1.) Ray Lewis
Lewis retired as the greatest linebacker of the 2000’s era and he was also the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens defense. Lewis and the Ravens defense guided the victory in Super Bowl XXXV. Lewis won the Super Bowl MVP, that same year he won Defensive Player of the Year, he is only the second person to win both in the same season. Lewis is a seven-time first-team ALL-Pro, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time Super Bowl champion, he was selected to thirteen Pro Bowls, and in 2018 Lewis was selected to the NFL Hall of Fame.
2.) Brian Urlacher
Urlacher was the poster boy of the Chicago Bears hellish defense. Urlacher brought back defense to Chicago, he reminded the fans of the 1985 Bears. (The most famous defense of all time.) Urlacher came out of college as a safety, and Chicago turned him into a force at linebacker. Urlacher was one of the most complete Middle Linebackers to ever play the game. He recorded 1,353 tackles, 41.5 sacks and was responsible for creating 34 turnovers. Urlacher went on to win plenty of awards: (2000) Defensive Rookie of the Year, (2005) Defensive Player of the Year, four-time first-team All-Pro, named to eight Pro Bowl rosters between 2000 and 2011, and in 2018 was selected into the NFL Hall of Fame.
3.) DeMarcus Ware
Ware was the 2000’s version of “Lawrence Taylor”. Ware was the perfect EDGE player, and maybe the greatest on of all-time. Ware was faster than any linebacker in the league and as strong as any, but what Ware had on his side was his technique. Ware took the time, and patients to not make his technique great, but perfect. Which helped him teach that technique to one of the most dominant players in that position right now (Von Miller). Ware sits eighth all-time in sacks, made nine Pro Bowls between 2006 and 2015, and four-time first-team All-Pro.
4.) Derrick Brooks
Brooks is what made Tampa Bay football. Jon Gruden has Brooks and the rest of the Tampa Bay defense to thank for the hell of the performance they put on in 2002 that made him a Super Bowl champ. Brooks is all around the type of player you want in your captain. Brooks is regarded as one of the most technically sound linebackers to ever play the game. He recorded more that 1,700 tackles and was responsible for 49 turnovers. Brooks was a nine-time All-Pro, eleven-time Pro Bowler, (2002) Defensive Player of the Year, and was selected in 2014 to the NFL Hall of Fame.
5.) Zach Thomas
Thomas was the hardest hitter in the 2000’s era. He would try to punish you if you had the football. Thomas was a undersized linebacker, but he made up for it with his mind and his hustle. Thomas was the perfect linebacker no matter what defense was being player around him. Thomas was the best run stopper linebacker in the 2000’s, he was born to find the ball. Thomas was one of the most instinctive linebackers of all time and always found where the ball was. Its like he already knew before the play even started. Thomas was a seven-time Pro Bowler, and five-time All-Pro. Thomas’ career was ended by multiple series of concussions, because of how hard of a hitter he was. If this wouldn’t of happened there is no telling the impact he would of had on the game of football.