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State of the Miami Dolphins Roster: Inside Linebackers

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This post is part of a series of posts that will break down and evaluate the Miami Dolphins position by position. If you haven't read up on how players are being classified (the number and letter that follow each player's name), you can read this post explaining the evaluation system. You can also read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.

Today begins a potentially historic week in the NFL. The players and owners will get back to the table and work on hammering out a deal by week's end. And by this time next week, we could be spending our time discussing free agency. For what it's worth, I do believe that by Friday's deadline there will be a new CBA agreed upon.

So we need to finish up our series as we go position by position to get an overview of this Miami Dolphins roster. Today we focus in on the team's inside linebackers.

Karlos Dansby (1-A). His stats won't blow your mind. The casual fan might feel he didn't play up to his 5 year, $43 million deal that was signed last offseason. But make no mistake about it - Karlos was worth every penny. He was the quarterback of this defense. He is the unit's leader. And he's only going to get better as he gets more comfortable in Mike Nolan's system.

Channing Crowder (2-B). It seems like many fans love to criticize Crowder for everything he isn't. But with Karlos next to him, Crowder doesn't have to be something that he isn't anymore. He's not going to be asked to make big plays. He just needs to be the run-stuffing two-down linebacker he's shown he can be. He was slowed by injuries for most of last season. I'm curious to see how he performs in 2011 next to Dansby now that he should be as healthy as he'll ever be.

Tim Dobbins (3-E). In the first year of a three year deal he signed last offseason, the veteran linebacker played reasonably well when he was asked to fill in for Crowder. Like Channing, he isn't going to "wow" you with his play. But he's a solid backup to have on your team and should have a spot on this roster in 2011.

Austin Spitler (3-D). A 2010 7th round pick out of Ohio State, Spitler saw action in 12 games last year - mostly on special teams. But he's one of those high motor and high character guys who should get better as he gets more comfortable at this level. But how high is his ceiling?

A.J. Edds (3-D). The loss of Edds during training camp to a torn ACL was a frustrating blow. The Dolphins envisioned Edds as a guy who would make an instant impact as a 3rd down coverage linebacker. Now we don't know what Edds is or what he could become. Don't sleep on the kid, though, The coaching staff was believed to be very high on Edds and, assuming he's healthy, he could press for some playing time. For now, though, he's nothing more than an unknown.

Mortty Ivy (4-F). Undrafted out of West Virginia, Ivy spent all of 2009 on Carolina's practice squad. Back in January, the undersized linebacker (6'1, 239) signed a reserve/future contract with the Dolphins. Consider him a camp body, if that.

Contract situations: Not much to discuss here. All of the top five guys are signed at least through this season. Channing Crowder is entering the final year of his deal, though.

Outlook: It's tough to really get a feel for this group. Dansby is elite - that we know. But everyone beyond him is a question mark. Crowder should play well as Dansby's complement on early downs now that he'll be healthy and more comfortable in his new role. I think it's important to note that Channing didn't have much time to get comfortable in Nolan's defense because of his injury issues. And we have no idea what Edds might be. With that said, I wouldn't be shocked to see an inexpensive addition or two to this group for competition - whether it's a veteran free agent or a mid to late round draft pick. I'd be surprised if any substantial investment was made.

And it's worth keeping in the back of your mind that Crowder is owed $2.5 million in the final year of his deal with the Dolphins and could be a potential candidate to get cut in camp if a potential replacement emerges.