Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers


Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comThis is the sixth in a series of looks at the Patriots' position-by-position needs after the draft, and who's available to fill them via free agency . . . whenever free agency might come. Today's position: Outside linebacker.
Who's here?Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Marques Murrell, Markell Carter, Eric Moore.

Who's out there?
Manny Lawson (49ers), Rocky McIntosh (Redskins), Matt Roth (Browns), Thomas Howard (Raiders), Antwan Barnes (Chargers), Mike Vrabel (Chiefs).What's the need?
From 1-10? Let's call it an8. Blame it on Adalius. After seasons of seemingly having the DEOLB position figured out with a succession of good to great players, the Patriots paid fat cash for Adalius Thomas as a free agent in 2007. He was happy to take the money and run half speed. And now the Patriots seem in a funk when addressing the position. They are loathe to go back to free agency tofind an answer but - in a draft allegedly loaded with 3-4 outside backers, the Patriots didn't take one until Sunday (Markell Carter). As for the guys currently here, Cunningham has promise and Banta-Cain is due for a solid season in his on-again, off-again pattern. I think Moore - who signed with the Patriots in late 2010 - is an under-the-radar find as well. And Ninkovich won't hurt you much. But they still don't have a "star" at a position which most teams try to find or create. Who do they chase?
The smart money has been on them pursuing Roth - and it does make sense. As Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network recently pointed out, Roth is a seemingly good fit for the Patriots. He's 6-4, 275, has extensive experience in the 3-4, is just 28 years old and played for Belichick buddy Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. He's the most interesting prospect on the market. Who do we look at next?
Inside linebackers.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

What will it be like when Goodell shows up in Foxboro?

Tom E. Curran in the Cumberland Farms lounge joins Sports Tonight to discuss what he thinks it will be like when Roger Goodell attends the Patriots home opener on September 7.

Jackson: Browns willing to do anything for next quarterback. . . except trade No. 1 pick

Jackson: Browns willing to do anything for next quarterback. . . except trade No. 1 pick

PHOENIX -- The Browns are willing to do whatever it takes to land a quarterback they believe in . . . unless they're asked to give up the No. 1 overall pick.

That's apparently off the table. 

"No," Browns coach Hue Jackson said with a laugh during the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore. "No. I can tell you 'no' on that one. No."

Though Jackson would not touch any queries as they related to Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo --  "I can't comment on anybody else's players on another team, especially not in this forum," he said -- Jackson was more expansive when I asked him if he'd be willing to part with one of his team's two first-round draft picks in order to land the right quarterback. 

"I think everything would be on the table to consider," Jackson said. "But you'd like to come to a consensus that that right guy is out there and can be on your team. Yeah, I think we'd do anything. If there was the possibility to put the right quarterback on our football team, there's no question on my mind we'd do anything and everything to do that."

Anything and everything but give up No. 1. 

For the Patriots, the top overall choice may not be enough for them to part with Garoppolo, a fourth-year quarterback they seem to believe is the ultimate insurance policy for soon-to-be 40-year-old Tom Brady. 

But if every player has a price, one would think the top choice in this year's draft would be a hell of a start in getting the Patriots to consider a trade. Instead, it's a non-starter for Cleveland. 

The Browns are in a good place right now when it comes to their ammunition in the draft. Over the course of the next two years, they have nine top-65 selections to help rebuild a team that went 1-15 in 2016. Though No. 1 might be off the table, Jackson said nothing about No. 12, which may be easier to part with knowing that the team is bursting at the seams with picks.

Jackson said the Browns can afford to be relatively patient when it comes to filling their need at the sport's most important position. The Browns have so many other spots they could improve in the short-term that for them solving the quarterback position doesn't need to be done in haste, he explained. 

"This is a team game," Jackson said. "It's not just the quarterback. And I know everybody feels that. And I have great respect for that. But this is a team sport. The best teams normally win. Not the best quarterback. Don't get me wrong, Tom Brady's the best there is, but the best teams normally win.

"We gotta understand where we are. We gotta kind of crawl before we can walk. We weren't even walking a year ago. We weren't even crawling. I think what's most important for us is, 'How do we really want to build this team moving forward?'

"We all understand and recognize that a quarterback is a huge piece of it, but I think you gotta make sure that it's the right fit, and at the right time for us. And we'll do that at some point in time. It's going to happen, whether it's this year or next year, and we all know that. But I think what's important to us to have sustainable winning is we gotta have the best team. I think that's important as we move forward."

For the Browns, it appears as though building the best team means holding onto No. 1 overall this year regardless of whether or not it would help them land their quarterback of the future.