While Paul Worrilow has been a tackling machine in the past two years for the Falcons, there are many who feel that this position could afford a big upgrade at the position. And while Joplo Bartu initially impressed as another UDFA, his performance in year 2 left many wanting a better option there as well. Considering Sean Weatherspoon's struggles with staying healthy, it's safe to say that the Falcons need to find some answers at linebacker, and chiefly inside. Here are some potential free agent options.
At about 6'3", Spikes is a big man in the middle of the defense. He had a good 2014 campaign, ranking in the top-20 for ILBs according to PFF. At age 27, Spikes is still on the upswing. While he doesn't have impressive speed, he reacts to the ball well and has soft hands in coverage.
The issues with Spikes seem to be his lack of top-end speed and some initial character concerns. While the latter hasn't seemed to be an issue of late, Spikes is not an elite athlete and shouldn't be paid like one. But, he can do well in the middle of the D and could be a worthy upgrade.
For a man who was written off for dead, McClain had an impressive 2014 campaign with the Cowboys. The former top-10 pick finally looked like it, as he played equally well against the run and the pass. He was the #8 ILB for PFF on the season.
The concern with McClain will revolve primarily around whether his head is in the game. After being labeled a bust in his time in Oakland, McClain was signed by the Ravens in 2013 - only to retire before playing a regular season snap. His campaign with the Cowboys was impressive, but character concerns are a hot-button issue, especially with his his name in the news yet again.
Herzlich isn't likely to be considered a fancy signing, but he's a tough OLB that tackles well and has prototypical size. He's got decent speed, good length and is a smart player. He played well in more of a rotational role with the Giants in 2014, grading strongly in run defense but ratherly poorly in coverage.
At only 27, Herzlich is still young and could be an inexpensive option.
Similar to Herzlich, Brinkley isn't going to be a big-name signing, but he did perform decently in 2014 for Minnesota. However, at 30 years old, Brinkley would likely be a veteran depth signing more than anything else.
While Briggs would be a big-name signing, at age 34, we'd be getting a linebacker in the downslope of his career. In his prime, Briggs was a very good linebacker playing most of his years next to Brian Urlacher. While he had a decent start to his 2014 season, injuries plagued him and limited him to just 8 games - finishing the season on IR. While Briggs may be able to play a couple more seasons, he's not going to be a long-term answer for the team.
At 31, Harris still has a few years left in him - enough to consider bringing him on. He's a relatively quick linebacker who has been generally productive during his time in the NFL. However, if the Jets do move on from Harris, there's a strong likelihood that Rex Ryan may want to bring him into Buffalo. While Harris is a decent player, the Falcons don't need to get into a bidding war for his services.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, this off-season doesn't appear to be rich with great free agent options at linebacker. There are some names to keep an eye on that could be cap casualties, but as it stands right now, the options are rather slim.
What do you think about the need for linebackers and the names available?