This topic is on my mind after I watched LB A.J. Hawk get burned in coverage on a TD pass to TE Ben Watson in the 2nd quarter during the Green Bay Packers first preseason game. I'm willing to listen to any suggestion, but I expect the fat contracts (and high draft position) of some players will play a significant part in the final decision.
LB Nick Barnett. The first of the highly paid middle linebackers, but he's also the best of the bunch. He's had his play limited the last two seasons since he tore his ACL in 2008. That's been due to medical concerns, not because of his on-field performance. While he had a very strong 2009 season, he was torched in pass coverage on multiple plays during the playoff loss at Arizona. He appears to have returned to his near-Pro Bowl level of pre-2008.
LB Brandon Chillar. While he played almost exclusively inside in 2009, he's currently listed as the first-team right outside linebacker, which was LB Clay Matthews spot last season. Matthews is moving over to the left side, presumably so they have a bigger outside linebacker on the strong side. He seems to have moved behind LB Brad Jones since the Family Night scrimmage, but I still keep expecting they'll find somewhere for their high priced linebacker to start. As of right now, that doesn't appear to be at inside linebacker.
LB A.J. Hawk. While he continues to struggle every so often in pass coverage and run defense, their former top 5 draft pick remains at the top of the depth chart. I don't know why he's sitting there other than they want to give him every chance to finally fulfill his potential.
LB Desmond Bishop. He's a potential free agent in 2011 (depending on a new labor agreement) and he's never been given a chance during the regular season. He's listed as the top backup at both inside linebacker spots, but he might never start unless he signs with another team. While he's not a huge improvement, I'd expect he'd be better than Hawk.
I can't imagine they'd keep another inside LB past these four. It's possible Bishop or Hawk could be traded or released to open up a spot for someone else, but I'm not expecting it.