2019 Free Agency Preview: Outside Linebackers

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With free agency set to begin in mid-March, Redskins.com previews the 2019 NFL free agent class position-by-position. Today's focus continues with the outside linebackers.

For the Redskins, the outside linebacker group is filled with question marks for the next season, due to the impending free agency of several players. Four-time Pro-Bowler Ryan Kerrigan is still under contract for next year, and is looking to add to his already illustrious Redskins' career. 2017 second-round draft pick Ryan Anderson is also under contract for next season, and is set for a more productive third year.

Preston Smith's rookie contract has expired, and he is set to hit the open market after his four seasons with the Redskins. Smith has started all 16 games for the Redskins in each of the last three seasons. In his career, he has tallied 24.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss. Veteran Pernell McPhee is also set to become free agent next week.

Here are the top five free agents at the position, along with a other notables below.

Take a look at some of the top free agent outside linebackers in the NFL this offseason.

K.J. Wright

In his first eight NFL seasons, Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright has established himself among the best in the NFL. He has racked up over 100 tackles in four different seasons and has also proven himself when it comes to rushing the quarterback and getting into the backfield.

This past season, Wright only played in five games due to a knee injury. In those five games, Wright had 23 total tackles with two of those tackles being for a loss. In the 2017 season, Wright started 15 of the Seahawks’ games and made loads of tackles. He had 108 total tackles with five in the backfield. He also intercepted one pass and recovered a fumble to go along with his six passes defensed.

Wright has been selected to the Pro Bowl once in his career, being named to the team in 2016. That season, Wright started all 16 of the Seahawks’ games and had a total of 124 tackles. He had 12 tackles for the loss and sacked the quarterback four times. He also had a fumble recovery and five passes defensed.

Za’Darius Smith

Za’Darius Smith has played four seasons in the NFL, all with the Baltimore Ravens, where he has made himself known as a good pass-rushing outside linebacker. He has never been a full-time starter in Baltimore, but he has gotten significant playing time in every game he has played in.

This past season, Smith only started eight of the 16 games he played in, but that did not stop him from being one of the best linebackers at getting to the quarterback. Smith had 45 tackles this past season with 10 for a loss, but he was able to get eight and a half sacks. He also forced a fumble and had two passes defensed.

Dee Ford

Dee Ford has cemented himself as an elite outside linebacker over the past few seasons. After spending his first two years as a backup in Kansas City, Ford has emerged as the Chiefs’ best outside linebacker and edge rusher. He has started all but one game he has played in over the last three seasons and has reached double-digit sacks twice.

In 2018, Ford was named to his first ever Pro Bowl. He started all 16 of the Chiefs’ games this year and made his presence known on the field. Despite only reeling in 55 tackles, Ford got into the backfield for a total of 13 sacks. He also led the NFL in forced fumbles, as he jarred the ball loose seven times this year.

Dee Ford has been franchise tagged by the Kansas City Chiefs, but has reportedly remained available in trade talks.

Terrell Suggs

For the past 16 seasons, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has been terrorizing opposing defenses. He’s been consistently great at getting to the quarterback for sacks, as well as dropping back and defending the pass.

In 2018, the seven-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro started all 16 games for the Ravens for the 10th time in his career. He collected 34 tackles with 13 of them coming in the backfield for a loss. Of those 13 tackles for loss, seven of them were sacks on the quarterback. Suggs also had six passes defensed along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery, which he returned for a touchdown.

Over his long NFL career, Suggs has recorded a career total of 854 tackles. He’s had 193 tackles for a loss and gotten to the quarterback for 132.5 sacks. He’s dropped back into coverage and gotten 33 passes defensed to go along with his seven career interceptions He has forced 33 fumbles and recovered 14.

Anthony Barr

Anthony Barr was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the ninth-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and it has paid off. Barr has started all 71 games of his career and has been selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls.

In 2018, Barr’s fourth Pro Bowl season, he started 13 games for the Vikings. He got 55 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks. He also forced a fumble and had two passes defensed. Across his entire five year career, Barr has 338 tackles for for loss and 13.5 sacks. He’s forced seven fumbles, recovered four and returned one for a touchdown. Barr has one career interception on 22 career passes defensed.

Other notable free agent outside linebackers: Bruce Irvin, Thomas Davis, Shane Ray, Clay Matthews.

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