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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

With Curtis Lofton gone, what linebacker options remain for Bucs?



The Bucs had been constantly linked to Falcons free agent linebacker Curtis Lofton in the past couple of weeks, but we now know Lofton won't be suiting up in a Tampa Bay uniform anytime soon.

Lofton signed a contract with the Saints this weekend, ensuring he'll remain in the NFC South and continue to see the Bucs twice per season.

While we never got the sense the Bucs were dying to have Lofton, there remain some pretty clear issues with their current group of linebackers. If Mason Foster is indeed going to remain at middle linebacker -- something coaches are considering -- the Bucs still lack a weak-side linebacker with starting experience. And if the Bucs ultimately move Foster to the weak-side, they'll need a starting-caliber middle linebacker.

Either way, the position needs to be addressed. But how?

The draft is still in front of us, but when it comes to free agency, here's a sampling of the better veteran free-agent linebackers still left on the market. It's not a star-studded list, but it's all we've got.

David Hawthorne (Seahawks): This inside linebacker has started 41 games in four seasons, but there are questions about whether he'd be a liability in coverage.

Manny Lawson (Bengals): This talented, athletic outside linebacker has been linked to five different teams, but remains unsigned. That could suggest his asking price is a bit high.

London Fletcher (Redskins): Not a great option because of his age (36), but this physical player could be adequate as a short-term solution at middle linebacker.

E.J. Henderson (Vikings): Henderson is also a middle linebacker and had 110 tackles last season, but he's 31 and has lost a step.

Leroy Hill (Seahawks): Not a dominant player, but is an athletic outside linebacker with a pass-rush element to his game. Had a recent arrest for drug possession, but the charge has been dropped.

[Last modified: Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:47pm]


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