O’Brien Schofield is open to doing the Dirty Bird once again -- if he's wanted.
The free-agent outside linebacker said all along he wanted to return to the Atlanta Falcons, but the two sides couldn't agree on a contract after the season. As Schofield remains on the open market, he firmly believes he can be an asset to coach Dan Quinn and the Falcons defense.
"You know I'll bring 100 percent to that locker room and to the field," Schofield told ESPN.com Tuesday. "And you know, without a shadow of a doubt, I would help that ballclub. I’m looking for a more dominant role as a nickel pass-rusher. I would have to be able to compete as the nickel rusher."
Schofield came to the Falcons last season on a one-year, $1.7 million contract. He finished the season with 28 tackles, four tackles for losses, two sacks, 13 quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. His role as a pass-rusher diminished later in the season as he assumed the starting Sam linebacker position in the base defense ahead of Brooks Reed, who became a nickel pass-rusher.
Through that transition, Schofield firmly believed he could have helped the pass rush, although his statistics didn’t reflect it. Schofield attributed his low sack numbers to the reduced pass-rush role.
The Falcons made him an offer this offseason, although Schofield declined to discuss the financial details. He's generated interest from teams such as Chicago, Jacksonville and Dallas with "good" offers on the table. The belief is the Falcons no longer have an offer on the table, although such could change.
Schofield contends there are no concerns about arthritis in his left knee. He's missed just one game the last three seasons. And he's made sure to keep his body in shape this offseason by working out with former Seattle teammate Michael Bennett along with San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o in Hawaii.
We will see if the Falcons call on Schofield once again. They still need pass-rush help, although Quinn seems to have confidence in the foursome of Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Grady Jarrett, and newcomer Derrick Shelby. Quinn also hopes to get pass-rush help from Reed, who struggled miserably last season coming off groin surgery. The Falcons continue to be mindful of potential pass-rushers on the free-agent market or within the class of undrafted rookies joining the team this week.
The Falcons finished last in the league with 19 sacks last season. Quinn hopes the addition of first-round pick Keanu Neal at strong safety and Deion Jones (second round) and De’Vondre Campbell (fourth) as inside linebackers will help improve the team’s third-down coverage and, thus, allow the pass-rushers to get after opposing quarterbacks.