Depth: Cory James, Ben Heeney, Neiron Ball, Tyrell Adams
Free agents: Malcolm Smith, Perry Riley, Daren Bates
To begin the season, it was Heeney starting at middle linebacker. By week three, he was replaced by James. By week five, he was replaced by Riley who was signed off the street and started immediately. Heeney went on injured reserve and James was relegated to mostly special teams duties.
Smith started alongside them all season long. His two-year deal now complete, he looks headed for free agency along with Riley; the starting duo most of last season.
Ball was injured in the offseason and never returned. He has proven injury prone from his college days and that has continued in his first two seasons. Adams and Bates were special teamers.
Seriously, who is starting at inside linebacker next season? That’s kinda important. The three free agents were all key pieces last season; Smith and Riley as starters and Bates as a special teams ace. Heeney and Ball are coming off injury with neither proving in their limited time in the lineup that they can be counted on as fulltime starters. Even if all free agents return, upgrades are needed.
If you’re thinking there are a couple linebackers missing here, check out edge rushers.