When the Washington Football Team announced its initial 53-man roster on Tuesday, one of the more notable observations was that Ron Rivera and his staff chose to keep just four linebackers, one short of what most teams carry.
However, when Rivera met with the media on Tuesday evening, the head coach made it clear that the linebacker position is one that could see some changes before the season begins.
“We like the guys that we have right now. We’re not going to get into the process of what we’re going to do until everything is done,” Rivera said. Asked about the position again minutes later, the head coach added that “it’s a position we’re constantly evaluating.”
With 31 other teams also trimming their roster to 53 players, there are numerous linebackers available should Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio want to look elsewhere to address the position.
Here are five linebackers Washington could target in free agency…
The former University of Virginia standout was one of the final players released by the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday. Head coach Sean McVay praised Kiser yesterday, saying he would love for him to return if possible. He’s currently on the Rams practice squad, but he’d almost certainly take the opportunity to be on Washington’s 53-man roster if it was offered.
Originally a fifth-round pick by the Rams in 2018, Kiser started nine games for Los Angeles last year and finished with 77 tackles, three passes defended and one forced fumble. Kiser’s best game was in Week 2 against the Eagles, when he finished with 16 tackles and a forced fumble. His effort earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Kiser is an above-average run stopper and tackler. He also can contribute on special teams, too. He’s arguably the top option available in free agency.
Another veteran free agent option exists here for Washington in Avery Williamson, who spent last season with both the Steelers and Jets. At age 29, he’d provide a veteran presence to what’s an extremely young linebacker room outside of Jon Bostic.
Williams was plenty productive last season, as he totaled 111 tackles, three passes defended and an interception. It’s hard to believe he’s still a free agent. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him catch on with a team soon.
After six years with the Houston Texans, McKinney was traded to the Miami Dolphins this past March in the Shaq Lawson trade. Miami waived him on Tuesday, though, as part of their final roster cuts.
McKinney suffered a shoulder injury in October of 2020, one that cost him the rest of his season. But before that, he had started 62 of 64 possible games for the Texans and was extremely productive, even earning second-team All-Pro honors in 2016.
Like Williamson, Goodson has remained a free agent throughout training camp. Originally a fourth-round pick by the Giants in 2016, Goodson signed with Cleveland ahead of the 2020 season and turned in one of the best years of his career.
With the Browns last season, Goodson started a career-high 14 games and totaled a career-high 91 tackles. He also matched his career-best single-season interceptional total with two.
At age 28, Goodson still has plenty of football left in his future. Could that be in Washington?
The most accomplished player on this list, K.J. Wright is still looking for a new home after a decade-long run with the Seattle Seahawks.
A former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, Wright would bring leadership and accountability to Washington’s defense. While his production did dip a slight bit in 2020, he still started all 16 games for Seattle and graded out as the seventh-best linebacker last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Wright would likely cost the most of every player on this list. And while he’s still productive, Rivera has stressed wanting to make his roster younger, not older. But if Washington does want to sign the best linebacker available on the market, Wright is the guy they should be making an offer to.