The linebacking corps have been a mess for several years. They were able to get by until last season. Chad Greenway is the only starting linebacker on this team. There are a lot of backups and special teams players in this unit on the Vikings roster.
The Vikings have already re-signed special teams standout Larry Dean and former Viking Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley will be able to compete for a spot in the middle, but he is probably better suited to be a backup. The team has a pair of former seventh round draft picks that have shown glimpses of success. However, they (Audie Cole and Michael Mauti) may also be better suited to be a backup.
The most likely starters on the outside opposite Greenway are second-year fourth round draft pick Gerald Hodges and Canadian Football League free agent signee Simoni Lawrence.
Here are the top five free agent linebackers that could start in the middle for the Vikings.
No. 1 - Jon Beason. Injuries keep him from being a more talked about free agent. He played and started all 16 games for the Carolina Panthers in each of his first four seasons in the league, but played just eight games over his final three seasons in Carolina. Last season, he played 12 games for the New York Giants. He is a good tackler, topping 100 total tackles in every season he played 16 games and 93 total tackles last season. He is versatile enough to play inside or outside. He would be a very good addition to play with Greenway.
No. 2 - Daryl Smith. He has been an underrated linebacker since joining the NFL in 2004. He recorded a career-high 123 total tackles, five sacks, 18 passes defensed and three interceptions last season for the Balitmore Ravens. He may not have many years left, but would be a very good addition to the Vikings linebacker corps.
No. 3 - Jameel McClain. He is still in the prime of his career and can be a very good defensive player. He was expected to replace Ray Lewis in the middle of the Ravens. However, he played just 10 games and recorded 52 total tackles and one forced fumble. He is a very good tackler and getting out of Baltimore may be good for him. Reports surfaced that he was going to visit the Vikings on Monday. No other information has come out.
No. 4 - Karlos Dansby. He has had a very good NFL career. He may not have many years left in his career, but still made at least 100 total tackles in each of the last three seasons and five of the last six years. In addition to recording 122 tackles last season, he posted career-highs of 19 passes defensed and four interceptions. He can still be a defensive leader for a few years.
No. 5 - Brandon Spikes. He has performed well in New England, but has not lived up to the hype. He was a highly-touted prospect out of Florida, which got him into the late second round. He is big and strong, but has only topped 90 total tackles once in his four-year NFL career. He may not have been as good as expected, but Mike Zimmer certainly can turn him into a Pro Bowl player.