The news is coming fast and furious today. You can add one more defender to the team's <3 list, because the Falcons reportedly worked out former Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu earlier today. The Saints have also looked at him, apparently.
Tatupu is a three-time Pro Bowler who has overcome perceived shortcomings in size and speed to cobble together a remarkable little career. Since being selected in the second round back in 2005, he's been a team leader, an incredibly hard worker and even a one-time All-Pro. The first few years of his career were as good as any linebacker in the NFL not named Ray Lewis.
Unfortunately, things fell apart a bit in 2009. Tatupu tore a pectoral muscle and was lost for the season, playing in only five games all year. He returned in 2010 and played well if not superbly, and after the season the Seahawks asked him to re-structure his contract. When he refused, they cut him at the end of July last year. He spent the season out of the NFL.
If he's in shape and ready to go, Tatupu is at minimum a valuable reserve linebacker with a pretty well-balanced skill set. I doubt that he's become totally useless with one year away from the NFL, and he's still just 29. The Falcons will have a much better sense of that after today's workout than those of us out here in the far-flung reaches of the blogosphere, obviously. If he can return to form, he'll be an absolute steal.
This is the clearest sign yet that the Falcons are concerned about losing Curtis Lofton in free agency, or that the rumors about Mike Nolan considering him a two-down player are true. Given that Tampa Bay appears to have real interest in him and a ton of cap space, my favorite Falcon of the last four years could be heading for more pewter pastures. Tatupu may not be the player he once was, but he's still a solid middle linebacker who could at least push Akeem Dent for a starting job and provide veteran insurance.
My best guess? Lofton walks, the Falcons bring Tatupu aboard and he splits snaps to some degree with Dent. I view Dent as a very high-upside young linebacker who may have some growing pains in 2012, so a veteran option could help him get through that and give the Falcons some relief when Dent struggles. Long-term, Dent's the guy.
Your thoughts on Tatupu and the situation?