2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top Five Inside Linebackers

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Sep 21, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos middle linebacker Nate Irving (56) rushes the passer against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

2. Nate Irving

Pros: Young, physical linebacker who can make a lot of noise inside in the run game. Irving has good size and above-average speed for the position, along with a high motor that gets him all over the field making plays. He also has spent three years in Jack Del Rio’s defensive system, including entering last season as the starting mike backer for Denver.

Cons: he’s started twelve games in his career, and he’s coming off a season-ending injury. Irving has not had a chance to show over the course of an entire season that he can be a consistent starting mike linebacker, and after his knee injury he will have to prove that he can still physically play at a high level. Irving is also a liability in coverage, though he can be used to blitz or spy in these situations.

Scheme Fit: this is why Nate Irving ranks high on my list – he’s a perfect fit for Del Rio. Del Rio already wanted him to be his starter last year for Denver, and Irving has been in Del Rio’s system for three years. He knows the defense the Raiders will probably run in 2015, and may be the key link to getting Del Rio’s vision onto the field next year.

Market Value: Irving is essentially an unproven young player who has mostly been a backup in his career and is coming off a season-ending injury. He’s not going to attract a lot of interest, and the team he played for last year hasn’t even made moves to re-sign him. He can probably come cheap, and on a short term deal without huge guarantees. Think one or two years, $2M-$5M.

Would he sign with the Raiders: almost definitely. Irving knows the Raiders head coach, knows the defensive philosophy, and probably doesn’t have a lot of other options out there on the market. The only way he doesn’t end up in Oakland is if Denver surprises everybody and makes him a real offer, or if Del Rio and McKenzie decide not to pursue him.

Next: 2015 Free Agent ILB Rankings: #3 Mason Foster