Vikings free-agent focus: Linebackers

Erin Henderson (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY)

While the free agent market at defensive end and defensive tackle hold some solid possibilities for the Vikings, linebacker isn't as strong with household names. Still, the Vikings have needs there with three free agents from their 2013 roster.

At outside linebacker, the top guys were tagged – Washington's Brian Orakpo was given the franchise tag and Jason Worilds the transition tag. After that, there just isn't a lot of surefire starters out on the open market.

Middle linebacker holds a little more promise, both in available starters and in depth. Two of the possibilities already signed – D'Qwell Jackson with the Indianapolis Colts after he released last week and Donald Butler re-signing with the San Diego Chargers.

VIKINGS VIEW

Although the Vikings still have Chad Greenway under contract, there is a definite need at the position. Three of the linebackers that were vying for the other two starting spots behind Greenway could all be gone – Erin Henderson was released and Marvin Mitchell and Desmond Bishop likely aren't priorities to re-sign early in the free-agent process (Bishop probably won't be cleared for action until preseason after a knee injury).

That leaves the Vikings with Greenway, Audie Cole (who saw some action as a starter in 2013 replacing Henderson), and 2013 Day 3 draft picks Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as the top candidates under contract. They will receive stiff competition with the additions in the next two months, both through free agency and the draft.

TOP OUTSIDE OPTIONS

Jameel McClain: Released by the Baltimore Ravens last week, the Vikings wouldn't have to wait until 3 p.m. Tuesday to sign McClain, but there could additional competition. He already visited the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants last week and is scheduled to visit the Vikings on Monday. In 2010 and 2011 combined, McClain missed just one game and had 70 or more tackles in each of those seasons. But he missed the final three games of 2012 and the first six of 2013 with a spinal cord contusion. He accepted a pay cut last year with the Ravens, going down to a very manageable $1.5 million salary, but the Vikings will surely give him a thorough medical exam to be sure he has fully recovered.

Vincent Rey: He is a restricted free agent of the Cincinnati Bengals, and many have made the natural inclination to connect the dots between him and his former defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer. Rey is a restricted free agent, but the Vikings wouldn't have to give up any draft picks if they did sign him. Cincinnati would just have the opportunity to match the offer. He only started three games for the Bengals last year, but he still managed four sacks, five passes defensed, two interceptions (one returned for a 25-yard touchdown) and one forced fumble.

THE FREE AGENTS

MIDDLE LINEBACKERS
Brandon Spikes
Vincent Rey (RFA)
Daryl Smith
Akeem Jordan
Jameel McClain
Perry Riley
Arthur Moats
Joe Mays
Kavell Conner
Wesley Woodyard
Jon Beason
Darryl Sharpton
Pat Angerer
Dane Fletcher
D.J. Williams
Reggie Walker
Jamari Lattimore (RFA)
Paris Lenon
Jonathan Vilma
Albert McClellan (RFA)
Desmond Bishop
Bront Bird (RFA)
Ramon Humber
Stevenson Sylvester
Dan Connor
Jasper Brinkley
Nick Barnett
Nick Bellore (RFA)
Stewart Bradley
Blake Costanzo
Jacob Cutrera
Zac Diles
London Fletcher
Rob Francois
Bryan Kehl
Scott Lutrus (RFA)
Austin Spitler
Will Witherspoon
Larry Foote

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
Brian Orakpo (franchised)
Mike Neal
Calvin Pace
O'Brien Schofield
Erin Henderson
Rob Jackson
Spencer Paysinger (RFA)
Keith Rivers
James Anderson
Michael Boley
Bryan Braman (RFA)
Jonathan Casillas
Larry Dean (RFA)
Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Parys Haralson
Adam Hayward
Will Herring
Phillip Hunt (RFA)
Edgar Jones
Rocky McIntosh
Garrett McIntyre (RFA)
Marvin Mitchell
Stephen Nicholas
Ernie Sims
Dekoda Watson
Jamaal Westerman
Frank Zombo


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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