Heading into 2022, the Washington Football Team faces multiple question marks across the roster. Without a doubt, the most pressing need for the Burgundy and Gold is at quarterback. Washington had yet another season of below-average quarterback play, with an average passer rating of 85.8, 22nd in the NFL. At the same time, middle linebacker has plagued the defense for years. They selected Jamin Davis in the first round last season, but he struggled mightily this past season and coach Ron Rivera hinted that Davis may slide over to the WILL position given his elite athleticism. With the 11th overall pick in the draft, Washington may go best player available. However, odds are that the pick will go towards a quarterback, whether selected or traded for.
So, to solve their linebacking woes, Washington could turn to free agency. Here are three free-agent targets for the Washington Football Team.
Three Washington Football Team Linebacker Targets in Free Agency
The most highly sought free agent linebacker in this year’s class will be De’Vondre Campbell, the six-year pro from Minnesota. Campbell was a first-team All-Pro this season with the Green Bay Packers after recording a whopping 146 tackles, two sacks, and six tackles for loss. He also flashed in coverage as he intercepted two passes and had five passes defended. Campbell was exceptional against the run, often hitting the holes with confidence. Being tackling in space was something that Jamin Davis struggled with this season.
Just a few months ago, the #Packers picked up De'Vondre Campbell off the street…
Now, he's a first-team All-Pro.
— Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) January 14, 2022
Korey Toomer. Antonio Morrison. Christian Kirksey.
This is not that.
De'Vondre Campbell is getting to spots #Packers MLBs have not gotten to in the past and he is MAKING the play. @PFF has graded 60 OBLB who've played at least 100 snaps this season. Campbell is #6 overall. pic.twitter.com/3QnT0cbeJs
— Ross Uglem (@RossUglem) September 27, 2021
While Campbell is more of a stout run defender, he also played relatively well in coverage this season. This makes Campbell a legitimate three-down linebacker. Recent linebacker Zach Brown and Jon Bostic both were liabilities in coverage. Additionally, Campbell would complement Davis well. Jack Del Rio could then cater to his strength in coverage, and use him creatively in blitzing situations.
Devondre Campbell with the PBU pic.twitter.com/13MOVU3Q7y
— packers clips (@packers_clips) December 26, 2021
This past season, Campbell was an under-the-radar pick-up for Green Bay as he signed on a one-year, two million dollar contract after spending one season with the Arizona Cardinals. However, Campbell will almost certainly be more expensive this season as he could ask for a two or three-year commitment. Despite this, Campbell should be at the forefront of Washington’s free agency wish list given his experience and excellent play in a position of need.
Anthony Walker Jr.
While Anthony Walker Jr. is a step down from Campbell, he will be an upgrade for the Washington Football Team as a pure MIKE linebacker. At just 26 years of age, Walker would also fit in with Washington’s young linebacking core as Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis are both under 25 years old. Walker played with the Cleveland Browns last season after spending his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, playing alongside Darius Leonard. Last season, Walker had 113 tackles, including two for loss, and two passes defended. He got off to an exceptional start on the season, before missing time with a hamstring injury and the Covid-19 reserve list.
#Browns LB, Anthony Walker Jr, has become a pillar of the defense. ✨
Walker Jr ranks 12th among #NFL LBs with an Overall Grade of 70.1.
In just 5 games, he leads the team with 43 Tackles. 🔥
In exactly 300 defensive snaps so far, only has 1 missed tackle. 🐶 pic.twitter.com/sI96jp6Bip
— The Hottest Take (@Hottest_TakePod) November 1, 2021
Like Campbell, Walker is yet another stout run defender who has solid athleticism. He has struggled in coverage in the past, but he typically remains disciplined in zones and won’t be a complete liability. Another important facet to Walker is his leadership, a trait that Ron Rivera has valued in his tenure in Washington.
#Browns Joe Woods praised John Johnson III, Anthony Walker Jr. and Malik Jackson for their leadership and what they've already brought to the team this far.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) August 26, 2021
If Washington feels as if Campbell is too expensive for their liking or whether he is bound to come back down to Earth in 2022, Anthony Walker Jr. could be another excellent MIKE option for 2022, given his excellent run support and passable coverage skills.
The Denver Broncos have two intriguing free-agent linebackers this season in Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson. While Jewell is younger and a good run defender, Alexander Johnson possesses athleticism that makes him an intriguing option. Like Jon Bostic, Johnson missed the majority of the 2021 season with a torn pectoral muscle. The fourth-year player was coming off a career season in 2020, where he had 124 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three passes defended. In six games in 2021, Johnson had 32 tackles and two sacks. Up until his injury, Johnson was one of the highest-rated run defenders according to Pro Football Focus, ranking third behind Cameron Heyward and De’Vondre Campbell.
Highest-graded run defenders this season:
🥇 Cameron Heyward – 91.5
🥈 De’Vondre Campbell – 91.4
🥉 Alexander Johnson – 90.4 pic.twitter.com/w9wZyNMi2C
— PFF (@PFF) October 28, 2021
— Marshall Hughes (@marshallhughes) October 13, 2019
Thanks to his athleticism, Johnson is also a blitzing threat. It’ll allow for exotic looks from Del Rio, being able to interchange Davis and Holcomb. Then again, Johnson has had issues with coverage in the past, which is the primary downside to his game. Johnson is also 30 years old, the oldest linebacker on the list. Despite the coverage deficiencies, Johnson makes up for it with his elite run-stuffing ability that could be appealing for Ron Rivera.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images