Despite earlier reports, there now appears to be a potential snag in the return of free-agent defender O’Brien Schofield to the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. Schofield tweeted out earlier this afternoon that a reunion was unlikely. Although the tweet has been since deleted, Schofield indicated that he:
“would love to be back in Atlanta but the moves speak for themselves. lol #areyoupayingattention”
Schofield also conferred with ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he and the team weren’t seeing “eye-to-eye on a contract.” He also indicated to Anderson that the Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks are other NFL teams that have made preliminary inquiries into him. Afterwards, Schofield expressed his great appreciation to the Falcons’ fanbase.
Schofield signed with the Falcons a year ago after spending two seasons working with head coach Dan Quinn when the latter was a defensive coordinator with the Seahawks in 2013 and 2014. As he did in Seattle, Schofield split time playing both defensive end and outside linebacker this past season in Atlanta. He began the season at end before seeing more reps at linebacker by year’s end. He finished the year with 10 starts in 16 total appearances, recording 28 tackles and two sacks.
Originally a fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2010 NFL Draft, Schofield dealt with injuries early in his career. He suffered a torn ACL during the Senior Bowl leading up to the draft in 2010, but managed to play in 10 games during his rookie season primarily on special teams.
Over the next two seasons, he saw increased reps before ultimately starting the first nine games of the 2012 at outside linebacker in the Cardinals’ 3-4 scheme before being sidelined with a season-ending ankle injury. In three seasons in Arizona, he totaled 64 tackles and 10.5 sacks before he was cut before the start of the 2013 season. He landed with the Seahawks, where he proved a valuable reserve on the edge. He tallied 22 tackles and three sacks while appearing in 31 games over the next two seasons with the Seahawks.
Schofield’s versatility and leadership were valuable to the Falcons in 2015 and could have remained so in 2016 if re-signed. He also provides special-teams prowess, having recording 26 total tackles in that arena over his career.
However the Falcons have already made moves to upgrade a league-worst 19 sacks from a season ago by adding free-agent defensive end Derrick Shelby and re-signing Adrian Clayborn. The team also brought in free agent Chris Long today for a visit, and various reports indicate that there is mutual attraction between Long and the team, likely prompting Schofield’s earlier public statement indicating that the writing of his impending departure is on the wall.