Yeah, he plays the SAM position and in a watered-down 3-4 this year d/t installing a new system and having no offseason and this being his first season starting, he was one of our unsung and under-appreciated players. I challenge others to find another SAM OLB in the 3-4 who even came close to his production (and show me his salary).
It's not that he took every snap, played four positions, was 6th on the team in tackles, blah blah blah. To me, he was, by far our best run defender up at the LOS. Nobody ran on his side and they certainly didn't run off tackle. Leading the team in TFL is a HUGE stat, even more impressive than 8 sacks (had some huge hits)...he controls the LOS, seals the edge and funnels everything back to Willis/Bowman who racked up the stats. He was, like Justin Smith, the total team player this year and did all the little things including having a great attitude. He, like VD, have grown up and developed.
It would be very very rare for a rookie to step in next year and come close to this overall production. And for those who appreciate the play of the Haralson/Smith combo, again, you need to understand the team concept of defense...most of the year guys like Justin Smith & Ahmad Brooks were doubled teamed all year. If you truly watched the play of the DL & OLB, you'll see teams double-teaming these guys WHILE we played a straight up scheme and they STILL put up big numbers (certainly more than we had with yesteryear casts).
You have to keep guys like this...they allowed VF to devote more concentration to the secondary AND allowed guys such as Willis/Bowman to cover more as well. The front 5 absolutely dominated the run game. So I agree with those who say he may even be more valuable than an aging Rogers. I'd like to keep all of these guys though, myself. You don't want to start dismantling a NFL record-setting defense; you want to build layers on top of it (add more scheme/responsibility) and add depth. Do everything you can to sign him and see if he is a team guy. If he chooses to leave via FA, what more can you do?
[ Edited by NCommand on Feb 6, 2012 at 7:41 PM ]