UPDATE: Q&A WITH STEPHEN NICHOLAS (below story):
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.
HERE’S AN EXCLUSIVE Q & A WITH NICHOLAS:
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