Several teams have pursued Zach Brown this offseason, but the UFA linebacker may be down to his final two choices. Brown is believed to be deciding between the Dolphins and Raiders, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports.
Brown has visited the Dolphins, Raiders and Bills, while the Colts have expressed interest as well. While Oakland and Miami believe they’re in the running for the non-rush linebacker, neither looks set to meet Brown’s asking price of $6MM per year, Salguero notes. The south Florida-based writer reported earlier this week the Dolphins would be more comfortable paying Brown a deal in the $3MM- or $4MM-per-year range.
The Dolphins have been active this month in reshaping their linebacking corps, signing Lawrence Timmons as a UFA, restructuring Koa Misi‘s deal and extending Kiko Alonso. Brown would seemingly take Misi’s place in the lineup, with the 30-year-old middle ‘backer taking a pay cut to stay in south Florida, if he were to sign with the Dolphins.
Either way, Brown would be moving from a 3-4 defense to a base 4-3 look. The Raiders signed former Dolphins outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins to likely play the weakside spot but have a need inside. Bruce Irvin plays as an outside linebacker in the Raiders’ 4-3 base but slides to defensive end in pass-rush situations, leaving an opening in nickel sets. Raiders 2016 middle linebacker Perry Riley remains a free agent. He of 149 tackles in a standout season in Buffalo, Brown ranks as PFR’s No. 1 linebacker remaining in free agency. Riley sits No. 2 on this list but hasn’t generated nearly as much interest.
If Oakland sought to outmuscle Miami for Brown, the team has $32MM-plus in cap space compared to the Fins’ $15MM. But the Raiders have a possible Derek Carr extension coming this year, almost certainly contributing to their free agency plan.
Previously viewed as a plus-coverage ‘backer with the Titans, Brown experienced a tepid market for his services as a first-time UFA last year. A deal in the $3-$4MM-AAV range would put him below lesser names like A.J. Klein ($5MM AAV), or $4MM-per-year players Tahir Whitehead or Damario Davis on the inside linebacker salary spectrum. Fellow UFA Kevin Minter signed a one-year, $4.25MM deal with the Bengals last week.
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