Channing Crowder a fit for the Falcons?

We’re more than a month away from the start of free agency. Ordinarily, I’d say it’s too early to start projecting specific free agents to land with specific teams.

That’s because a lot of potential free agents will re-sign with their own teams and new free agents will be created as teams make cuts to get in compliance with the salary cap. Also, teams can’t talk to free agents until the start of the league year in mid-March unless they want to run the risk of violating the NFL’s tampering laws.

But D. Orlando Ledbetter writes about one exceptional situation that’s worth watching. That’s linebacker Channing Crowder, who said he already has had some contact with the Falcons. Atlanta just hired defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who previously coached Crowder with the Miami Dolphins.

The typical rules of free agency don’t apply to Crowder because he’s in a unique situation. Crowder, 28, sat out all of last season. He announced his retirement shortly after the Dolphins released him last season.

But Crowder explained that situation to Ledbetter. His wife was pregnant and Crowder didn’t want to play somewhere else and move his family. So he sat out the season and worked in radio. Now, he wants to get back into football.

Crowder said he’d love to play for the Falcons and the Nolan connection certainly adds another layer. Crowder, who has played inside and outside linebacker, also could add depth to Atlanta’s linebacker corps.

Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton is a potential free agent, although I expect the Falcons to make a strong attempt to keep him. The Falcons are in pretty good shape on the outside with Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas as returning starters. Spencer Adkins and Akeem Dent provide some depth, but the Falcons aren’t likely to bring back veteran Mike Peterson.

He dealt with injuries last season and will be an unrestricted free agent. Peterson was valuable because he was experienced and versatile. But Crowder has those same traits and is younger.