Dan Quinn wants Sean Weatherspoon back in fold

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed a desire to keep linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who becomes a free agent March 10.

"With him, it's that toughness and the speed that he can play with so, yes, definitely someone that we're talking to," Quinn said Friday. "I know he's got that kind of attitude. And you know me, just from watching our style of defense, it's fast and physical. And that's what Sean is. So, we're certainly hoping that he can be a big part of it moving forward."

Weatherspoon, a first-round pick in the 2010 draft, missed all of last season with an Achilles' tear suffered while rehabbing a knee injury. During the 2013 season, Weatherspoon played in just seven games after suffering a Lisfranc ligament sprain in his foot.

Quinn was asked if he was concerned about Weatherspoon's injury history.

"I think you always are," he said. "But at the same time, what's the rehab like? You can tell when a guy is going for it in that way, too. All that factors in.

"By the same token, he hit a string of bad luck. Can he come back and play at a level that he's capable of? That's what we're excited to find out."

General manager Thomas Dimitroff was adamant about needing to have Weatherspoon, a guy he drafted, back on the team. But the final decision on the 53-man roster is Quinn's. It is likely to come down to how much money Weatherspoon is willing to accept from the Falcons, who are unlikely to overpay based on Weatherspoon's health issues. He averaged more than $3 million per year in his first contract, which included $10.45 million guaranteed.

If deemed to be healthy, Weatherspoon should attract attention on the open market if he reaches free agency. If so, at least one AFC team is interested in pursuing Weatherspoon.

The Falcons are expected to check into veteran linebackers bound for free agency such as David Harris from the New York Jets, Mason Foster from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Malcolm Smith from the Seattle Seahawks. Ex-New Orleans Saints player Jonathan Casillas could be in that mix as well.

The Falcons so far have signed three players to contract extensions before they hit free agency: kicker Matt Bryant, defensive lineman Cliff Matthews and fullback Patrick DiMarco.