NFL free-agent preview: Linebackers

NFL free-agent preview: Linebackers
March 7, 2013, 11:45 am
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Here's the second in a series of looks at impending free agents and how they might fit in with the Patriots' needs. Yesterday we hit on the defensive backs. Today we're looking at linebackers.

OLB: Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher
ILB: Brandon Spikes, Mike Rivera

ILB: None
OLB: Tracy White, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian
The Patriots are in a great spot with the guys they have coming back. One of the lost stories of 2012 was the injury to Dane Fletcher and how his absence impacted the Patriots' third-down defense. Fletcher would have been on the field more than Spikes, who isn’t an accomplished guy in coverage. Mike Rivera actually isn’t a bad backup to Spikes in the every-down defense. If there was a chance to get a guy like Michael Boley, though -- a smooth cover guy who could back up at the outside positions and be versatile -- it may be worth a tire-kicking. Each of the three pending LB free agents the Patriots have are primarily special teams guys.
OLB: Paul Kruger, Connor Barwin, Justin Durant, Michael Boley, Erin Henderson
ILB: Brian Urlacher, Rey Maualuga, Dannell Ellerbe
OLB: Shaun Phillips, Darryl Smith, Antwan Barnes, Manny Lawson
ILB: Nick Barnett, Tim Dobbins, Chase Blackburn