The Atlanta Falcons announced the re-signing of linebacker Philip Wheeler, a move first reported by WSB-TV’s Zach Klein earlier today. Wheeler was signed by the Falcons midway through the 2015 season, making a pair of starts at weak-side linebacker in place of injured starter Justin Durant.
Wheeler, 29, first joined the Falcons in late October as the team looked to shore up depth behind Durant. Wheeler started against the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 9 and 13, respectively, last year in place of an injured Durant. Wheeler also carved out a prominent role when the team utilized their dime sub-package last year thanks to his prowess as a blitzer. Wheeler finished 2015 with 29 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
The Falcons marked Wheeler’s fifth NFL team since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2008. He was originally drafted by the Indianapolis Colts, starting a combined 24 games over the course of the next four seasons before signing with the Oakland Raiders in 2012. After a successful season in Oakland, he was able to land a lucrative contract with the Miami Dolphins the following offseason. However Wheeler struggled in Miami, eventually losing his starting job in 2014. He was cut by the Dolphins last March and scooped up by the 49ers. He spent training camp with the 49ers, but was released before the start of the regular season before eventually landing with the Falcons.
Wheeler will likely be counted upon once more to add depth at weak-side linebacker, but could also figure into the mix for a starting position with Sean Weatherspoon currently sitting atop the depth chart. Weatherspoon hasn’t appeared in every game during an NFL season since 2011, making his hold on the starting spot tenuous if he cannot stay healthy.