by: Michael Steffes
If he doesn’t re-sign with the Seahawks of course.
With the Seahawks rescinding the franchise tag after the draft, it would seem that Leroy Hills suitors might be limited. The chances of Hill getting the same kind of deal he would have in early March are probably lessened. Still though, as the salary cap continues to rise and rise, there are more and more teams that have lots of room available. This, however, needs to be paired with scheme fit and an clear starting spot.
Lets take a look at what teams might fit this profile…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers-
Tampa is the big wild card in this sweepstakes in my opinion. They have plenty of room under the cap and could use a starting caliber linebacker. The Bucs didn’t draft a linebacker, despite releasing Cato June and Derrick Brooks in the offseason. Barrett Rudd is the clear starter in the middle, but outside linebacker candidates include names like Geno Hayes, Quincy Black, Matt McCoy, and Adam Heyward. There is also talk that SS, Jermaine Phillips, who came and visited Seattle as a free agent will be playing linebacker this year. Hill would seemingly be better than converting a safety. Tampa is switching their scheme up a bit this year, but will remain in a 4-3 with similar principles to the Seahawks scheme. Hill would clearly fit.
The Falcons will almost certainly take a look at Hill after moving on from Keith Brooking and Michael Boley in the offseason. On top of this, there are several reasons this would make sense. They play a 4-3, and Hill would fit what they do on defense. They also have about 25 mil in cap space. They were a playoff team who has made several additions that show they believe they are a few pieces from being a Super Bowl contender. Hill would qualify as another “final piece” type of move and would be easy to justify.
The Skins could use a linebacker. Especially one that could provide some pass rush. They should know plenty about Hill’s skills. Not only is Zorn the coach, but I am sure they remember Leroy sacking Todd Collins by steam rolling Mike Sellers right through him in the Wild Card game two years ago. The Skins appear ready to start Alfred Fincher and Rocky McIntosh at their OLB positions. They drafted LBs in rounds 3 and 4, and have almost no space under the cap. That said, when they need to sign someone, Dan Snyder almost always finds away to create the needed cap space.
The Jags are doing as much as they can to distance themselves from last year. They are still running a 4-3 and would appreciate the physicality that Leroy brings. They have about 17 million under the cap, and Hill would be comfortable there, coming from Clemson. The moved on from long time LB star Mike Peterson recently leaving their linebackers as a group that could be improved on. The current starters are Clint Ingram, Daryl Smith, and Justin Durant.
The Eagles are defintely in a win now mode. They have been adding pieces like Jason Peters and Ellis Hobbs, which show that they are trying to make a run at the title. Leroy Hill could be seen in the same light. The Eagles are about 30 mil under the cap and play a 4-3. Current starters Chris Gocong and Akeem Jordan aren’t bad, but Hill is premier young star in the making. In that division, you can never have too much defense. Plus, can you imagine what Jim Johnson could do with Hill as a blitzer.
I choose to focus on the 4-3 teams that might be good spots for Hill. It is possible that 3-4 teams could see Hill as someone who could play in that scheme as either a rush linebacker or a run stopping middle backer. If this is the case, teams like Kansas City, Miami, or even the hated 49ers, all have some cap flexibility. Whether or not they value Hill more than their current guys, even after a factoring in his in-experience in the 3-4, is something that would be hard for me to speculate on.
Hopefully, the Seahawks and Hill can come to an agreement. He is the most comfortable here, and would be the third amigo in a great group. It would be a shame to see Hill reach his Pro Bowl potential somewhere else. Especially since most of these teams reside in the NFC.