The Atlanta Falcons have continued to build their team through free agency this offseason, and now they have added another key piece to their defense. The team recently agreed to terms with former Baltimore Ravens rush linebacker Courtney Upshaw on a one-year deal. The signing will be a solid move for the Falcons, and there is a chance that they will be able to get a lot out of Upshaw this season.
Upshaw was a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Alabama. Upshaw was supposed to be one of the next great pass rushers to come out of the school, but he ultimately disappointed and never quite turned into a threat off the edge. He simply did not possess the speed or athleticism to be a reliable rusher. However, Upshaw was solid against the run, and he helped the Ravens’ defense as a situational defender.
Still, after the season ended the Ravens opted not to pursue Upshaw, as they were likely not happy with his fit in their 3-4 scheme. After all, the team has had more success with pass rushing 3-4 linebackers like Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil in the past, so keeping a run stopping specialist would not make too much sense for them.
Now, the Falcons are going to get a chance to utilize Upshaw in a role that he has not yet played. Upshaw projects to be an outside linebacker in Dan Quinn’s 4-3 scheme, and he could have a major impact on the team’s defense. The Falcons have not had a lot of success stopping the run, but adding Upshaw may give them a solid two down defender who will not be asked to rush the passer as frequently.
Because of this, Upshaw will be able to focus on pursuing the ball carrier which will take some pressure off of him. He will no longer feel as if he has to try and live up to the high expectations which could be beneficial to his career.
The Falcons are ultimately risking very little to bring Upshaw in on a one-year deal. He is set to make only $1.25 million in the upcoming season, and if he does not work out the Falcons can get rid of him after the season. And if he does work out, then the Falcons will have found a strong player to pair with Brooks Reed and Paul Worrilow on defense for the foreseeable future.