Free Agency

2019 free agency: Linebacker group stocked with potential for success

The Browns lost two of their starting linebackers to injury last season, and try as they may, the absences showed.

They're getting Joe Schobert and Christian Kirskey back healthy this year, but it did beg the question: Could they use more help there?

This draft is thin at linebacker. After the Devins -- White and Bush -- things turn less promising. So we turn to free agency instead to scan over the team's options, and where general manager John Dorsey (a former linebacker himself) might turn for help.

Here's a look at who might be available for the hiring come Wednesday.

Who's back?

Joe Schobert - 13 games (13 starts), 103 tackles, six passes defended, 3.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception

Christian Kirksey - Seven games (seven starts), 43 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions

Genard Avery - 16 games (five starts), 40 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four passes defended, one forced fumble

D'Juan Hines - 13 games (zero starts), four tackles

Xavier Luster-Woodson - Four games (zero starts), one tackle

Unrestricted free agents

Ray-Ray Armstrong - Nine games (zero starts), six tackles

Top LBs available (rankings from NFL.com's Top 101 free agents)

6. Anthony Barr, Vikings

Barr is an athletic and versatile linebacker who is good but will likely command great money on the open market.

7. C.J. Mosley, Ravens

The Ravens have some tough decisions to make with their defense, but Mosley is likely priority No. 1. He should be expected to stay in Baltimore.

8. K.J. Wright, Seahawks

Wright played in just five games in 2018, his first single-digit season in his career. He's been lost in the shadow of Bobby Wagner and turns 30 in July, begging the question: How much value does he have left?

12. Preston Smith, Redskins

Smith racked up a career-high 53 tackles to go along with 4.0 sacks, three passes defended and one interception in his contract year. At 26, he has room to grow.

22. Jordan Hicks, Eagles

Hicks was having a stellar season before he suffered an ACL tear to cut his 2017 campaign short. He bounced back in 2018, recording 91 tackles, 3.0 sacks and five passes defended in just 12 games. At 26, he has a very bright future.

23. Kwon Alexander, Buccaneers

Alexander suffered an ACL injury against the Browns last season that essentially served as the deciding factor as to why he's not being retained by Tampa Bay. If he can return fully healthy, the speedy middle linebacker can be a great bargain addition for a team in need of some help.

30. Dante Fowler, Rams

Fowler's best play came in the playoffs with a loaded Rams defense, which happened after he was traded away from another loaded defense because he was underperforming. So which Fowler is the real Fowler? A team will have to take a chance on him to find out.

37. Denzel Perryman, Chargers

Perryman is a solid linebacker who won't command top dollar but will be a valuable addition to whichever team he chooses. The Chargers would be wise to attempt to keep him.

39. Shaquil Barrett, Broncos

Barrett struggled to get consistent reps early in his career, thanks to being on the same team as Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, but he's also had to fight injuries. When healthy, though, he's been good in spots. Maybe more field time will produce better results.

40. Terrell Suggs, Ravens

Suggs is officially in ageless wonder territory, and though he's not the All-Pro he once was, he can still make an impact. The question now: Will he leave Baltimore or stay at a lower rate?

52. Jamie Collins, Browns

The Browns released Collins on Wednesday after two and a half seasons spent with the team.

54. Deone Bucannon, Cardinals

Bucannon suffered from the team-wide struggles experienced in Arizona, which came after he no longer had Bruce Arians as his coach. Might a reunion be shaping up in Tampa?

55. Clay Matthews, Packers

Matthews was in the headlines early for being penalized for playing football, but he didn't do a good job of the latter portion for the rest of the season. It seems as though his stardom has passed him by.

72. Markus Golden, Cardinals

Golden made the switch from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2018, and much like everything else related to the Cardinals in that season, it was a struggle.

81. Thomas Davis, Panthers

Davis' parting of ways with the Panthers was a surprise -- for goodness sake, the guy played in the Super Bowl with a broken arm! -- but at 35 years old, it wasn't entirely unjustified. He still has some good football left in him, though, and will get picked up because of it.

86. Mark Barron, Rams

A safety-turned-linebacker, Barron lays the wood but also wasn't worth the money to a cash-strapped team. He's 29, and thanks to being banged up plenty and tons of miles racked up on him in recent seasons, he's not getting any younger.

88. Shane Ray, Broncos

Ray should've had more success than he did playing opposite Von Miller. He was the lesser of the pairing of he and Barrett.

90. Derrick Morgan, Titans

Morgan is a reliable veteran but saw his sacks fall off a cliff in 2018, going from 7.5 in 2017 to just 0.5. At 30 years old, that's concerning.

99. Brandon Marshall, Broncos

A veteran with value as a run-down linebacker, Marshall remains in play even as the wide receiver with the same name coasts into the sunset.

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