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NFL free agency 2017: SAM linebacker

Should we just wait until the draft?

The 49ers are moving to a 43 under defense with three linebackers. A weak side linebacker or a WILL that plays on the second level, a middle linebacker or MIKE that also plays on the second level and a strong side linebacker or SAM that usually lines up on the line of scrimmage playing the 7-technique outside of the tight end. The SAM can also line up in the secondary at times.

Both Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch have experience playing left outside linebacker in the past which appears to be similar but, given Lynch’s weight and injury issues along with last year’s suspension and Brooks’ abilities seem to be greatly declining with his age, it would not surprise me if the 49ers brought someone else into camp to compete for the position.

It is hard to figure out which inside and outside linebackers could actually play on the line of scrimmage and also lineup at the second level. When examining how Seattle, Atlanta, and Jacksonville have filled the position, it appears they used players with some length at 6’3” with an average weight of 246 pounds. Mike Morgan of the Seahawks is 6’3” and weighs only 243 pounds.

Anyway, I started with a few inside linebackers and then added a couple of outside linebackers for good measure. If you can think of any players that might be a better fit, I would love to hear your ideas.

ILB Zach Brown - $1,250,000 - Titans

Zach Brown is 27 years old and was originally drafted in the second round by the Titans. It seems like he would be a little short at 6”1” and he would probably be more valuable playing in the secondary. Brown had 149 tackles four sacks and two forced fumbles in 2016. Pro Football Focus had him listed as the seventh best inside linebacker in the NFL. He is 6’1” and weighs 248 pounds.

ILB Kevin Minter - $1,396,913 - Cardinals

Kevin Minter is 26 and was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2013 draft. Minter had 81 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and two passes defended this past season and similar numbers in 2015. PFF had him listed as the 29th best ILB. Minter is 6’0” tall and weighs 246 pounds.

ILB Audie Cole - $680,000 - Vikings

Audie Cole is 27 years old and was drafted by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Audie has been a backup for the Vikings. You don’t get many snaps when you play behind Eric Kendricks. I am mentioning him because he played Sam his junior year in college and might make a good backup at the position. He is 6’4” and weighs 248 pounds. I think it might be interesting to sign Cole and then try to add a player through the draft.

ILB Manti Te’o - $1,645,772 - Chargers

Manti Te’o is 25 years old and was drafted by the Chargers in the second round of the 2013 draft. Te’o might be a great player if he could ever stay healthy. He missed time in two seasons with foot injuries, then had an ankle injury last season, and now has a torn Achilles this season. He has only 222 tackles in almost 4 years and his PFF scores have only been good in 2014. He is 6’1” and weighs 241 pounds. Maybe playing up on the line might be good for him? Who knows? He might even look good on our injured reserve list? Watch out for the catfish Te’o.

43 OLB Don’t’a Hightower $7,751,000 – Patriots

Don’t’a Hightower is 26 years old and was drafted by the New England Patriots in first round of the 2012 draft. The Patriots used their fifth year option on him this season. He had 60 tackles, four sacks and three passes defended this season. He is 6’3” and weighs 265 pounds. He would probably play the Leo if he was on our team.

34 OLB Nick Perry - $4,875,000 – Packers

Nick Perry is 26 years old and was drafted by the Packers in the first round of the 2012 draft. Last year was by far Nick Perry’s best season with 52 tackles, 11 sacks, four passes defended and one interception. Perry is on a one year contract after the Packers declined to pick up his fifth year option. He is 6’3 and weighs 265 pounds. He may be more suited to play LEO but he has the ability to drop back in coverage so I included him.

34O LB John Simon - $1,671,000 - Texans

John Simon is 26 years old and was originally drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Simon had 51 tackles, three point five sacks and one forced fumble in 2016.. Pro Football Focus had him listed as the 39th best edge rusher. He is 6’1 and weighs 260 pounds. I am not sure how good he would be at dropping back in coverage.