Falcons LB Dent avoids ankle surgery

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Akeem Dent visited a specialist this week for a second opinion and will not need surgery on his right ankle, according to a league source familiar with Dent's status.

Dent anticipated having to undergo a cleanup procedure based on the issues he had with the ankle. The injury lingered throughout the season after he tweaked it in a Week 4 loss to the New England Patriots.

Dent missed the game immediately after suffering the injury and never was 100 percent. He was the starting middle linebacker until undrafted rookie Paul Worrilow assumed that role. Dent became more of a special-teams contributor at season’s end. He thrived in that role during the 2011 season, when he recorded 19 special-teams tackles.

When healthy, Dent proved to be a valuable asset to the defense, particularly as a blitzer. His value likely increased when the team decided to release veteran linebacker Stephen Nicholas on Wednesday.

Dent, a former third-round pick out of Georgia, has 20 starts in 47 career games. He is signed through next season and is scheduled to count $860,725 against the cap in 2014.

Depth will be a key issue for the Falcons down the roster. They are likely to draft a linebacker or add one via free agency based on the amount of injuries at the position in 2013.

A draft prospect to keep in mind is Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown, who was impressive at the Senior Bowl while playing on the North team coached by the Falcons' staff.