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Free agent spotlight: Linebackers

Third in a series looking the players who are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents Tuesday, although the following information does NOT reflect who the Seahawks might be targeting:

Position: Linebackers

Leader of the pack: MLB Curtis Lofton, Falcons

What he’s done: A second-round draft choice in 2008, Lofton has been a starter in Atlanta since his rookie season. He has averaged 123 tackles in four seasons – including a career-high 147 last season and 133 in 2009, when he had 105 solo stops.

Where he ranks: No. 45 on Pro Football Weekly’s list of Top 100 free agents.

What they’re saying: “The linchpin of a run defense that was one of the league’s best for much of last season, Lofton is a homegrown talent the Falcons would like to re-sign. … Lofton’s game is short on flash, but he always has been very dependable and is highly effective against the run.” – Pro Football Weekly

Other options: Redskins MLB London Fletcher, still a tackling machine at the age of 37; Lions MLB Stephen Tulloch, had 111 tackles in his first season in Detroit; Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson, he’s 32 but also tough and experienced; Ravens OLB Jarrett Johnson, more of a run-stuffer than a pass rusher. Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer got the franchise tag, while 49ers OLB Ahmad Brooks and Browns ILB D’Qwell Jackson signed multiyear contracts.

Seahawks own free agents: MLB David Hawthorne, LB Leroy Hill, LB Matt McCoy, LB Heath Farwell, LB David Vobora.

Numbers to know: Hawthorne is just the sixth player in franchise history to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons, and only Lofa Tatupu – the player he replaced – has done it four seasons in a row. Hill played 16 games last season for the first time in his seven-season career. Farwell led the NFL with 21 special-teams tackles, despite not signing with the Seahawks until Oct. 19.

Says coach Pete Carroll: “We need to get faster on defense. As big as we are, we need to get faster, so I’d like to add some speed in the linebacker corps. … We’d like to get another fast guy in there if we could.”


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