The Atlanta Falcons officially announced the signing of linebacker O’Brien Schofield this morning in addition to waiving running back Terron Ward to free up that roster spot. Schofield agreed to a one-year deal yesterday with the team. On Wednesday it was also speculated that the Falcons could place injured linebacker Paul Worrilow on injured reserve due to his groin injury to create the necessary roster space for the Schofield signing.
Schofield, 29, was signed by the Falcons at the outset of the 2015 offseason as a free agent and expected to add depth at defensive end. He began the season as a sub-package player at that spot before making the move to strong-side linebacker in the second half of the season. He finished the year with 28 tackles and two sacks while starting 10 games.
He became a free agent after the season and initial expectations were that the Falcons were prepared to move on and not re-sign him as they explored other options to enhance their pass rush. But reports during the summer still indicated that the Falcons had not completely moved on from the notion of re-signing him.
The Falcons finished last in the NFL in 2015 with 19 sacks and through two weeks of the 2016 season are tied for last place with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2016 with just one sack.
Schofield originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2010. He missed part of his rookie season with a torn ACL that he suffered before the draft. Over his first three seasons in the NFL with the Cardinals, Schofield recorded 10.5 sacks as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. He was cut before the 2013 season and picked up by the Seahawks, where he first worked with Falcons head coach Dan Quinn when the latter was the defensive coordinator. Over two seasons primarily playing at defensive end in Seattle, Schofield recorded three sacks.
Ward was originally signed by the Falcons as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Oregon State last season. He made the roster thanks in part to his emergence during training camp while Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were each sidelined with hamstring injuries. Ward served as the team’s third-string tailback in 13 games last season, finishing with 95 rushing yards on 29 carries (3.3 avg) and one touchdown. He also caught nine passes for 73 yards.
He missed a significant chunk of this past summer with an ankle injury but gutted through the injury in the team’s preseason finale, leading the team with 62 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However the re-aggravation he suffered in that game forced him to be limited in the team’s first week of practice and inactive for their season-opening loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After returning to practice last week , Ward was a healthy scratch on the inactive list against the Oakland Raiders in Week Two.
Ward’s departure leaves the Falcons especially thin at the running back position with only Freeman and Coleman as their lone players at the position.