The 2022 free agent linebacker class is headlined by a few big names. Like most position groups, there is a ton of depth and a few players who just missed this list. The top two who were tough to leave off here were Kenny Young from the Denver Broncos and Anthony Barr who has spent all eight years of his career with the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s evaluate the top players from this group.
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8. Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys drafted Vander Esch in the first round of the 2018 draft. His rookie year was incredible. The following two years, he missed time with injury. In 2021, Vander Esch did play all 17 games for the Cowboys. He recorded some solid production with 77 tackles and four tackles for loss. The talented linebacker will still only play this season at 26 years old. If he can stay healthy, Vander Esch can be a good contributor.
7. Anthony Walker, Cleveland Browns
Over the last four seasons, Walker has filled out the stat sheet with tackles. He was a good player on the second level of the Browns defense last season. Walker was a key piece to the turnaround the Browns defense had as it improved drastically. Walker will turn 27 in August as he enters his sixth season. On the market, Walker should have interest from multiple teams.
6. A.J. Johnson, Denver Broncos
Johnson got hurt in 2021 and only played in six games. In 2019 and 2020, Johnson was a great player for the Broncos. He is only entering his fifth NFL season and will turn 31 in December which will make his market interesting to follow. Ultimately, Johnson is a good linebacker who will help a defense. He will improve the run defense for a team right away.
5. Josey Jewell, Denver Broncos
Jewell is another talented Broncos linebacker who got hurt last season. He only played in two games. Through the first three years of his career though, Jewell was a good contributor to the Broncos defense. In 2020, he recorded 113 tackles. Jewell will turn 28 in December as he enters his fifth year in the league. Even coming off an injury, Jewell will have significant interest on the market.
4. Kyzir White, Los Angeles Chargers
In his fourth year with the Chargers, White had a breakout season. He finished 2021 with 144 tackles, seven tackles for loss, and two interceptions. In coverage, White is capable of playing well. He is a former safety who can run and cover. Last year, he also proved he can finish plays on the ball carrier. White is a young player who will turn 26 later this month and will have a multitude of suitors.
3. Foyesade Oluokun, Atlanta Falcons
Oluokun just wrapped up his fourth season with the Falcons, one in which he played his best. He led the NFL in tackles with 192. Oluokun brings a ton of speed to the second level of the defense. In coverage, Oluokun recorded three interceptions and six passes defended a year ago. His ability to make plays in the backfield makes him that much more valuable. In 2021, Oluokun had two sacks, four tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hits.
2. De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers
In his sixth NFL season, Campbell had a special breakout year as he earned First-Team All-Pro honors. On the year, Campbell had 146 tackles, two interceptions, and five passes defended. In terms of generating pressure on the quarterback, Campbell recorded two sacks and six quarterback hits. The former fourth-round pick brings a ton of size and good athleticism. He will turn 29 in July and should continue to build on his success from last year. His market will be a strong one.
1. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
It was shocking to see Wagner get released by the Seahawks this week. He produced in a big way throughout the 2021 season, playing in 16 games and totaling 170 tackles. The eight-time Pro Bowler has continued to prove his reliability when it comes to being on the field. Since 2015, Wagner has played at least 15 games every season. His respected reputation and ability still at this point in his career make him worth the addition for a team looking to win this year.
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