We've discussed the possibility that Stephen Nicholas could flee in free agency before now, but a new report crystallizes it for me.
The biggest question mark at the moment is whether free agency is even going to happen. I'm of the belief that the Falcons have to proceed as though it will, which brings me back to Nicholas. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Lions and Broncos are prepared to make offers for Nicholas as soon as free agency opens.
On one hand, the Falcons have the cash money available to counter any claim on Stevie Nickels. On the other hand, the Broncos and Lions may throw larger amounts of cash and longer years at Nicholas than the Falcons are willing to match, and if that happens he's gone. That effectively transforms the team's draft strategy.
I'm skeptical that the Falcons would go after Akeem Ayers, as DOL appears to be leaning toward, but there's no way they go without drafting a linebacker if Nicholas might be gone. Casey Matthews, Mike Mohamed and others are definitely on the team's radar, and I'd expect one of them to be chosen in the early-to-middle rounds. As much as I like Spencer Adkins, I'm extremely skeptical that he could step in right now to replace Nicholas, especially with Mike Peterson being a candidate for release.
My take? Ultimately, the Falcons will probably make a strong push to sign Nicholas, but won't pay him starter's dollars if that's what the Broncos and Lions offer. They'll draft Mohamed to replace him.