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Free Agency: Looking at middle linebackers

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Free agency starts Friday, and we know our New York Giants will be on the hunt for help, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Each day this week I will break down the players available in at least one position where the Giants could use help. I figured we would start with middle linebacker, the position that has drawn the most off-season discussion in terms of free agency.

Walter Football has the complete list of free agent middle linebackers, both restricted and restricted. Follow the jump for my list of names to keep an eye on

  1. Karlos Dansby -- We have, of course, been discussing Dansby for a while. The Arizona middle linebacker is 28, unrestricted and headed for a huge payday. I am not sure it should be with the Giants, though. Teams like Miami and Chicago are rumored to be willing to pay Dansby $30 million or so. Dansby is good, not great, and has never played the middle in a 4-3. I think the price tag is too high for the ability level, to be honest.
  2. Gary Brackett -- By the end of the week, the Indianapolis middle linebacker might be off the market. The Colts are expected to make him a long-term contract offer. Our friends over at Stampede Blue are a bit indignant about Brackett's status as a UFA, though, and seem to think Indy is the ONLY place for the 30-year-old.

    "The Colts are the only place where a 30-year-old Brackett can start at MLB and have an impact on a winning team. The Colts have all the leverage here and they do not have a reputation for being "cheap" with players. So, it's a pretty safe bet Gary will be in blue next season."

    I would beg to differ. I don't believe the Colts will let Brackett get away. I do think the Giants would happily put Brackett, "the quintessential Tampa 2 middle linebacker" in their own blue uniform for 2010.
  3. DeMeco Ryans -- My friend and Blog Talk Radio co-hort Patricia Traina of Inside Football is leading the "Bring Ryans to the Giants" bandwagon. It's a bandwagon I can't get on. I love the 26-year-old Ryans. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and has at least 112 tackles in each of his four seasons. But, he is a restricted free agent and I don't think the Giants can give up first- and third-round picks for the guy.
  4. Barrett Ruud -- The Tampa Bay linebacker, just 27, is another guy who has the skills to fit nicely into a Perry Fewell defense. But, he carries that first- and third-round tender and that makes the price just too high. In a year where there weren't a half-dozen or more middle linebackers in the draft capable of contending for starting job I might feel differently about Ryans or Ruud. But, the Giants can't give up that much.
  5. Derrick Johnson -- This guy is a five-year veteran RFA who seems to have fallen out of favor in Kansas City. Yet, Pro Football Focus rated Johnson a +12.0 in 2009, better than Dansby or Ryans. In fact, the guy has received 'plus' ratings two of the past three seasons and has experience inside and outside. Here is a little about Johnson and his standing in KC. I really don't know a lot about this guy, but somehow he seems like the kind of under-the-radar guy Giants General Manager Jerry Reese loves to target.

Any of these guys appeal to you? Anyone else on the Walter Football list you like? Or, would you pass on these guys and wait for the draft?