2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top Five Inside Linebackers

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Sep 14, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster (59) tackles St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3. Mason Foster

Pros: prototypical size and speed for the position. Foster has a good football IQ and can read and diagnose plays properly then attack the play with discipline. He has good feet and works well in a crowded area. He also has solid coverage skills, able to play zone and man coverage adequately enough to remain on the field in passing situations and with six career sacks he presents at least the viable threat of a blitz. Recorded five career INT’s, including three in 2013, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

Cons: Foster is coming off a pretty significant injury and an unspectacular season for an awful Tampa Bay team. He also doesn’t do well in engaging bigger blockers on the interior, generally relying on his athleticism and speed to slip by rather than stack and shed. This can cause him to get swallowed up, especially if he doesn’t have good protection from his defensive tackles.

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Brandon Marshall, Mason Foster among linebackers who could help Chiefs
Brandon Marshall, Mason Foster among linebackers who could help Chiefs /

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  • Scheme Fit: Foster was projected to be a 3-4 inside linebacker but has played mostly in a 4-3 look at the Mike position, and has played well enough. He has the speed and size to play in Del Rio’s system, though he may not have the range that Del Rio generally prefers, and he has the cover skills to play every down.

    Market Value: Foster may actually have a relatively strong market, because of his resume as a four-year starter (54 games started of 57 available) and his physical toolkit. Tampa may make a push to keep him, but if he does hit the open market he’ll have a few potential suitors interested in bringing him in. He could reasonably expect to manage a three or four year deal, perhaps $18M-$24M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: maybe. Foster doesn’t have much background with Jack Del Rio, but he is a California high school product (Seaside High, in Monterey County) and PAC-12 alumnus so Ken Norton definitely knows something about him. Foster is perhaps the only legitimate three down starting 4-3 mike backer in this group, so the Raiders may take a run at him, and they can outbid anyone else.

    Next: 2015 Free Agent ILB Rankings: #4 Craig Robertson