Falcons Add Upshaw to Shore Up Linebacker Depth

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsCourtney Upshaw

The Atlanta Falcons announced last night that they had agreed to terms with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw, adding the free agent to the roster to shore up their linebacker depth. The move was first reported by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Upshaw conducted a two-day visit beginning on Thursday before finally inking his deal on Friday. Per Vaughn McClure of ESPN, Upshaw agreed to a one-year contract.

Upshaw, 26, spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Ravens, who selected him in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft with their top selection that year. Upshaw had a productive career at Alabama playing outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense before entering the professional ranks.

Given the hybridized nature of the Ravens defense, Upshaw has spent his career playing as an outside linebacker both in their 3-4 and 4-3 defense. He will likely continue to play a similar role in Atlanta, although given his surplus size of 272 pounds he might also get some reps playing defensive end in certain packages. During his career at Alabama, Upshaw did occasionally put his hand in the dirt and rush the quarterback as an end. That helped lead to the 16.5 sacks he totaled during his final two years of college ball.

This past season with the Ravens, he saw the most snaps of his career thanks to an injury that sidelined pass-rusher Terrell Suggs early in the season. Upshaw turned in his most productive season, tallying 51 tackles, two sacks, two pass deflections, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He had seen a steady reduction in playing time over the course of his first three years in Baltimore thanks in part to his limited pass-rushing ability. For his career, Upshaw has collected just five sacks despite making 51 career starts.

The Falcons are looking to shore up depth behind starting strong-side linebacker Brooks Reed, thanks to the expected departure of free agent O’Brien Schofield, who served in that same capacity for most of last season. The team already lost Nate Stupar to free agency, as he signed with the New Orleans Saints last week. Stupar started in place for Reed for two early-season games on the strong side. Schofield began the season primarily playing defensive end for the Falcons in their nickel sub-packages.

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Aaron Freeman
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