Free agency hit and definitely shook things up. For the linebackers, there were big names that found new teams and others who found promising opportunities. All this brings some change to the linebacker IDP landscape.
I took a look at some of names that changed teams and broke them into four tiers:
- Studs: High-end LB options with LB1 upside
- Ballers: LBs with potential/upside and are firmly in the LB2/3 range
- Role Players: Players who are lower end options, but could be useful in deeper IDP leagues if options are thin
- Wildcards: LBs that could land productive roles, end up drop-able, or are buried on the depth chart
Cory Littleton – Las Vegas Raiders
The last two seasons, Littleton has been a force in the middle of the Rams’ defense amassing 125 total tackles (90 solo) in 2018 and 134 total tackles (78 solo) in 2019. He now finds himself wearing a new jersey as he signed a 3-year/$36 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders desperately needed help at linebacker and got their guy in Littleton. Not only is Littelton a proficient tackler, but he is also one of the best coverage linebackers in the league. Littleton is a rock solid LB1 and a huge upgrade to the Raiders defense.
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Joe Schobert – Jacksonville Jaguars
Schobert has found himself a new home in Jacksonville where he signed a 5-year/$54 million deal. Since breaking onto the scene in 2017, Schobert has been an absolute tackle machine for the Cleveland defense. Schobert will now man the middle of the Jacksonville defense and they can sure use him after the struggles of Myles Jack there. I expect Schobert to continue to excel in his new uniform and continue to put up LB1 numbers.
Blake Martinez – New York Giants
After four extremely productive years in Green Bay, Martinez is taking his talents to New York after signing a 3-year/$30 million contract with the Giants. He consistently racked up the tackles in Green Bay collecting 144 total tackles in 2017 and 2018, and setting a career high with 155 total tackles (97 solo) in 2019. Now, Martinez will call the plays and man the middle of the Giants defense. Even with the change of scenery, Martinez is still a high-end weekly option and should keep racking up the tackles in New York.
De’Vondre Campbell – Arizona Cardinals
Campbell had a breakout 2019 campaign for Atlanta where he collected 129 total tackles (75 solo) six tackles for a loss and two sacks. He now finds himself in Arizona after signing a 1-year prove it deal for $8.5 million. Even though Campbell will have to compete with Jordan Hicks for opportunities, I expect him to continue to produce well for his IDP owners as an LB2.
Chritian Kirksey – Green Bay Packers
After back to back injury riddled seasons, Kirksey finds himself in a great situation to get back on track after signing a 2-year/$16 million contract with Green Bay. Kirksey had huge years in 2016 and 2017 amassing 148 total tackles and 138 total tackles respectively. Blake Martinez is gone and now Kirksey is the man in the middle for the Packers. If he can stay healthy, Kirksey is a solid LB2 option with serious upside.
Nick Kwiatkoski – Las Vegas Raiders
A new home and new opportunity, Kwiatkoski signed a 3-year/$21 million deal with Las Vegas Raiders. Playing behind Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan in Chicago the last four years, Kwiatkoski saw up and down playing time. Even though he was in a backup role, Kwiatkoski stepped up and showed well when called upon to fill in especially at the end of the 2019 season. Now, he is paired with Littleton in the revamped Raiders linebacker unit. Littleton is the superior option, but I still think Kwiatkoski has the ability to put up LB2 numbers and is an excellent LB3 option.
Jamie Collins – Detroit Lions
After a stellar 2019 season, Collins signed a 3-year/$30 million deal with the Detroit Lions. He may have found a new home, but it’s a familiar system as he played for Lions coach Matt Patricia back in his days with the Patriots. The big question with Collins is what role will he play and where will most of his snaps come from. He has the ability to play both off the ball and as a pass rusher with good results. If Collins can replicate his play from 2019 and see the majority of his snaps off ball, he will easily be in the LB2/3 conversation.
Tahir Whitehead – Carolina Panthers
Whitehead signed a 1 year/$2.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers after being released by the Raiders. While Shaq Thompson is there, there’s still a void to fill after the Kuechly retirement. It’s no secret that Whitehead is nowhere near the player Kuechly is though. He has had some productive seasons in his career with 100 plus tackles in his last four seasons. If he wins the starting gig he could definitely put up LB3 numbers.
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Thomas Davis – Washington Redskins
Davis signs with a familiar face in coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are bringing Davis in on a 1-year deal to bring some leadership and familiarity to their linebacker unit. Davis had some big years playing the weak-side in Rivera’s system in Carolina. If he can win that job in Washington, he could be a usable/streamer option in the deepest of IDP leagues.
Kyle Van Noy – Miami Dolphins
Van Noy got himself a nice payday signing a 4-year/$51 million contract with Miami Dolphins. Van Noy is a versatile player and moved all over the defensive formation in New England. He will be doing more of the same in Miami. Coach Brian Flores runs a similar system and coached Van Noy in New England. Van Noy doesn’t have a high ceiling as he doesn’t play the desired off-ball role, but he will be on the field and can be used if needed in deeper IDP leagues.
Jatavis Brown – Philadelphia Eagles
Brown finds himself a new home and one with lots of opportunity after singing a 1-year deal with the Eagles. Brown has flashed at times in the past for the Chargers (97 total tackles in 2018), but has had his troubles staying healthy. If Brown can stay healthy, he has a big opportunity for snaps as the Eagles linebacker unit is razor thin. Brown makes for a solid speculative add as we see how the situation develops.
Nick Vigil – Los Angeles Chargers
Vigil had some solid years in Cincinnati and collected a career best 111 total tackles in 2019. He recently signed a 1-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. He now enters one of the league’s most frustrating linebacker rotations for IDP owners. Vigil will be fighting with Denzel Perryman, Drue Tranquill, and Kyzir White for snaps. If he can win a starting role and find regular snaps he could be productive for owners, but that Charger rotation is definitely a big worry.
Josh Bynes – Cincinnati Bengals
Bynes recently signed a 1-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. The veteran brings some experience and stability to a linebacker unit in flux. Bynes has a good shot to win the job in the middle, as him and second year man Germaine Pratt are currently the best linebackers on the roster. Bynes makes for a nice speculative add to see if he can win that job for Cincinnati.
As always, feel free to reach me on Twitter @KBellf54 with any questions or feedback you may have.