Cards' free-agency look: Inside LB

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
8:00
PM ET
Looking at which inside linebackers the Arizona Cardinals could chase may in fact be a moot point if they re-sign Karlos Dansby.

But in case they don't, the Cardinals will have a few options at inside linebacker. Internally, they could promote either Kevin Minter or Jasper Brinkley to a starting role, although I don't see the latter occurring. Arizona used their second-round pick on Minter last season and although he had just one snap at linebacker all season, he's the future inside alongside Daryl Washington. That is why Brinkley could be a cap casualty this offseason depending on what happens with Dansby.

Brinkley is scheduled to make $2 million next season while his cap number goes up to $2.2 million -- a lot on both accounts for a player who didn't play in the final five games.

So, if the Cardinals need to fill an inside linebacker position -- either starting or backup -- who could they go after when free agency starts March 11?

There's a few intriguing names, and a few who could make for solid backups.

If Arizona needed a starter, linebackers such as Minnesota's Erin Henderson, San Diego's Donald Butler, Houston's Joe Mays, Washington's Perry Riley, Indianapolis' Pat Angerer or the New York Giants' Jon Beason could be potential additions.

Henderson earned $2 million in 2013, so he'd only be considered as a starter, as would Butler, who earned $1.3 million last year. If the Cardinals want to stock their reserves, head coach Bruce Arians is familiar with Angerer from his year in Indianapolis and he may come at the right price.

Then there's a group of inside backers such as Baltimore's Daryl Smith, Houston's Darryl Sharpton and New England's Dane Fletcher who are affordable backups.

One of the most intriguing names in this year's inside linebacker crop is New England's Brandon Spikes. His tenure with the Patriots ended tumultuously with him being placed on IR as the season ended, but he's still one of the better inside backers in the league. Pro Football Focus has him ranked as the sixth best inside backer in 2013, one spot below Dansby. Where Spikes excels is stuffing the run. According to PFF, he's the top-ranked ILB against the run, which would be a solid complement to Washington's speed.

But the one thing Dansby did well was he cover the pass, second best in the league according to PFF. Spikes struggled in that department, according to PFF.

Arizona has options at inside linebacker should it come down to it, and they're all within the Cardinals' price range but any decision hinges on whether they re-sign Dansby.

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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