Three linebackers that are still available and could work in Washington

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Peter Hailey
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Three LBs that are still available and could work in Washington originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington has done a splendid job in free agency whittling down their needs. By signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, William Jackson III and Curtis Samuel, the club has found a known quantity at quarterback for 2021, replaced the departed Ronald Darby with a better corner and finally found someone to pair with Terry McLaurin.

One spot that they haven't fully filled, though, is linebacker.

Yes, Ron Rivera brought in David Mayo and re-signed Jared Norris, but those two are best-suited in backup roles and on specials. Others still on the roster include Cole Holcomb, Jon Bostic, Khaleke Hudson and Josh Harvey-Clemons, who's expected to return after opting out in 2020. 

Now, because the team handed out sizable contracts to Fitzpatrick, Jackson and Samuel, there isn't a ton of cash left to go around. That could be one reason why the position hasn't been altered too much. There's also the draft, and at pick No. 19, Rivera may have his eyes already set on a linebacker prospect that he views as the true difference-maker that's worth adding, and everyone will just have to be a little more patient.

All that said, some notable players are still unsigned on the market if Washington wants to fortify the middle of their defense in the latter waves of free agency. These three, in particular, are interesting. 

KJ Wright

The ex-Seahawk has a championship pedigree like Thomas Davis had and like Rivera values, but he's younger at this stage of his career than Davis was when he joined the Burgundy and Gold in 2020, meaning his impact won't just come as a tone-setter. Wright will be 32 by Week 1, but don't be discouraged too much by that; he's been durable as a pro aside from his 2018 campaign.

Wright could very well return to Seattle, so the ex-Seahawk label from above might be a bit presumptuous. That organization did just draft a first-round linebacker in 2020, however, so if he wants to move on, coming to the east coast, linking up with Rivera and Jack Del Rio and setting up shop behind Chase Young's defensive line wouldn't be the worst place to land.

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BJ Goodson

Goodson is coming off his most-involved season in the NFL - he posted 91 combined tackles and two picks (one off of Dwayne Haskins, if you happen to remember) in 14 contests for the Browns. 

He's not exactly the coverage specialist that Rivera covets, but Goodson did fare better in that area in 2020, showing that he's not solely a run supporter. Also: His contract should be relatively cheap.

The former Giants draft selection will only be 28 by the opener, so there's a chance he's still ascending as a player. Perhaps the NFC East is where that ascension ought to continue. And again, if he settles in behind Washington's D-line, he might be able to pop even more.

Eric Wilson

Of the three in this story, Wilson offers the most in terms of pass defense. He's also the youngest, as he's still just 26.

The trade-off — there is typically a trade-off for anyone who's still on the market in late-March — is that he can really be taken advantage of by opposing rushing attacks. But if Rivera and Del Rio can live with that, or maybe formulate a rotation where Wilson comes in for passing situations and is subbed out when it's time for the ground game, a Wilson-to-Washington move seems very sensible.

Due to some depth chart shuffling in Minnesota, Wilson was thrust into the starting lineup for the Vikings last season, and he ended up corralling three interceptions as well as three sacks. While his on-paper numbers might ultimately look better than his on-field contributions, he can certainly help if utilized properly.