O'Brien Schofield has experienced the ups and downs of free agency before, so he knows what to expect and how to handle it.
The Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker realizes there are lingering questions about arthritis in his left knee. Those concerns cost him a two-year, $8 million contract with the Giants two years ago.
As he enters free agency again this March, Schofield hopes his knee is a non-issue for everyone, including the Falcons.
"A lot of teams have been worried about my knee, man," Schofield said. "I didn't miss any games in three years. I've been in the postseason twice.
"They say I'm bone-on-bone, so a little arthritis. But the way I look at it is, it hasn't stopped me. And I think it's time to stop the knee talk and talk about what I do on tape. This has nothing to do with my physical health because I've done everything I can do to be healthy and be available for every game, play at a high level, and be effective."
Schofield is one of 12 Falcons set to become unrestricted free agents on March 9. He played in all 16 games last season, starting 10 and playing 466 total defensive snaps. Schofield would be the first to say he wanted to put up bigger numbers, after finishing with just two sacks and 28 tackles. His transition away from a pass-rushing role later in the season no doubt contributed to his low sack total, although he was second on the team with 13 quarterback hits.
One could argue Schofield's value exceeds most of the other impending free agents purely based on the leadership and toughness he brings to the locker room.
"I want to be here in Atlanta," Schofield said. "If they ask me why they should keep me, I'm going to tell them that I'm a leader. I know how this game is played. I give 100 percent effort every time on the field. I'm a great guy in the locker room. I've been in Coach (Dan) Quinn's system, so I know exactly what he's looking for as far as how to practice, how to play. I do believe I'm an emotional leader on this team.
"And I've stepped into multiple roles. I played Will (linebacker). I played Sam (linebacker). I played D-end. I've done whatever has been asked of me. I really feel like I'm an intricate part of this team."
Schofield signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract last season after two years in Seattle, where he won a Super Bowl and had Quinn as his defensive coordinator. He was offered a two-year deal from the Falcons but declined.
"I didn't regret that, not at all," Schofield said. "I thought it worked out perfectly. I think it really allows me to see what my value is to the Falcons. It was a great opportunity for me to prove myself to my teammates, to the coaches, to the organization.
"And on the one-year deal, it was protection so they could see how the knee was. That's been a concern the last three years. And each year, I've managed to quiet that down. I'm hoping this year in free agency, the knee is not an issue. I hope it's more about my performance and what I mean in the locker room and on the field."