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With the start of the new league year approaching, dolphins.com continues a series of free agency previews with the linebacker position.
The Dolphins ended the 2017 season with Kiko Alonso, Chase Allen and Lawrence Timmons as their starting linebackers, and all of them are under contract for next season. The Dolphins also will be looking for big things from 2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMillan coming back from his season-ending knee injury. Stephone Anthony will look for a bigger role in his first full season with the Dolphins after coming over in a September trade with the New Orleans Saints. Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt also ended the season as backups.
Veteran Koa Misi is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after spending the 2017 season on injured reserve because of a neck injury.
THE TOP THREE FREE AGENTS AT THE POSITION
OLB Tahir Whitehead, Detroit – Whitehead moved back from middle linebacker to outside after the Lions selected Jarrad Davis in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, and he responded by leading the team with 110 tackles. Whitehead, a fifth-round pick out of Temple in 2012, also led the team with four fumble recoveries.
OLB Nigel Bradham, Philadelphia – A former standout at Florida State, Bradham led the Eagles in tackles each of the past two seasons, including Philadelphia’s 2017 Super Bowl run. The speedy linebacker had seven tackles in the Super Bowl victory against New England while playing every defensive snap. Bradham began his career with the Buffalo Bills, who made him a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
ILB Avery Williamson, Tennessee – After joining the Titans as a fifth-round pick in 2014, Williamson missed only one game over the past four seasons and started 59 games. Williams played both inside and outside linebacker in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme and finished first or second in tackles on the team each of the past three seasons. Williamson had three sacks and two forced fumbles in 2017.
BEST OF THE REST
o ILB Zach Brown, Washington – The speedy linebacker formerly of the Buffalo Bills visited the Dolphins as a free agent last spring before signing a one-year deal with the Redskins.
o ILB Anthony Hitchens, Dallas – Hitchens started 48 games for the Cowboys the past four seasons after being a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
o Kevin Minter, Cincinnati – Minter spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, including two as a full-time starter, before signing a one-year deal with the Bengals last offseason. His first season in Cincinnati ended after nine games because of a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve. He had a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2016.
o ILB Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville – An 11-year veteran who entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Bills in 2007, Posluszny has started 140 games. He had 60 tackles last season while starting 11 games for the AFC South champion Jaguars.
o OLB Erik Walden, Tennessee – If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Walden played for the Dolphins from 2008-10. Since then, he has played for the Packers, Colts and Titans. He had a career-high 11 sacks for Indy in 2016.
o OLB NaVorro Bowman, Oakland – Bowman played 10 games for the Raiders last season after being granted his wish to be released by the 49ers. Bowman still managed to tie for the team lead in tackles with 89. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his seven-plus seasons with San Francisco.