The Ravens' linebackers were a definite strength last season.
The group had two Pro Bowlers (Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosley) and there could have been a strong argument for three more (Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee and Daryl Smith).
The good news is, for the most part, the unit will remain the same for the 2015 season.
Here's a full overview on the state of the linebackers going into free agency:
Five of the Ravens' top six linebackers are set to return. The list includes Suggs, Dumervil, Smith, Mosley and Courtney Upshaw. That's a fearsome group. Dumervil became more of the pass-rushing specialist the Ravens envisioned as he notched 17 sacks last year. Upshaw took care of the dirty work at his position as a strong run stopper who flashed more pass-rushing prowess near the end of the year. Suggs had another outstanding year in his 12th season, logging 61 tackles and 12 sacks. Smith continues to fly under the radar despite putting up a career-high 128 tackles. Mosley is a star after his breakout rookie season.
McPhee's Possible Departure
The one big piece of the linebacker corps that could be departing is McPhee. The unrestricted free agent had his finest season in a contract year in which he notched 7.5 sacks. Those stats are strong, but don't show the full range of his disruptiveness. Finally fully healthy, McPhee was used largely as an inside pass rusher, providing one of the league's most explosive attacks when combined with Dumervil and Suggs. McPhee, 26, is a hard-nosed player that fit in well in Baltimore. He could look for a payday elsewhere, similar to Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Art Jones in recent years.
The Future Of Brown
One of the storylines this summer will be the development of inside linebacker Arthur Brown. A second-round pick in 2013, Brown hasn't yet contributed much on defense. He was only active for four games in 2014, so he didn't have much of a special teams presence either. Brown is a player the Ravens really liked, and traded up for, in the draft. But with Mosley and Smith, who signed a four-year contract last offseason, where does Brown fit in?
Top Special Teams Tacklers
The Ravens have a couple of very good special teams linebackers in Albert McClellan and Zach Orr. McClellan led the Ravens with 13 special teams tackles (11 solo tackles), including one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Undrafted rookie linebacker Zachary Orr came in second with seven special teams tackles. Orr was active for all but one game. McClellan and Orr will be leaned on as anchors of the special teams units next season.
The Ravens aren't expected to make a big free-agent splash this offseason to bolster the linebacker corps. Mosely has solidified the middle linebacker group with Daryl Smith by his side. If McPhee finds a starting job outside of Baltimore, it could simply mean more snaps for Upshaw. The Ravens could also look to the draft to start grooming young pass rushers as Suggs and Dumervil are 32 and 31 years old, respectively.