Linebacker Preview Headed Into Free Agency

The Dolphins' defense has been a hot topic since the end of the season. Many people blame the 6-10 season largely on the defense and many want the defense to be better next season. 

The position that seems to take the most heat, is the linebacker position. Most believe that the Dolphins linebacker position is so bad that they don't have a true starter at any position. I must disagree there. Adam Gase stuck up for Kiko at the Combine, by telling the reporter he had the same amount of tackles in 2016 and 2017. He also asked the reporter if he knew whose responsibility it was in coverage. 

Now most people that breakdown the film (myself included) can say who we think was responsible for covering who, however, we are not in the meetings and we are not aware of who was supposed to be covering who. Perfect example, Kiko Alonso was mismatched against Jared Cook on the outside perimeter. I do not believe for one minute that was the game plan all along. 

My point, the linebackers are not as bad as many believe. Raekwon McMillan will be back next season and I fully expect him to be back stronger than ever. Will they ease him back and have him playing the SLB role or maybe keep him at MLB? We don't know, what we can say, McMillan can surely help this team. 

Kiko at OLB, McMillan at MLB, which leaves a void at the other linebacker position with Timmons being cut (reported to happen). So, let's assume they like Anthony as a nickel/dime linebacker and they will address it in free agency. 

Free Agent Targets: 

Tahir Whitehead (DET): Whitehead is coming off two strong seasons. He finished 2016 with 132 tackles and finished 2017 with 110. White head has been in the NFL since 2012 but will only 28 at the start of the season. Whitehead would be a perfect replacement for Lawrence Timmons at SLB. Whitehead offers Miami a younger option with more upside at this point in his career. 

Nigel Bradham (PHI): Bradham has played in a wide 9 system under Jim Schwartz in both Buffalo and Philadelphia. Bradham amassed over 100 tackles twice in his three years under Schwartz. With both teams, Bradham has proven to be one of the better SLBs in the NFL. With the departure of Timmons, Bradham would be a perfect fit for this scheme replacing Timmons while offering a veteran role. Bradham will be 29 at the start of the season. 

Preston Brown (BUF): Tackling machine! Preston Brown has been quietly one of the most efficient MLBs in the NFL and is still on 25 years old. He has recorded, 109, 120, 139, and 144 total tackles in each year of his career. Brown is more of a middle linebacker at 6'2 256, but he could play MLB while McMillan moves to SLB or vice versa. Brown is a young thumper LB that can immediately help this run defense. 

Avery Williamson (TEN): Williamson is a lesser known name of the group but has had solid production with the Tennessee Titans. He has good size at 6'1 246 pounds and he will only be 26 at the start of free agency. Williamson has proven to be a good fit in a 3-4, but he could also provide a solid SLB in in Miami's system. 

 Anthony Hitchens (DAL): Anthony Hitchens has been Dallas' best linebacker outside of Sean Lee. Every time Lee was hurt, Hitchens did a great job of leading the defense. Hitchens won't wow you with his numbers, however he has been a constant on an inconsistent Dallas defense. Hitchens is still young and will be 26 by the start of the season. 

Preston Brown is the youngest of these linebackers and to be honest is my favorite free agent target along with Nigel Bradham. I think all these linebackers can help the Dolphins, but adding youthful linebackers also helps as well. A guy like Preston Brown or Avery Williamson may not cost a lot of money. Whitehead's cost may be the most out of the free agent linebackers but is still worth a look with all the Detroit connections. I feel as if all these linebackers cannot only fill in the role for Lawrence Timmons, but they can all make the defense better next year.