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Jets draft preview: Linebackers

This is the seventh installment in a nine-part series that will analyze the Jets' needs, position by position, in the upcoming draft.

Position: Linebacker.

Depth Chart: David Harris (ILB), Bart Scott (ILB), Calvin Pace (OLB), Bryan Thomas (OLB), Jamaal Westerman (OLB), Josh Mauga (ILB), Brashton Satele (ILB), Cody Brown (OLB), Brian Toal (ILB), Joey LaRocque (OLB), Brandon Long (OLB).

Not Under Contract: Harris (signed franchise tender, approximately $10 million).

Scouting Report: The linebacking corps is a solid group, but it's filled with big salaries and age is becoming a factor -- a potentially troubling combination if ignored by the front office. Scott, Pace and Thomas (all over 30) are making a combined $19 million per year, and Harris will add to the total, either with his franchise tender or a new, long-term deal. The biggest concern is OLB; they need a speed rusher on the edge, a player that can draw double teams and alter pass-protection schemes. The Jets finished with a respectable 40 sacks, but 28 percent of those came from blitzing DBs. Thomas led the team with six sacks, but he'll be 32, entering the final year of his contact -- and they need to find his heir apparent.

The Last Time: Take a deep breath, Jets fans. The last drafted linebacker was Vernon Gholston, chosen sixth overall in 2008. Because of that colossal mistake, they have to re-draft the position -- or spend money on a free agent.

Potential Targets: It's always dicey when drafting a 3-4 OLB. Often times, you're converting a 4-3 DE from college. Two players in that category are Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan (6-4, 267) and Arizona's Brooks Reed (6-2 1/2, 263). Kerrigan is the better prospect, and the Jets believe he can make the transition. Problem is, they probably would have to trade up to get him. Reed raised his stock with impressive workouts, but you have to be leery of those types. Georgia's Justin Houston (6-3, 270) played last season as a 3-4 OLB, but he's one dimensional and boom or bust. The most versatile OLB is UCLA's Akeem Ayers (6-2 1/2, 254). He can drop, rush and line up in different spots. Some question his speed, but he plays faster than the stopwatch. The concern: Only 14 sacks in three years. They will look to add ILB depth in the later rounds, with Michigan State's Greg Jones (6-0, 242) a possibility.

Need Factor (scale of 1 to 10): 9.

Wednesday: Secondary