and Alexander, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, is set to return.