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Free Agent Forecast: Linebacker

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The new NFL year begins this Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2019’s free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we’ll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, continuing with linebackers.

PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS

Ramon Humber, Albert McClellan

OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS

Dante Fowler (L.A. Rams), Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers), Terrell Suggs (Baltimore Ravens), Shane Ray (Denver Broncos), C.J. Mosley (Baltimore Ravens), Justin Houston (Kansas City Chiefs), Thomas Davis (Carolina Panthers), Anthony Barr (Minnesota Vikings), K.J. Wright (Seattle Seahawks), Jamie Collins (Cleveland Browns)

POSSIBLE PATRIOTS

Humber, McClellan, Matthews, Ray, Barr, Deone Bucannon (Arizona Cardinals), Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore Ravens), Aaron Lynch (Chicago Bears), Preston Brown (Cincinnati Bengals), Kyle Emanuel (L.A. Chargers), Kwon Alexander (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Derrick Morgan (Tennessee Titans), Preston Smith (Washington Redskins)

ANALYSIS

This is a sizeable group of available talent, which could have been even bigger. The Texans’ Jadeveon Clowney and K.C.’s Dee Ford would have made this list had they not been given the franchise tag by their respective teams earlier this month.

Nevertheless, if New England wants to beef up its linebacker roster, both inside and out, it has plenty of good choices here.

We’ll start on the outside, where Matthews and Barr are big names in this department and would look good in Patriots uniforms. There are several other candidates who might have the body type to be versatile players in the hybrid OLB-DE roles that New England’s defense often uses, and who might fly under the radar, which is frequently where the Patriots like to pluck such talent. Both of the Smiths (of the Ravens and Redskins) fall into this category, as does Ray, Morgan, Lynch of Chicago and the Chargers’ Emanuel.

Of course, with impressive 2018 rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley expected to be back after missing most of the year with a torn biceps muscle injury, the Patriots might not be as needy in the middle, but Tampa’s Alexander, coming off a torn ACL, is still young (he’ll turn 25 during training camp, the same day as Tom Brady) and might be the kind of value New England often covets. Ditto for Brown, a former Buffalo Bill who’s recovering from a knee injury and was rumored to be close to signing with the Patriots last offseason.

Bucannon, meantime, is on the smaller side, but is a good enough athlete that the Patriots might want to experience with him at another spot on D, perhaps as an in-the-box safety. Humber and McClellan are a pair of mostly special teams contributors, either or whom could easily be back in Foxborough this coming season.

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