Stephen Nicholas agrees to 5-year, $17.5 million deal

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford /

Here, Stephen Nicholas (54) is flying over the top of the pile of Falcons as they stop the 49ers' Frank Gore (21) in the first quarter. Johnny Crawford /


FLOWERY BRANCH — Linebacker Stephen Nicholas has agreed to  a five-year contract to stay with the Falcons on Wednesday, according to Nicholas and his agent C.J. Laboy.

“He’s staying in ATL,” Laboy wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

We asked Nicholas in a text if the deal was done, he replied, “Yes.”

WSB Channel 2’s Zach Klein is reporting that the deal is worth $17.5 million, according to an NFL Source.

Nicholas elected not to sign a tender offer before the lockout started because he wanted a long-term deal.

Nicholas, who was a fourth round pick in 2007 out of South Florida, has been a valuable member of the defense. He has started 25 games over the past two seasons and has played in 65 games over his career.

Here’s an interview Nicholas did during the lockout with the AJC.

Last season, Nicholas finished with 87 tackles, including a season-high and career-high 13 tackles against San Francisco on Oct. 3. He also had an interception against Cleveland on Oct. 10.  

In 2009, he started 14 games and had 82 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two passes defensed.

In 2008, he played in all 16 games and was a standout on special teams. 

As a rookie, Nicholas finished with 37 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery in 13 games.


Q: How does it feel to get your deal done?

A: I’m just excited and ready to play football, that’s the main thing.

Q: Are you happy with your decision not to sign your tender before the lockout?

A: There was only so much that could be done during the lockout anyway. I was going to test free agency anyway. I had a feeling we were going to get locked out and I wanted to go from there. It worked out for the good.

Q: What other teams contacted you?

A: You have to call my agent for that. But it came down to Tampa Bay. The linebacker coach called me and a few other people.  Tampa was trying to get me that way. I played ball there (in college at South Florida.) I just didn’t want to wait too long. Atlanta stepped up to the plate and we got things done.

Q:  What did they tell you about your role. They had you and Spoon (Sean Weatherspoon) stacked on the strongside last year. Is he moving over to weakside?

A: Probably so, I’m pretty sure he’ll end up moving that way. We’ll see when we get in camp. I know I’m going to be on the field. That was pretty clear that they wanted me on the field. I’m just excited and ready to get back to football.

Q: How tough was it during the lockout considering that you might have to leave?

A: Just not knowing where I was going to be was driving me crazy. It would have been different going to a different environment.

After the interview Nicholas thanked the Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for his new deal.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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65 comments Add your comment


July 27th, 2011
10:15 am

Good, glad he is staying. While he is not outstanding, I didn’t want to lose him. The LB group is set for at least the next 3 or 4 seasons.


July 27th, 2011
10:17 am

Jeff H.

July 27th, 2011
10:21 am

Good move by the Falcons.


July 27th, 2011
10:22 am

Is that Keith Brooking in that picture?


July 27th, 2011
10:29 am

Excellent. Depth is the key while we bring along our younger players. Nicholas will only continue to improve and is clearly a valuable part of our defense.


July 27th, 2011
10:35 am

PMC. That is funny, only a true falcon fan will get that. Nicholas is a nice player. Nice contract. Well done TD


July 27th, 2011
10:39 am

Yeah, I guess this ends the debate on what to do with the LB position. We’ll probably give Mike Peterson a 1-year deal, but either way we are set for the present. Now we need to sign Grimes to an extension and bring in some fresh blood at DE. Rise up!

Brian Hunt

July 27th, 2011
10:39 am


July 27th, 2011
10:47 am

PMC, Kudos!!!!


July 27th, 2011
10:47 am

D-Led, any word on Snelling?

Falcon Fanatic

July 27th, 2011
10:49 am

Dimitroff needs to crank it up a few notches!!!!

Falcon Devil

July 27th, 2011
10:50 am

Looks like we are set at LB. All we need to do is re-up Grimes and sign a DE.

Cool hand luke

July 27th, 2011
10:51 am

PMC…HA someone needs to do some photoshop work. That was funny.


July 27th, 2011
10:57 am

I’d say that’s a bargain.


July 27th, 2011
10:57 am

Now we need Snelling and Grimes deals done. And then a DE.

I’m glad DLed is in preseason form because I was worried he might be right. Let’s just hope he’s wrong about not getting a DE.


July 27th, 2011
10:57 am

Hahaha, PMC! I thought the same thing.


July 27th, 2011
11:03 am

Agree on Snelling and Grimes but what I really want to hear is that we are retaining the OL. Let’s get those guys signed.


July 27th, 2011
11:07 am

So we have $14.5M left under the cap and we haven’t even signed Grimes, Julio, or any of our OL’s, much less the 5 other rookies and 5 other FA’s. We can free up another $8M by releasing JA98, Jenkins, and Davis, but that’s the only alternative and it’s still not enough to get us anyone extra in FA, like a DE or NB.

Grimes is going to cost us $9M (as much as Dunta), Julio going to be at least $4-5M, and Clabo at least $4-5M as well. Weems is tendered, so he’s a definite $1M, Bryant is a must which is another $1.5M, then the other 5 rookies combined will take another $2M. Norwood and Keonen we know are gone, but that leaves Peterson, Snelling, Blalock, and Dahl out and nothing left for anything else.

We’re going to be losing some key spots and unable to add a FA DE.

Singh is king

July 27th, 2011
11:07 am

grime,0line, and then de ! cant we get hand on usi since hes not happy with giants


July 27th, 2011
11:14 am

That’s right kids. Get 5 career sacks and one career interception and you will get $17.5 million!
It’s as easy as that.



July 27th, 2011
11:41 am

With the abbreviated off season, it would seem more important than ever to re-sign your own FAs. You won’t have to introduce them to a new system and new teammates.

Get Grimes and Clabo done so they can strap the pads off.

Also, wasn’t Nicholas headed to the Giants according to the AJC? Nice job.

The Real Falcon

July 27th, 2011
11:50 am

Anyone who thinks NOT signing Nicholas was a good move knows nothing about football.

Great Falconi

July 27th, 2011
12:00 pm

Glad to see Nicholas back. That takes some heat off of Akeem Dent.


July 27th, 2011
12:02 pm

Then why did we draft Dent?


July 27th, 2011
12:04 pm


Grimes is not going to cost us $9M. You said the other day he was going to cost us $10M. He will be $6-$7M at the most.


Really? A linebacker is more than just sacks. If this were a 3-4 defense and he was an OLB I could understand you point, but he’s not always rushing the passer and in this defense he was not always called to that.He’s getting paid on average $3.5M a year. That is not a lot compared to some of the other LBs in this league.


July 27th, 2011
12:05 pm


We drafted Dent for depth and to play special teams.


July 27th, 2011
12:30 pm

Has anyone heard anything about where we are on siging the draft picks?

Falcon Fanatic

July 27th, 2011
12:38 pm

Why are we overpaying for this guy when we need to spend money on an impact player……this is a crap decision.


July 27th, 2011
12:38 pm

boy I tell you our front office is totally out of it when evaluating our defense..Nicholas is not a playmaker..Outside of Abraham(aging) we really dont have any body on defense that scares the other team or that they have ot game plan for..


July 27th, 2011
12:44 pm

great picture of him late to the play :) PMC enjoyed the Brooking comment heh


July 27th, 2011
12:45 pm

Enter your comments here


July 27th, 2011
1:00 pm

Everyone bitching about over paying for players, ALL OF YOU should be paying me money to read these stupid remarks. Really is a 6th grade education what TRUE FANS really want to read?? The O line is the need NO ONE ELSE>

Keeping it Real

July 27th, 2011
1:03 pm

DOL: Read that Sanchez had volunteered to restructure his contract so that the Jets could have more cap room. Is there any chance MR does the same?


July 27th, 2011
1:04 pm

Hey KB haters…..he led our team in tackles for 7 years. Shut it. I just hope one of our current clay Mathews wannabe’s can play that good.


July 27th, 2011
1:10 pm

Nicholas evidently likes what he has here. He could have gotten more money elsewhere but when you have top quality talent in the front office, it’s a hell of a lot easier to keep the talent on the field. Now let’s just hope his good faith is rewarded with a Super Bowl Ring! GO BIRDS!!

Innocent Bystander

July 27th, 2011
1:23 pm

Stephen, glad to have you and your family stay in Atlanta. Hope to see you out there competing for the starting SLB job soon!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

July 27th, 2011
1:25 pm

Yeah, I had a chaotic start to free agency. Devine was “expected” to sign. He didn’t Not technically wrong!!!!
Nicholas to Giants was a rumor. That was the blog said.

But we are rolling now. Got some news.

Just talked to Stephen and about to post his quotes.

Also, heard they are moving onto the offensive linemen next.


Dirty Bird Zone

July 27th, 2011
2:47 pm

TD got good value for a very versatile player! Kick some butt Dirty Birds.


July 27th, 2011
3:08 pm

@TLaw – Nicholas is a play maker – probably more so than any of our other LBs (as of now) – he was the only defender to make a play in the Packer playoff game (stripped the ball from behind after chasing down WR)….the guy actually makes a lot of plays in space and has shown steady improvement each year – its a good contract for a good nose-for-the-ball, hard-nosed player.


July 27th, 2011
3:20 pm

Hmmmm…never was really impressed with Nicholas. We’ll see. Good luck, Stephen. Go Falcons!


July 27th, 2011
3:52 pm

Hey Y’all:

Oh, I can smell the grass of a messy, sweaty football field at Flowery Branch. I can hear the coaches screaming, hollering, teaching and encouraging the players to get off the ball, to grab, to run, to hit, and to tackle. I see the players hussling, sweating and learning the plays and beating the stuffing out of each other in preparing for this new football seasons. I see the media types running around Flowery Branch taking notes, filming, and stuffing mikes in the owners, managers, coaches, and players faces wanting insight as to how training is going. I see the FANS at Flowery Branch siting on the hill with their friends and family trying to get a glimpse of their favorite player and the football operations being conducted on he field. I see the heat and the sweat exerting off the palyers and the fans. I hear the crashing sounds of the football helmets and shoulder pads of the players. I see the speed of the runners, the acrobatic catches of the receivers, the accurate throws of the quarterbacks, the tenacious blocks of the offensive linemen and fullbacks, and the accutrate kicks of the kickers. THIS IS FOOTBALL AT FLOWERY BRANCH. OUR TEAM IS BACK HOME AND IS READY TO ” CONTINUE THE PROCESS” OF WINNING THE DIVISION, MAKING THE PLAYOFF, AND WINNING THE SUPERBOWL. This is going to be one of the most exciting season yet for the Dimitroff and Smith regime. I am sure Blank and Mc Kay are chopping at the bits to get this season started. I KNOW, WE, THE FANS, ARE MORE THE READY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





This is a SECRET from a FALCON FAN. TELL EVERYBODY!!!!!!!!!!!

……………………………….”ONE HEARTBEAT, BABY!!!!!!!!!!………………..


July 27th, 2011
4:12 pm

I what a DE but I’m sure the coaches know more than we do.


July 27th, 2011
5:37 pm

DE is not an issue for the Falcons. Dent will back up Lofton and we have too good linebackers outside. The falcons had a fairly new defensive coaching staff & with 1 more year experience the defense will be improved. . Just think they were 25th in defense the previous year & now they are around 11 or 12th. I see that as beinga sign for things to come & with a few cuts we can sure up the OL and make a run for the playoffs. Go Falcons!!!!!!!!!! I know the haters think our secondary is weak. The Patriots do not have an elite secondary either, but they out score most teams. Who ever said defense win games, died the past decade. LOL


July 27th, 2011
5:39 pm

Great job getting the Nicholas deal done.This young man has improved every year. Keep’s getting better. He will be around to finish the job that this team has started. GO FALCON SUPER BOWL BOUND!!!!

Meh, he's ok.

July 27th, 2011
5:40 pm

Nicholas ain’t bad, but he’s no superstar. But we didn’t overpay either. Between 3/4 mil over 5 yrs? Not bad really.
And, to echo Loafer, none of our LBs will have the career Keith Brooking had. He’ll be in the Falcons hall, and deservedly so. I’d much rather have Keith than Peterson, that’s for sure.

If we’re moving onto the OL next, DUMP Blaylock and keep Clabo/Dahl.


July 27th, 2011
5:42 pm

Falcons sign Sylvester, rb, from FAMU. A non-drafted free agent. 5′09″ 200lbs. Had 3000 yrs rushing for his career. Could have been more but had many injuries. Ran a 4.42 at his pro day workout.


July 27th, 2011
6:33 pm

what about Osi from the midgets sorry I mean the giants


July 27th, 2011
6:35 pm

sorry I meant Usi

Bobby Petrino

July 27th, 2011
7:41 pm

The OL has to stay intact.
Not sure about Grimes. Might be alone on that though.


July 27th, 2011
8:09 pm

To all who think brooking was more than product of getting credit for other peoples tackles. STOP IT. He was alright but nothing more than a homeboy(ga) built up by the media