Additional options at Linebacker for Miami through Free Agency

Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) gestures as he takes the field against the New York Giants during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) gestures as he takes the field against the New York Giants during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

After missing out on signing Zach Brown this past week, there is still a chance that the Dolphins could look to add a linebacker in free agency.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Zach Brown had agreed to sign with the Redskins after also mulling offers from the Dolphins and Raiders. It was disappointing news to many Dolphins fans, who felt adding Brown alongside newcomer Lawrence Timmons could really help bolster a position that Miami has struggled at for the past few years.

At first glance, it appeared as if maybe Washington simply outbid the Dolphins and Raiders for Brown’s services. After all, the Redskins have been just as guilty, if not more, than Miami at throwing big money at top free agents in recent memory. However, after it was reported that Brown signed with the Redskins on a one-year deal worth $2.3 million with incentives up to $4.65 million, it’s puzzling as to how a deal with Miami could not get done.

There may be something we do not know about Brown (possibly off the field) since no team he visited was willing to offer anything more. Not what you expect to see from a player coming off of his first Pro Bowl appearance. But nonetheless, the Dolphins will now look to other options to help fill their needs at linebacker.

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It can be assured that Miami will look to add a linebacker in the NFL Draft later this month, possibly even as early as the first round. The truth is, however, Miami would probably like to add two more linebackers to their roster, even after the Timmons signing. They could, of course, double-down in the draft, and select two linebackers. There are other positional needs that Miami has to consider, and they only have seven selections to work with at the moment.

There’s a possibility that they may only find one linebacker to their liking in the draft. Therefore, the Dolphins could continue to look at free agency before or after the draft for a suitable addition. Even though some big names are relatively off the board, key players remain available that could help the team on potential short-term deals. Here are just a few names Miami could consider adding down the road.

Gerald Hodges, ILB – San Francisco 49ers

Hodges is, arguably, the best remaining inside linebacker available in free agency. At age 26, Hodges is progressed in almost every aspect each season he’s been in the league. The only knock of him signing with Miami is that he comes from a 3-4 scheme in San Francisco. Some help from the coaching staff and veteran players could help Hodges adjust along the way, however.

While Hodges is not going to rack up a ton of sacks, he does excel against the run. In the end, this is where Miami needs the most help. He’s coming off a season in which he posted 83 tackles and 3.0 sacks, both career highs. The Dolphins are not at the top of Hodges’ preferred destinations at the moment. He has had visits with the Chiefs and Seahawks already this offseason, and even expressed interest in returning to the team that drafted him in 2013, the Minnesota Vikings.

Still, a deal has not been finalized nor are there reports of any being offered at this time. If Hodges is not signed prior to the draft, you can guess he will be quickly after. After may be Miami’s preference depending on their draft results.

DeAndre Levy, OLB – Detroit Lions

It wouldn’t be a Miami Dolphins offseason without adding a former Detriot Lion now would it? The glaring issue surrounding Levy, however, is injuries and if he’ll even be able to play again in 2017. Levy had further surgery this week on his right knee, and admitted that he “can’t say what this means for free agency.”

Levy was one of the top outside linebackers in the league just a few seasons ago, and paid as such. After recording 270 tackles between 2013 and 2014, Levy became the highest paid outside linebacker after extending with the Lions in August 2015. Unfortunately, Levy has only appeared in five regular season games in the last two seasons because of injury.

Levy argues that the Lions gave him poor information regarding the status of his knee, declaring him better off than he really was. The Lions decided it was best to release Levy last month. If he can heal in time for the start of the 2017 season, and get back to form, Miami could be a formidable destination depending on price. He would likely be in a more limited role, but reuniting him with former teammate Ndamukong Suh could be beneficial for both parties. A one-year deal with a second year option could be a low-risk, high-reward option for Miami.

Rey Maualuga, ILB – Cincinnati Bengals

The days of Rey Maualuga being an every-down linebacker are long gone, but at age 30, he can still be a valuable contributor for a playoff contender. Maualuga spent all eight seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, who decided to release Maualuga to save $3.7 million in salary cap. The move did not come as surprise as Maualuga saw his playing time decrease last season.

A young linebacker coming in could benefit greatly from the tutelage of someone like Maualuga. A great locker room presence and ultimate fan favorite in Cincinnati, Maualuga could be a great leader for a team like Miami looking to make it back to the postseason at a cheap price. He had a career low last season in snap counts (30%) because of coverage issues, but still remains a good run-stuffer.