Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers

Free Agent Primer: Outside Linebackers
May 23, 2011, 3:30 pm
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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 tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran