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Shutdown Corner

Free agency preview: Not a lot of great linebackers, but there are some hidden gems

With the NFL's salary cap increasing by about $10 million from last year to $133 million and teams having holes to fill, free agency should be hectic. Shutdown Corner will have you covered, with a preview of a different position each day leading up to the start of the free-agency period on Tuesday.

Here is Shutdown Corner’s breakdown of free agent linebackers:

Market Watch

Washington applied the franchise tag to Brian Orkapo, and Jason Worilds received the transition tag. Cleveland released D’Qwell Jackson, and he signed with the Indianapolis Colts. With those players off the free agent market, there are not a lot of impact linebackers remaining. Some of the notable 3-4 or 4-3 linebackers are older players who have struggled to keep up with the modern passing game. It will be easier for most teams to find a linebacker, or convert a college defensive end, in the upcoming NFL draft.

Top Attraction: Brandon Spikes, Patriots

Spikes is ready for a fresh start, and it is easy to understand why. New England drafted Spikes in 2010 (second-round) and he eventually received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He was reportedly placed on injured reserve last season after missing a team meeting. However, Spikes said it was because he had a knee injury. He finished with 86 tackles in 2013.

Now the good news.

Spikes has the ability to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He is strong against the run, and is 26. Former New England line coach Pepper Johnson is in Buffalo, and it is possible Spikes could land there. He could also improve Kansas City’s defense with his nasty play on-the-field.

Buyer Beware: Erin Henderson, Vikings

Henderson finished second on the team with tackles last year, but first in arrests. He was arrested twice for DWI violations in three months. He was released by the Vikings in February. Henderson may have talent, but any team that signs him must figure out how to approach his off-the-field issues, plus a possible suspension by the NFL.

Frugal Addition: Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Rams

Dunbar missed the first four games of last season after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. St. Louis released Dunbar, but eventually re-signed him. Dunbar started in 10 games and finished with 39 tackles. He is 28-years old, and one NFL team will be able to obtain a quality veteran player without having to invest much.

The Buzz

Arizona is trying to re-sign Karlos Dansby, but Tennessee is interested in him. Dansby is 32-years old, but he might have enough in the tank to be productive in the immediate future.

Best of the Rest

Former Packers and Redskins linebacker Nick Barnett’s name has not been mentioned in a while, but he was switched from outside to inside linebacker last season. Barnett probably will not be signed until after the NFL draft, but do not be surprised if he still has something left in the tank … Washington wants to re-sign inside linebacker Perry Riley, but both sides were far apart in contract negotiations last week … Veteran linebacker Jon Beason will represent himself in free agency. He played with the New York Giants last season.

Shutdown Corner's free agency preview schedule
March 3: Shutdown Corners's top 25 free agents
March 4: Quarterbacks
March 5: Running backs
March 6: Receivers/tight ends
March 7: Offensive linemen
March 8: Defensive backs
March 9: Linebackers
March 10: Defensive line

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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