by J.I. Halsell
First and foremost, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed spending time with their family and friends. In this week's edition of "Under the Cap," we take a look at the top ten starter contracts at outside linebacker. As we look at this position, keep in mind that essentially we’re only analyzing the contracts of 4-3 outside linebackers, as the 3-4 outside linebackers were included in the defensive end analysis.
As I looked at the table below, the first thing that stood out to me is that in order to crack the top ten at outside linebacker it only took an average of $4 million per year, which is the lowest of any of the positions that we've looked at thus far. Also, the pedigree of the top ten does not exactly wow you; aside from Chicago's Lance Briggs, Tennessee’s Keith Bulluck, and Detroit’s Julian Peterson, the group isn’t exactly comprised of names that the casual fan would be familiar with. As a matter of fact (and highlighting the prominence of 3-4 outside linebackers compared to their 4-3 counterparts), only two of the six linebackers voted to last season’s Pro Bowl (Briggs and Tampa’s Derrick Brooks) were 4-3 outside linebackers.
The Seattle Seahawks have executed some of the more expensive linebacker contracts in the league; three of the top five contracts below were written by the Seahawks. Peterson’s contract was executed when he was a Seahawk and he was subsequently traded to the Lions. Then the Seahawks drafted Aaron Curry number four in the 2009 draft; Curry's contract instantly made him the highest-paid outside linebacker in the league. The Seahawks then signed Leroy Hill to a contract that equaled Briggs' and Bulluck's in average per year ($6 million per year) and surpassed both in guaranteed money ($13 million). Between Lofa Tatupu ($14 million), Curry ($34 million), Hill ($13 million), and Peterson ($13.5 million), the Seahawks have paid nearly $75 million in linebacker guarantees.
There aren't any 4-3 outside linebackers who really stand out in the free agent market this coming offseason. Perhaps, if a new collective bargaining agreement is put in place, Oakland's Thomas Howard could be in line for a relatively lucrative contract. It will be interesting to see what the Titans do with Bulluck, as his contract expires at the end of the season. Bulluck is unquestionably a leader on the Titans, but you have to wonder what's the right price for a 33-year-old linebacker.
Here are the top ten starting outside linebacker contracts in the league:
|Top Ten Starting Outside Linebacker Contracts (in millions of dollars)|
Next week, we’ll analyze the top ten starting inside linebacker contracts in the league.
Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101