ProFootballFocus.com, a site that watches every play for every player and then grades them on their own scale, listed two Seahawks free agent linebackers in the top five at their position groups. PFF lists Leroy Hill as the league's fourth best free agent outside linebacker and they list David Hawthorne as the second best free agent inside linebacker in the league.
Hill finished fourth on the team in tackles with 89 and made four sacks on the season. PFF says his main strength is his ability to defende against the run.
Hill is probably the least well known of Seattle's outstanding trio of linebackers, but that's not to disparage the quality of his play in 2011. While he might not have been quite on the same level as some of the other names, he just did his job consistently well, avoiding grades "in the red" in every facet of his game. Perhaps even more positive is his ability to play so many snaps at such a high level (985 defensive snaps) without ever appearing to wear down. Hill has long been a very good run defender with sufficient coverage skills to allow him to play in the nickel, which only increases his value.
As for Hawthorne, he finished with the most tackles in the team at 115 and made two sacks. PFF believes he's on the edge of entering the elite class of inside linebackers.
Hawthorne never quite lived up to his outstanding 2010 season, but was still a very good player for Seattle. His best performance came against Cleveland in Week 7 where he registered 11 tackles including seven stops. Hawthorne possesses more versatility than the other options on the market, having played both outside and inside for the Seahawks, which only adds to his value. If he can improve on some promising performances in coverage in 2011, there'll be nothing holding him back from entering the elite class.
The Seahawks defense was ranked seventh in the league in allowing points to opposing teams and ninth in the league in yards given up per game. If they want to build off these number, they'll have to do their best to re-sign both Hawthorne and Hill.
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