Will Stephen Nicholas Survive Training Camp?

Scott Cunningham

Fact: Stephen Nicholas can speak Russian ... in French.

The Falcons' salary cap situation is worth keeping an eye on. While they currently have the fifth lowest adjusted cap number in the NFL ($122.782 million), camp cap casualties do happen. By some accounts, Stephen Nicholas could be one such casualty.

The weakest link on the Falcons' roster is arguably the linebacker corps. One player who could find himself on the roster bubble is Stephen Nicholas, who turned 30 and underwent sports hernia surgery this offseason. Nicholas is due $2.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary and if Akeem Dent and Sean Weatherspoon establish themselves as the top two linebackers on the roster, and capable of playing three downs, Nicholas could be the odd man out.

I don't buy into this, for a couple reasons. First, the Falcons need linebacking depth. Sure, Kroy Biermann will log a lot of snaps at linebacker this season. And sure, the Falcons may bring in a veteran at some point. But Nicholas knows the system. He was accused of poor pass defense and inconsistency against the run in 2012, but from a value perspective, Nicholas did just fine - his +WPA was 1.33, 35th highest among linebackers. I'm not saying he's a pro bowler, just that it'd be foolish to give him the axe.

Second, why wait this long? The Falcons released Tim Toone, a player we will hardly remember in five years, before training camp, likely to give him a shot at latching on elsewhere. Why bring in Nicholas, then cut him loose mid-camp? It'd seriously limit his options, and I think the Falcons respect Nicholas too much to do that.

Look, I understand a linebacker like Nicholas isn't crucial in a Nolan-run system. And I realize he had his fair share of mental lapses in 2012. But all that said, I just don't see him going anywhere, not this season.

Your thoughts?

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