2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Outside Linebackers
Sep 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (56) chases New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles (43) during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Falcons 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
4. Sean Weatherspoon
Pros: fast, strong, instinctive linebacker who came into the league with all the physical tools necessary to be an All-Pro NFL linebacker. Sean Weatherspoon, when healthy, is one of the best 4-3 linebackers in the game, and can play and excel on every down in every situation. He can blitz effectively, can cover competently, and is a tackling machine who gets after the run with good instincts and recognition.
Cons: he can’t stay healthy. Sean Weatherspoon is easily the #1 player on this list, especially as a 4-3 linebacker, because of his combination of physical tools, instincts, motor and football IQ. But he’s missed 25 games in the past two seasons, including missing the entirety of last year with a torn Achilles.
Scheme Fit: Weatherspoon has played his entire five year NFL career in Atlanta in Mike Smith’s defensive system for defensive coordinators Brian Van Gorder and Mike Nolan. Smith and Van Gorder are both Del Rio proteges, and Nolan and Del Rio have a common coaching heritage as well. Weatherspoon would fit right into a Jack Del Rio defense, either as a traditional 4-3 Will linebacker or as a Mike backer. He can play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3.
Market Value: after a knee injury and then an Achilles injury he will have to show that he can still play at a high level. He’s probably going to be looking at a one-year deal somewhere, for a relatively small amount of money, in the neighborhood of $2.5M, perhaps with some additional incentives.
Would he sign with the Raiders: yes. He’s a perfect fit for a Del Rio defense, having come up under Mike Smith and Brian Van Gorder, and he’s probably going to be available on the cheap with very little risk to Reggie McKenzie. If he doesn’t work out, the Raiders have other players on the roster who can. If he does, and plays up to his 2011-2012 level, he could immediately improve the Raiders defense and probably lead the unit from the Mike position.
Next: 2015 Free Agent OLB Rankings: #5 Akeem Ayers