Falcons coach Dan Quinn always preaches playing fast and physical. Quinn now has a physical linebacker in the fold in Courtney Upshaw.
The former second-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens out of Alabama agreed to terms with the Falcons on a one-year deal Friday evening. He is likely to step into a role at strongside linebacker, where the Falcons thought they had a capable physical presence in Brooks Reed, last year's most costly free-agent signing.
In the 26-year-old Upshaw, the Falcons get a 6-foot-2, 272-pound load of a linebacker. This is how one longtime NFL personnel man assessed what Upshaw could bring to the Falcons:
"He's a big, power rusher. He doesn't get a lot of sacks, but the Falcons need some power, too. He's not going to beat you with all kind of quickness and athletic ability and movement. He's going to beat you with strength, size, and power. He's a run-stopper who will get some rush. It will be more or less about pushing people back into the quarterback. Guys like that don't get 10 sacks. They get like five or six and that's a big year for them."
We'll see how Quinn views Upshaw's role when he addresses the media to talk about the signing.
Meanwhile, questions remain about Reed's role moving forward and how Upshaw's signing affects O'Brien Schofield, one of last year's team leaders and a guy Quinn wanted back with the Falcons. Schofield earned the starting role at strongside linebacker ahead of Reed last season, but it was a role Schofield wasn't all that comfortable with because it took him out of pass-rush situations.
Schofield has other options, although he does have an offer on the table from the Falcons. But he might not have a significant role on defense in Atlanta, as compared to somewhere else.
As for Reed, the Falcons put him more in a nickel-rusher role at the end of last season. He didn't contribute much, with no sacks and just 17 tackles in 13 games (five starts).
Would the Falcons admit they made a mistake and part ways with Reed? That might be hard to imagine, considering it was the first so-called big acquisition under Quinn's watch. But we'll see how the scenario unfolds. A total of $2.1 million of Reed's $2.5 million base salary in 2016 became fully guaranteed on the third day of the new league year. Cutting Reed would count $320,000 against the cap.