ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Curtis Lofton #50 of the Atlanta Falcons intercepts a pass for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It's nearing the end of a very productive four year era in Atlanta, officially or not. Piling on with James' post from the other day.
A third-round pick for the Falcons back in Comrade Dimitroff's inaugural draft in 2008, Lofton spent four seasons starting in the middle and making a lot of noise. He played at a close-to-Pro Bowl level in at least two of those seasons, limited only by a lack of elite coverage chops. The dude could smack around running backs, though, and he was a fan favorite. With Keith Brooking on his way out and the linebacking corps in semi-shambles, he was a true stabilizing force at the position.
With all the talk of Mike Nolan viewing him as a two-down linebacker and the Falcons being willing to let him walk, it's easy to forget how good Lofton was. If he's gone—and I suspect he is— finishes up his career in red and black with 492 tackles, four sacks, 15 pass deflections, three picks and seven forced fumbles, and I firmly believe he made everyone around him better. I'll remember that.
Unfortunately for us, the Saints are having him in for a visit, the Buccaneers still have an offer out to him and the Eagles are suspected to be interested. While he's not a dominant coverage guy—which makes him an odd fit for the Saints, who like their 'backers to play the pass well—he'll be a nice pickup for somebody. It looks like all his choices are teams we hate, and it's unlikely he'll return to Atlanta unless the team reverses course rapidly.
Personally, I'm going to miss having Lofton around. He was always a class act and a great run-stopping linebacker, and a guy I liked from the moment he was drafted. Seeing him go to a hated division rival makes it even worse, and while Lofa Tatupu and Akeem Dent will hopefully approximate his value, they won't be Lofton. Seeing 5-0 in any other colors, especially gold and black (shudder) will be difficult to deal with.
Best of luck, Curtis Lofton. Except when you play the Falcons.