Paul Posluszny- Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars- Poz signing with Jacksonville is a huge development. Firstly, he is young (only 26) and should anchor that defense for the next half decade. Secondly, everyone (myself included) was hoping Kirk Morrison was going to fill the void at MIKE linebacker in Jax last year and make us all reminisce about the days of Mike Peterson in the middle there. He didn’t. Poz will. Peterson averaged 120 tackles, 86 solos and 4 sacks a year in Jax from 2003-2005. Poz should get those numbers at a minimum. For all the hype about how Poz is better suited for a 4-3 then a 3-4, he sure performed exceptionally last year. Poz’s tackles per game have steadily increased from 6.9 to 9.3 to 10.8 during the last three years. He is trending up and should remain a top-5 LB now.
Kelvin Sheppard- Buffalo Bills Rookie- With Posluszny leaving town, Sheppard may be given a crack at a starting job as an ILB in Buffalo’s 3-4. Buffalo invested a 3rd round pick in Sheppard and the LSU product has great size and lateral movement for the position (6’2”, 250 lbs). If you look at the last few stars to man the middle/inside in Buffalo you see that London Fletcher averaged 145 tackles and 99 solos per year there from 2002-2006. Poz averaged 142 tackles and 106 solos per 16 game season from 2008-2010. Heck, even John DiGiorgio racked up 113 tackles and 86 solos there in 2007. Watch this situation closely. If Buffalo does not sign some big-ticket free agent to replace Poz, then Sheppard could be a sleeper that puts up HUGE numbers early and often.
Charles Johnson- Re-Signed with Carolina Panthers- Pass rushers come at a premium and Johnson was a prime example of this. After refusing to pay Julius Peppers big money, Carolina had to turn around and pay Peppers-type money to Johnson in order to keep their best and seemingly only pass rusher. Johnson just racked up a 62 tackle, 11.5 sack season. He is only 25 years old and is entering the prime of his career. His staying in Carolina likely means we can expect more of the same from him and that will mean a top-15 DL with annual top-10 or even top-5 upside going forward.
Takeo Spikes- Signed with San Diego Chargers- Spikes may be older and he is no spring chicken at 34. However, he is coming off of his best season since 2003. Last season playing inside in a 3-4 next to tackle machine Patrick Willis, Spikes still managed to rack up 109 tackles (82 solo). San Diego desperately needs linebacker help. This likely signals the end of the line for Stephen Cooper in San Diego and it also gives them some leverage/coverage if Kevin Burnett walks in free agency. With the Chargers likely letting Brandon Siler and Cooper walk, they now have Spikes as one starter. If Burnett can be re-signed he will start next to Spikes. If not, San Diego will either let rookie Jonas Mouton or 2nd year player Donald Butler compete for the job. Either way, there is a good chance for a 100+ tackle season again for Spikes now.
NaVorro Bowman- San Francisco 49ers- With Takeo Spikes leaving for San Diego, Bowman is ready to step in next to Patrick Willis and man the other ILB spot in SF. Bowman is young (24) and ready for the challenge and ascension. He only had one start last year as a rookie, but he racked up 8 total tackles (6 solo) to Spikes’ 3 tackles and 2 solos during that game. He should be a very solid LB4 and is a steal as LB5 depth for your fantasy team.
Quintin Mikell- Signed with St. Louis Rams- Steve Spagnuolo just keeps remaking this improving defense. Enter Mikell. Mikell has averaged 92 tackles, 13 passes defensed and 3 interceptions per year over the past 3 years. St. Louis had a glaring need at safety and Mikell will fill it quite nicely. He is good in run support and above average in coverage and will man the strong safety spot in St. Louis this coming season. If Craig Dahl can average 6.7 tackles per game over the past 2 seasons during his 21 starts, then Mikell should be exceptional there. I expect a 100+ tackle season out of him and top-10, maybe top-5 DB numbers.
Ike Taylor- Re-Signed with Pittsburgh Steelers- Taylor is set for more of the same now that he has resigned with Pitt. Expect his usual 68 tackles, 14 passes defensed and an interception of two this coming season. In leagues that require you to start CBs, he is a solid option as a CB2 with low end CB1 upside.