2017 NFL Free Agency: Star rating is out of five. Age listing as of Sept. 1, 2017.
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Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Patriots. Age: 27. Re-signed with Patriots (4 years, $43.5 million)
Dont'a Hightower is a terrific linebacker, but he's getting just 3.5 stars because of his extensive injury history. Hightower has played 16 games only once in his career, as he always seems to be banged up. Still, he's definitely worth it, as he dominates when he's on the field.
Gerald Hodges, ILB, 49ers. Age: 26. Signed with Saints
A former fourth-round pick of the Vikings, Minnesota somehow let Gerald Hodges get away, as Hodges carved out a role for himself in San Francisco's defense. Hodges has played the run well and hasn't been a liability in coverage. He'll be only 26 in January.
Zach Brown, ILB, Bills. Age: 27. Signed with Redskins
Zach Brown was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but had done nothing in his career prior to 2016. Teams thought so little of him that the Bills managed to get him for a 1-year, $1.25 million contract. Brown responded with a terrific 2016 campaign, even winning AFC Defensive Player of the Week once.
Perry Riley, ILB, Raiders. Age: 29.
Perry Riley was once a good player for the Redskins, but he regressed because he wasn't a good fit in the 3-4. Thus, it was not a surprise that Riley thrived in Oakland's 4-3. Riley is a well-rounded player who is solid against the run and also not a liability in coverage.
Kiko Alonso (RFA), ILB, Dolphins. Age: 27. Tendered by Dolphins
There's no questioning Kiko Alonso's talent, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He missed 21 games in 2014 and 2015, and while he was out for only one contest this past season, he was very banged up and ineffective as a consequence by the end of the year.
Zach Orr, ILB, Ravens. Age: 25. Announced retirement
Zach Orr led the Ravens in tackles with 132 despite being a first-year starter in 2016. He was highly impressive in coverage. Orr is undersized - 6-0, 225 - and thus struggled against the run, but he's only 25 in June, so he has plenty of time to improve his game.
NaVorro Bowman, ILB, 49ers. Age: 29.
From an economical perspective, NaVorro Bowman seems like a great buy-low candidate. Bowman has struggled this season, as it appears as though the Achilles injury he suffered last year has sapped him of his explosiveness. However, Bowman is still just 29, so even though he looks decrepit, he may not be done just yet. He could easily rebound in 2018 and beyond, and I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that he could be more effective down the stretch this season. Here are seven teams that could sign NaVorro Bowman.
Kevin Minter, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 26. Signed with Bengals (1 year)
Kevin Minter had been a disappointment as a former second-round pick, until this past season when he played well. Minter is a one-year wonder, but he has upside, and he's also still young, having turned 26 prior to the end of the 2016 campaign.
Rolando McClain, ILB, Cowboys. Age: 28.
How to rate Rolando McClain? He's an extremely talented linebacker, but he missed all of 2016 because of a suspension for violating the substance abuse policy. It's unclear if he'll ever be able to play again.
Korey Toomer has become a solid, two-down linebacker for the Chargers who happens to excel in run support. He's not a liability in pass coverage either.
David Harris, ILB, Jets. Age: 33. Signed with Patriots
When the Jets traded for Demario Davis, it was assumed that Davis would be the third linebacker behind David Harris and Darron Lee. Apparently not. Harris has been released despite being the top inside linebacker on the team. Harris is a declining player at 33, but he was halfway decent this past season. He can be signed on as a role player for a team needing linebacker depth. Some teams that make sense for him include the Giants, Packers, Raiders, Broncos, Patriots and Colts.
Sean Spence, ILB, Titans. Age: 27. Signed with Colts (1 year, $3 million)
The early part of Sean Spence's career was ruined by injury, but it seems like he's finally healthy and playing like the third-round pick he was selected as in 2012.
Todd Davis (RFA), ILB, Broncos. Age: 25. Tendered by Broncos (2nd round)
Todd Davis started for Brandon Marshall and did a solid job in run support. However, he was a liability in coverage, and he's a major reason why opposing tight ends and running backs catching balls out of the backfield were so successful versus Denver.
Lawrence Timmons, ILB, Steelers. Age: 31. Signed with Dolphins (2 years, $10 million)
Lawrence Timmons has always been an underrated player; the NFL routinely keeping him out of the top-100 players list was a crime. Unfortunately, Timmons has regressed rapidly over the past couple of years, and he was a liability at times this past season.
Will Compton (RFA), ILB, Redskins. Age: 27. Tendered by Redskins
Will Compton is a smart linebacker, and he called Washington's defensive plays, but he happens to be a big liability in run support.
Rey Maualuga, ILB, Bengals. Age: 30. Signed with Dolphins
Rey Maualuga was a solid defender prior to this past season, but he really struggled in 2016. Perhaps that was because of a leg injury he sustained. Regardless, Maualuga could be a semi-decent two-down linebacker if he's healthy.
Daryl Washington, ILB, Cardinals. Age: 30.
Daryl Washington was a fantastic player years ago, but he hasn't played a single game since 2013 because of domestic violence and substance-abuse issues. Washington will be 31 in October, so perhaps he's cleaned up his act. On the flip side, he hasn't played in nearly half of a decade, so who knows what sort of playing shape he's even in.
Manti Te'o, ILB, Chargers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Saints
Nick Bellore, ILB, 49ers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Lions
Paul Worrilow, ILB, Falcons. Age: 27. -- Signed with Lions
Keenan Robinson, ILB, Giants. Age: 28. -- Re-signed with Giants
Christian Jones (RFA), ILB, Bears. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Bears
D'Qwell Jackson, ILB, Colts. Age: 33.
Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, Giants. Age: 29. -- Signed with Bears
Michael Wilhoite, ILB, 49ers. Age: 30. -- Signed with Seahawks
A.J. Klein, ILB, Panthers. Age: 26. -- Signed with Saints
Jon Bostic, ILB/ST, Lions. Age: 26. -- Signed with Colts
Sio Moore, ILB, Texans. Age: 27.
Steven Johnson, ILB, Steelers. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Steelers
Audie Cole, ILB, Jaguars. Age: 28.
Erin Henderson, ILB, Jets. Age: 31.
Akeem Dent, ILB, Texans. Age: 29.
LaRoy Reynolds, ILB/ST, Falcons. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Falcons
Brock Coyle (RFA), ILB, Seahawks. Age: 26. -- Signed with 49ers
Bruce Carter, ILB, Jets. Age: 29.
DeMeco Ryans, ILB, Eagles. Age: 33.
Josh Mauga, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 30.
Terence Garvin, ILB/ST, Redskins. Age: 26. -- Signed with Seahawks
Stephen Tulloch, ILB, Eagles. Age: 32. -- Announced retirement
Sam Barrington, ILB, Saints. Age: 26.
Arthur Brown, ILB, Jets. Age: 27. -- Signed with Seahawks
Jason Trusnik, ILB, Saints. Age: 33.
Jamari Lattimore, ILB, Bills. Age: 28.
Curtis Lofton, ILB, Raiders. Age: 31.
Josh McNary (RFA), ILB, Colts. Age: 29. -- Signed with Jaguars
Nate Palmer, ILB, Titans. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Titans
Ben Jacobs (RFA), ILB, Panthers. Age: 29. -- Re-signed with Panthers