Oh, forgot to put a caveat in my title. If Curtis Lofton is re-signed, then he may well be a two-down player in 2012.
Why, you ask? Apparently, Mike Nolan has gotten through a lot of tape from last season and has come away with the impression that Curtis Lofton is lacking in coverage. I thought he actually made modest strides forward in 2011, but there's probably a reason they're paying Mike Nolan a lot of money to be defensive coordinator and not me. For example, my name is not Mike Nolan.
This makes sense. Lofton is a truly elite run-stopping middle linebacker, but if the coaching staff isn't happy with his performance against the pass, they could move things around. Yahoo Sports! suggests that Sean Weatherspoon could move into the middle on passing downs, which would mean a free agent or someone like Spencer Adkins would likely move outside in nickel packages.
Regardless, this could have interesting implications for the Falcons. Lofton may be more reluctant to re-sign with the team if they're not willing to play him as a full-time guy, even if the Falcons are no less serious about re-signing him. It could give Weatherspoon more run in different roles, and it could lead to Adkins finally breaking into the starting lineup part-time, given that he's the only reserve on the roster who appears to have any coverage chops. But this is mostly conjecture.
One thing that is clear is that Lofton will have a bit of a different role if he returns in 2012, one that will play exclusively to his strengths. I'm inclined to believe that's a good thing, in the end. Let him destroy the world on first and second down.