One-years wonder about future with Falcons

O'Brien Schofield is a team player, as folks inside the Atlanta Falcons' locker room quickly found out about the outside linebacker.

However, it's only natural for Schofield to start thinking harder about his own future as the regular season winds down. He was one of a handful of veterans who signed one-year deals with the Falcons last offseason with hopes of earning long-term consideration.

"When I first I got here, I was offered a two-year deal, but I turned it down to prove to them the type of player I was and also, possibly gain more money from a later contract," said Schofield, who will earn $1.7 million this season. "When you're on a one-year deal, it's always tough when you have a family. You think about moving around. From a financial standpoint, you're kind of in a hole sitting there because each offseason, you don't know where you're going to be.

"My goal coming here was to solidify myself and put myself in as good a position as possible to continue my career here, or finish my career here. Whatever works."

Although the production hasn't been there in terms of sacks (two), Schofield has shown flashes throughout the season with 13 quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He's also emerged as a vocal leader. Regardless, not too many players are assured a roster spot next season on a team that has lost six in a row heading into Sunday's matchup with Jacksonville. There is sure to be plenty of change to help upgrade the roster.

One of the new Falcons who signed a one-year deal, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, already is gone after suffering a hamstring injury and being released from injured reserve. He is now with the New England Patriots, and Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Hankerson simply wasn't in the team's long-term plans.

Defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn, a former first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knew he had no choice but to sign a one year "prove-it" contract ($2.1 million) after dealing with his share of injuries with the Buccaneers. Clayborn has two sacks and 13 quarterback hits to tie Schofield for the team lead.

"To be honest with you, I'm just going to finish the year," Clayborn said. "I want to finish the year the way I started: playing hard and playing the only way I know how to play. The rest with handle itself. That's the model I've always gone by.

"Yes, it was a prove-it deal that I signed. It's not going quite how I wanted it to go, but I feel like I've played the way people know I can play and have stayed healthy -- knock on wood. Guys sign one-year deals all the time. It will work itself out whether I'm here or wherever else. I'd love to stay here. That's no question."

Defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann, a former fifth-round draft pick, has been with the Falcons since 2008. But Biermann signed a one-year, $1.925 million deal with a chance to show the new coaching staff he could be valuable. Although his signing made some fans cringe, Biermann could be the toughest player on the team. And teammates such a Schofield would tell you Biermann has played his reserve role rather well this season.

Biermann doesn't get caught up in outside perception. He's not concerned with his contract situation, either.

"It's about us and trying to get this done, and that stuff comes in the offseason," Biermann said. "I've always put out my best foot forward and have tried to do what's been ask of me and tried to be as successful as possible. I love the game of football. I love playing. I love being out there.

"Atlanta's been good. The owner [Arthur Blank] has been awesome to my family and this team since I've been here. He's got a great head on his shoulders and has taken this franchise in a good direction. I've never been to another NFL team, but I would imagine there are some crazy thing that go on in other locker rooms. And I feel like I've been fortunate not to have to deal with any of that."

Other players on one-year contracts needing to make the most of the final three games include right guard Chris Chester, linebacker Philip Wheeler, tight end Tony Moeaki and former first overall pick Jake Long, who saw 10 snaps at right tackle last week in place of Ryan Schraeder.