The linebacker position is one that was troublesome for the Atlanta Falcons last season, after star middle linebacker Deion Jones was lost for the majority of the season with a foot injury. Surprisingly the team did not upgrade it at all this offseason. Duke Riley was inadequate as a replacement and eventually lost his spot to promising rookie Foye Oluokun. De’Vondre Campbell is solid along side Jones, but adding more linebacker help would allow him to use his pass rush ability more, as I stated in this article.
Jamie Collins and Zach Brown were the most accomplished linebackers left on the market. However Zach Brown has signed a one year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. They Eagles got a bargain, as the most his contract can be worth is three million dollars. Herbie Teope has more on the signing in this NFL.com article. Jamie Collins has now returned to his original team the New England Patriots, after being released by the Cleveland Browns. Collins had 104 combined tackles and four sacks in Cleveland last season. Seems like only the champion Patriots, can trade away a very good player for a draft pick and end up getting that same player on a bargain a few seasons later. Kevin Patra of Around the NFL on NFL.com has the story of the reunion in this article.
Those recent developments leave slim pickings for the Atlanta Falcons at linebacker. Very few starting caliber options remain on the free agent market, so anyone the Atlanta Falcons bring in, would be for depth purposes. Gerald Hodges who spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals, is probably the best linebacker available in free agency. He played 16 games last year and racked up 55 tackles. Hodges is more of a run stopping linebacker though, so he would not be the best fit for Atlanta. The same goes for Manti Teo who has also dealt with many injuries in his career.
Stephone Anthony is former first round pick of the New Orleans Saints. He has the physical traits to he good in coverage, but has yet to find his role in the NFL. He would be a developmental prospect at this point. Will Compton is a sleeper option that would be worth a camp invite. He graded surprisingly well in limited snaps with the Tennessee Titans last season, with coverage being his strong suit. Ramik Wilson is another under the radar option. He played in 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams last season, starting four. He would immediately become a fan favorite, having played for the Georgia Bulldogs in college. Wilson is a linebacker who can be used to cover in nickel packages and also adds special teams value. Wilson would be a nice low-cost camp invite. However if the Atlanta Falcons don’t like the free agent options, the trade market or waiver wire, will be their best opportunity to upgrade the linebacker position.