While the Seahawks are still celebrating their Super Bowl victory, the NFL and its fans are turning their attention to the 2014 season and who can rise to the top. Teams will add plenty of talent through the draft, but not until after making their way through free agency.
The start of free agency in the NFL is the equivalent to speed dating on steroids, or for those who love Shark Week, it's like watching chum getting thrown into busy waters. Nothing lasts long, and it's fascinating to watch.
Below are the top 10 free agent linebackers, both from 4-3 and 3-4 systems, and a few notable names.
1. Brian Orakpo (3-4 OLB, Washington Redskins)
Orakpo is one of the most-dynamic players coming off the edge and is poised to get a huge contract, maybe the biggest of the offseason. The former University of Texas star racked up 39.5 sacks during five seasons, playing only two games in 2012. In 2013, Orakpo graded out fourth among 3-4 outside linebackers and third against the run, per Pro Football Focus. Should Orakpo leave Washington, he will have suitors lining up for his services.
2. Daryl Smith (4-3 MLB, Baltimore Ravens)
Smith had a great comeback season with the Ravens after playing just two games in 2012 because of a groin injury. He is one of the better all-around linebackers in football, showcased by his stat line of 123 tackles, two forced fumbles, three interceptions and five sacks. After taking a one-year deal to prove his value, Smith will likely seek multiple years and get it despite being 32 years old in March.
3. Karlos Dansby (3-4 MLB, Arizona Cardinals)
Dansby is aging at 32 years old, but he quietly put together a tremendous campaign for the Cardinals. Arizona doesn't have an abundance of salary cap space, making it no sure thing Danby will return even after notching 122 tackles and nabbing four interceptions. Dansby was once made the highest-paid linebacker in league history by the Miami Dolphins, and while he won't get that deal again, he should expect a nice payday on a short-term deal.
4. Jason Worilds (3-4 OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Worilds will command some money on the open market should the Steelers let him get to that point. The former 2010 second-round pick out of Virginia Tech finished with 8.0 sacks in 2013, taking over full time across from LaMarr Woodley. Worilds is only 25 years old and should be in line for a lucrative deal. He graded out as the No. 12 3-4 outside linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus.
5. Wesley Woodyard (4-3 MLB, Denver Broncos)
Woodyard developed into a very nice player, perhaps too rich for the Broncos' blood considering they have seven starters hitting free agency and not much cap space. Woodyard is not much in pass defense, making him more of a two-down player, but a valuable one at that. He can really fill gaps and plays downhill, helping him rank 12th among inside linebackers against the run, according to Pro Football Focus.
6. Brandon Spikes (3-4 MLB, New England Patriots)
Spikes is an interesting case. This will be his first time on the market, but he's not exactly hitting it at a great time after being benched in the playoffs by Bill Belichick for being late to a team meeting. Spikes had an excellent year, ranking sixth among inside backers per Pro Football Focus. New England could re-sign him or decide to let him walk after the emergence of Jamie Collins in the postseason.
7. Donald Butler (3-4 MLB, San Diego Chargers)
Butler is on the list not because he's been producing huge numbers, but more because of his potential. At 25 years old, Butler has put together three seasons of solid play with 96, 77 and 84 tackles, respectively, along with 5.5 combined sacks. The athleticism is there, but the former third-round pick hasn't quite put it all together.
8. Jon Beason (4-3 MLB, New York Giants)
Beason's career appeared to be over before the Panthers dealt him to the Giants. With New York, he stepped up and became the playmaker of old. Beason, 29, notched 104 tackles and an interception in 2013, showing he can still make a difference. Nobody is going to shell out a ton of coin for a player with a Beason's injury history, but he will provide solid play and leadership somewhere.
9. Akeem Jordan (3-4 ILB, Kansas City Chiefs)
Jordan is a two-down player and certainly not the type of guy who is going to be breaking the bank. He is a smart player with decent speed, but best served in an attacking 3-4 system where he can get downhill in a hurry to thump a running back. With the Chiefs this season, Jordan made 67 tackles and ranked 11th among 3-4 inside linebackers, according to PFF. Look for Jordan to either return to Kansas City or find greener pastures for a fairly cheap deal.
10. Pat Angerer (4-3 MLB, Indianapolis Colts)
Angerer is an interesting case. The first two years of his career, he looked like one of the best inside linebacker prospects in the league, headlined by 148 tackles in 2011. The last two seasons, Angerer has only played 11 games in each year because of foot and knee injuries, tallying a combined total of 91 tackles. The Iowa product might have to take a short-term deal, but could be a really nice find if he stays healthy.
Other notable names:
Perry Riley (3-4 ILB, Washington Redskins)
Riley finished last season with 115 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, nine pass defenses and an interception. Despite the numbers, he graded out poorly, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, at 25 with two years of starting experience, he's likely to generate some interest.
D.J. Williams (4-3 ILB, Chicago Bears)
Williams signed with Chicago after a long career in Denver, but the 31-year-old was limited to six games after he tore his pectoral muscle. If healthy, he could be a solid depth signing.
Parys Haralson (3-4 OLB, New Orleans Saints)
Haralson had a solid season for the Saints, but tore his pectoral in the Wild Card round. The injury could diminish his free agent value, depending on his recovery. He's not much of a pass rusher, but did an excellent job against the run in the Saints defense.
Keith Rivers (4-3 OLB, New York Giants)
Rivers is a solid run defender, especially for a 4-3 team looking for some depth at outside linebacker. He has starting experience, although he may be better suited for a situational role.