So another disclaimer, we definitely can look at some of these linebackers as edge rushers, which in theory would make them defensive ends in the San Francisco 49ers 4-3 scheme. I’ve decided against this mostly to avoid ballooning spreadsheets and avoiding confusion. Jadeveon Clowney is a great example. He’s a 3-4 linebacker, but if he came to the 49ers he’d be going after the quarterback.
To make this easier, the table is sortable, so you can swap between the various types of linebackers.
But let’s start with Clowney. The Houston Texans linebacker is coming off his rookie deal and is one of the bigger names to hit free agency—if he gets that far. Clowney has said he wants to return to the Texans and it looks like the Texans may slap him with the franchise tag for 2019. I will be very surprised if we see Clowney anywhere but the Texans in 2019.
Then there’s Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs. You know him best for doing this in the 2018 AFC Championship game. Ford would be coming from a 3-4 and again be playing on the end, but he’d be a solid addition, provided he lines up away from the line of scrimmage. Ford has been very vocal about wanting to stay in KC, and has even been open to being franchised. He’s another one to not get your hopes up on coming to Santa Clara.
So let’s look at who’s left. Green Bay Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews is available. The Packers have a knack for taking care of their own and Matthews is a prior draft pick. That said, Matthews, who will be 33 years old, didn’t have a stellar 2018 and the Packers have some decisions to make with their salary cap. I don’t see him returning to the Packers unless he takes a pay cut in his new extension. Being a 3-4 linebacker, I’m not sure how he’d fit in a 4-3 when he’s played in a 3-4 his entire career.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Dante Fowler and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs are both available. Suggs will be 37, though he hints he’s not a fan of retiring. Fowler just got traded to the Rams during the 2018 season, if he gets an extension is anyone’s guess.
If you’re wanting someone play more inside next to Fred Warner, my personal favorite is Cory Littleton who is finishing up with the Los Angeles Rams. Littleton is young, and had a great 2018. There’s also C.J. Mosley with the Ravens. Mosley had a step back for 2018, which may make him come cheaper if the Ravens decide not to re-up his contract. He has shown his potential before and is worth a look. With the loss of Reuben Foster, the 49rs would be wise to get some veteran presence (and competition for that matter) with Warner.
You also can see that Brian Orakpo is there. He’s retiring, so don’t get your hopes up that the 49ers could put a flier on him.
Aaron Lynch is also available to return from the Bears. If the 49ers want to give him another shot is an entirely different question. He signed a one-year deal with Chicago.
Any way you look at it, linebackers are thin. At least the ones that could work in the 49ers system that aren’t going to be gobbled up with extensions before free agency starts. Here’s the list of them per Over the Cap. Keep in mind that some of these linebackers also line up as edge rushers depending on the system they play in. That’s something to keep in mind. Things could change with franchise tags and deals, but all of the below have contracts expiring. Would you be interested in any of these guys coming to Santa Clara?
Free Agent Linebackers
|Dante Fowler, Jr.||34OLB||Rams||25|