With Stephen Tulloch's Contract, The Linebacker Market Is Open

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 01: Curtis Lofton #50 of the Atlanta Falcons runs out of the tunnel during player introductions before facing the Baltimore Ravens at Georgia Dome on September 1, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions signed Stephen Tulloch,arguably the best middle linebacker left on the market. The best by far now is Curtis Lofton, and with Tulloch and D'Qwell Jackson signed, he's probably up next.

For teams like the Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons who had hoped to get him cheap, it's not a pretty picture. Jackson got $42.5 million and Tulloch's deal is rumored to be in the same range, which comes close to the $7 million per that Lofton was looking for. Tulloch may be the more complete player, but Jackson is Lofton's inferior in more than one way. His market value has been more or less set.

I still fully expect Lofton to be gone. Unfairly or not, the Falcons think enough of their odds of replacing him with Lofa Tatupu and Akeem Dent that they've let him test the market for a long while and will likely allow themselves to be outbid unless Lofton can't shake a good contract out of another team. As I've said before, I'll be sad to see him go, but this is ultimately Mike Smith's team and Mike Nolan's defense. If they're not willing to shell out $6-7 million per season for Lofton, then we're not going to change their minds.

That said, with DeMeco Ryans now in Philadelphia, as well, it looks like The Police's market is down to the Saints, Buccaneers and Falcons. If his asking price drops and he wants to return to Atlanta, could he be the next John Abraham signing, a quality dude for well-below market value? Certainly possible.

Where do you think Lofton will end up?

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