The Falcons have agreed to terms on a two-year deal with linebacker Lofa Tatupu, 29, a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, on Saturday.
The Falcons worked out Tatupu on Friday. The former Seattle linebacker did not play last season because of injury problems.
The move to sign Tatupu opens the door for Curtis Lofton to leave the team. Lofton, a second round pick in 2008, has been the team’s starting middle linebacker for the last four years.
Lofton racked up 577 tackles, including 387 solos tackles. He had four sacks and three interceptions.
He will compete with second-year man Akeem Dent for the starting spot.
The Falcons could use Dent in running situations and Tatupu on third downs. The Falcons were ranked 29th in the league in third-down defense last season. Tatupu has 10 career interceptions and is considered solid in pass coverage.
Tatupu has a history of knee and concussion problems. He did not play in the league last season reportedly because of his knee problems. He also had visits with the Saints and the Titans.
In 2009, he missed 11 games with a torn pectoral muscle.
Tatupu, played USC, and was a second round pick (45th overall) in 2005.
Tatupu has amassed 550 tackles with seven forced fumbles.
Tatupu had a DUI arrest in 2008, but despite that arrest, he does not carry a ‘bad guy’ reputation. He was a popular leader during his Seattle’s days.
The market for free agent linebackers shifted heavily this offseason.
San Francisco signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a six-year, $44.5 million contract with $17.5 million of it guaranteed, his agent Greg Williams told the Associated Press.
The market was when the Browns have signed linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to a five-year contract worth $42.5 million. A total of $19 million is guaranteed.
So now, here are the top five contracts for inside linebackers:
1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco: seven years, $53.51 million, $29 million guaranteed.
2. Jon Beason, Carolina: six years, $51.3 million, $25 million guaranteed.
3. Jerod Mayo, New England: seven years,$49.85 million, $25 million guaranteed.
4. D’Qwell Jackson, Cleveland: five years, $ 42.5 million, $19.5 million guaranteed.
5. David Harris, New York Jets: four years, $36 million, $29.5 million guaranteed.
The Falcons held talks with Lofton’s representatives in Indianapolis. The talks were termed as amicable, but the team has elected to move in another direction.
Lofton has played 95, 95 and 99 percent of the defensive snaps over the last three years.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog