With free agency set to begin later this month, Redskins.com's Stephen Czarda previews the 2018 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus is on the inside linebackers.
By the time April rolled around last year, a majority of the big-name free agents had already settled into their new homes, but one former Pro Bowler was still looking to sign a contract for the 2017 season.
On April 3rd, nearly a month after free agency began, the Washington Redskins announced that they had signed 2016 Pro Bowler Zach Brown. After an inconsistent four years with the Tennessee Titans, Brown joined the Buffalo Bills in 2016, recording a career-high 149 tackles with four passes defensed, four sacks, two fumbles forced and one interception.
The University of North Carolina product looked every bit a Pro Bowler in 2017 with the Redskins, as he spent much of the year leading the league in tackles before missing the final three games of the season with injury. Despite being inactive in those contests, Brown still finished the season with a team-high 127 tackles.
Nearing the end of his one-year deal, Brown could be headed for free agency again although Redskins head coach Jay Gruden noted at January's Senior Bowl that his production, and his speed in particular, helped the defense.
"I was impressed," Gruden said of Brown. "I think what we thought we were getting we got, and we got a very athletic guy that can run sideline to sideline and make some plays. He got hurt there a little bit at the end of the season unfortunately for him but he had a solid year. He's a guy that it's hard to replace his type of speed."
In addition to Brown being set to become an unrestricted free agent, so too is Will Compton.
Originally joining the Redskins as a college free agent signing in 2013, Compton has been both a reserve and starter during his time in Washington.
Compton became a starter midway through the 2015 season before starting all 15 of his appearances in 2016, recording a career-high 106 tackles. While the University of Nebraska product was mostly a reserve in 2017 before ending the year on Injured Reserve, he knows Washington's defensive system.
Along with Brown and Compton, here are the other inside linebackers set to become free agents according to Rotoworld.com:
- Navorro Bowman
- Avery Williamson
- Zach Brown
- Todd Davis
- Preston Brown
- Demario Davis
- Anthony Hitchens
- Jerrell Freeman
- Jon Bostic
- Paul Posluszny
- Christian Jones
- Korey Toomer
- Kevin Minter
- Karlos Dansby
- Brian Cushing
- Gerald Hodges
- Dannell Ellerbe
- Josh Bynes
- Corey Nelson
- Will Compton
- Derrick Johnson
- Michael Wilhoite
- Steven Johnson
- Nick Bellore
- Julian Stanford
- Tank Carder
- Sean Spence
- Andrew Gachkar
- Kelvin Sheppard
- Mark Herzlich
- Rey Maualuga
A former teammate of Brown's during his time with the Titans, Williamson could be in line to join a new team in 2018.
In his four seasons with Tennessee, Williams has collected 377 tackles with 11.5 sacks, eight passes defensed, three fumbles forced and two interceptions.
Another player in a situation similar to Williamson is Hitchens. After being selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cowboys, Hitchens has played the last four years in Dallas. For his career to date, Hitchens has recorded 304 tackles with eight passes defensed, 3.5 sacks and two fumbles forced.
Bowman, meanwhile, could potentially join his third NFL team.
The District Heights, Md., native spent the entirety of the first seven years of his career with the San Francisco 49ers before being released midseason last year.
Quickly joining the Oakland Raiders, the 29-year-old recorded 89 tackles in 10 games with his new team. He is a four-time first-team All-Pro.
Derrick Johnson, meanwhile, was informed last month that the Kansas City Chiefs won't be re-signing him after 13 seasons with the organization. Selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, the four-time Pro Bowler has collected more than 1,100 tackles in his career with 78 passes defensed, 27.5 sacks, 23 fumbles forced and 14 interceptions.