The Falcons don't lack in starting-caliber options in the linebacking corps, but they also lack great depth.
Stephen Nicholas is an excellent backup and a guy who can capably start outside when injuries mount, which makes him critical for the Falcons. Behind him, however, the Falcons have guys like Spencer Adkins, who is basically an unknown, and Robert James, who was just signed to a two-year deal on Tuesday. Mike Peterson also isn't getting any younger.
Inside, the Falcons have only Coy Wire behind Curtis Lofton. I love Coy Wire—every team needs a prankster special teamer—but if he had to step in and start for Lofton, the Falcons would be boned. Basically.
The Falcons need to add some stability, and Rocky McIntosh can offer that. An inside linebacker in the Redskins' 3-4 defense, the 28-year-old McIntosh turned in a solid season in 2010, piling up 110 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Some pundits have opined that he struggled a bit to adapt to that system, which may drive his value down slightly in 2011.
If he's not a restricted free agent by the time the CBA dust settles, the Falcons would be wise to look at him. McIntosh is talented enough to play outside and inside in a 4-3—though he admittedly has little experience outside—and offers a well-rounded skillset. If Mo Pete walks away, the Falcons could promote Nicholas to full-time starter and use McIntosh to back up all three positions, where he'd presumably draw enough playing time to avoid making him a expensive bench-warmer. That would allow them to keep Wire as a special teamer and potentially nurture Adkins for one more year, if they're so inclined. I imagine James will figure in there somewhere, possibly as Wire's replacement.