Top 10 Free Agent NFL Linebackers Still Available

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Free Agent Linebackers Still Available

Free Agent Linebackers
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, linebacker is becoming one of the hardest positions to define. As a rule the position was always kind of a hybrid, somewhere in between the rough and tumble guys who fought in the trenches and the athletic marvels who patrolled the passing lanes.

But now these NFL Swiss Army knives are being asked to do even more then ever. The same player who is expected to throw his body in front of a pulling 300 pound guard with a head of steam and stop a running play, is asked on the next play to stay with increasingly speedy running backs and tight ends on passing downs.

So that makes finding good linebackers both more critical than ever and also more difficult. They have to be fast, athletic and strong. Basically, you need to find a real life version of Superman.

But the good news is they're out there. College defenses have changed drastically in the last 10 years as a reaction to the wide open offenses they've been tasked to stop. To do just that they've been developing linebackers with the broad range of skill sets that NFL teams are looking for.

Some teams have done better than others at finding and developing these all important players, but some teams are still looking to solidify their linebacking group heading into training camp. If your team still has needs to fill at linebacker don't fear, there are still solid players left in the free agent market for them to bring in.

These are the 10 best free agent linebackers still available for year team to sign.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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10. Bradie James

Bradie James
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Bradie James, originally a fourth round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2003 draft, has made a career out of being a tackling machine as an inside linebacker. James, who broke out when the Cowboys switched to a 3-4 defense in 2005, posted 90 plus tackles every year from then until 2010.

Since then, he has seen his production and playing time decline, but his experience in a 3-4 system could be valuable to the right team.

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9. Keith Brooking

Keith Brooking
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran linebacker Keith Brooking has seen his best years in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean he can't bring value to a team that needs depth at the position.

His days as a starter may be over, but having Brooking and his experience on the team can be a very valuable asset to the right squad. A team that wants to win now could use him as a type of assistant coach on the field. He can help the younger players learn the game during the week in practices and meetings, then give the team some help on the field come Sunday.

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8. Chris Gocong

Chris Gocong
Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Gocong, an outside linebacker originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles and most recently on the Cleveland Browns, is trying to find a place in the league after coming off of a ruptured Achilles he suffered during training camp last year.

A relatively productive player while in Cleveland, Gocong tallied 99 tackles and 5.5 sacks in his two years there.

After the Achilles injury, it’s unlikely there’s a team out there who will give him a shot at a starting job, but he can be valuable as a backup and special teams player.

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7. Rocky McIntosh

Rocky McIntosh
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rocky McIntosh, who started over 50 games for the Washington Redskins since they traded up in the 2006 draft to take him in the second round, has been a solid player since coming into the league. A sure tackler, McIntosh topped out at 110 take downs in 2010.

Those tackle numbers have gone down in each of the last two years, but he still put up a respectable 44 spot last year with the St. Louis Rams.

McIntosh plays best in a 4-3 system, but has spent time as an inside linebacker in a 3-4. That versatility could help him find a spot this summer.

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6. Quincy Black

Quincy Black
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alright good, now we’re starting to get to the part of the list where teams can find real contributors, even starters.

Quincy Black, a third round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007, has only six years of NFL abuse on his body. A steady contributor for Tampa Bay during those six years, Black has plenty to offer a team in 2013.

He could compete for a starting job on some teams, and most surely offer some depth and special teams help to most.

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5. Bart Scott

Bart Scott
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Bart Scott brings a lot of things to the table. He may not bring a lot of physical tools anymore, he's lost a step for sure with age, but what he can bring in leadership and emotion can go a long way for the right team.

Look at what happened last year when the Baltimore Ravens brought back their emotional leader Ray Lewis. He wasn't near what he use to be in physical ability, but the emotional boost he gave the Ravens took them to a Super Bowl.

Scott is one of the most respected players in the league. Younger players will look up to him and take their game to the next level just from the emotional edge he brings to a team.

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4. Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Although he's technically retired, future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher has hinted that he still thinks he has what it takes to get the job done on the field.

The Chicago Bears weren’t willing to offer him the kind of contract and role on the team he was looking for, and Urlacher didn’t want to finish his career as a backup on the same team he led for so many years.

But Urlacher also never won a Super Bowl. He made it there in 2007, but lost to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. The right contender could talk him into a backup role if they offer him a chance to finally get a ring.

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3. LeRoy Hill

LeRoy Hill
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Leroy Hill has plenty of talent to offer a team on the field. He was a regular contributor to one of the best defenses in the league last year for the Seattle Seahawks. But it’s not doubts about his ability to play that have him on this list instead of an NFL roster, it’s his off field troubles.

Hill has been in trouble with the law multiple times in the last few years, most recently for a domestic violence incident in January of 2013. That was the last straw for the Seahawks, who decided not to bring him back for next season.

His behavior off the field is troubling at best, but this is the NFL, and we’ve seen players with questionable character get chance after chance as long as they can still get the job done on the field.

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2. Thomas Howard

Thomas Howard
Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Howard is another linebacker who is trying to prove to teams he can still get the job done after coming back from a severe injury. Howard was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2006, then signed a two year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011. After a good year in 2011, he suffered a torn ACL during practice in September of 2012.

Now reportedly fully healed from that injury, Howard has what it takes to start for several teams in the league. He is a sure tackler. He had 99 in 2011 with the Bengals, and will likely find a landing spot this summer.

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1. Nick Barnett

Nick Barnett
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Barnett, a longtime starter for the Green Bay Packers, has been a monster inside linebacker since he came into the league as the 29th overall pick in the 2003 draft out of Oregon State. He has never amassed less than 100 tackles in a season unless it was cut short by injury.

That production, combined with his veteran leadership, makes him the perfect pickup for a team looking to upgrade at middle linebacker.