The potential for a significant change in strategy seems likely to determine how the Atlanta Falcons approach the official start of free agency on Tuesday.
There have been whispers among Falcons players about a switch to a 3-4-defensive scheme. Such a move could be a wise one, if the Falcons can put together quality personnel to effectively execute such a defense.
UPDATE: This will only add fuel to the fire, since an OLB coach is not necessarily required in a 4-3 scheme:
This is a move that many would consider long overdue. When Mike Nolan was hired, many thought he'd switch to his "preferred scheme," even though Nolan's done work in 4-3 and 3-4 bases throughout his career and his defense in Atlanta hasn't been anywhere close to a true 4-3. That hasn't happened to this point, but after an abysmal 2013 defensive showing and with plenty of flux along the defensive line, McClure's hunch may be a good one. The Falcons couldn't stop the run last year if you spotted them a running back with no legs, so changing up personnel and looks even slightly would be welcome.
Free agency will tell the tale. If the Falcons acquire a bulky natural nose tackle and, as McClure suggests, sign a player like Kansas City's Tyson Jackson who has experience at a 3-4 end, you may see them run more of what we would consider a traditional 3-4.
It's worth remembering that the Falcons will still mix up their fronts and run a ton of nickel packages, so this is significant but not necessarily transformative if it comes to pass. Here's a good breakdown from Murf Baldwin at Bleacher Report of what a 3-4 might look like in Atlanta, and what it would mean for someone like Joplo Bartu in particular.
Now comes the part where I admit on a conditional basis that I may have been wrong. Candidly, I didn't think a 3-4 was in the cards for this offseason, though that was based less on concrete reports than Nolan's comments about fitting the scheme to the players, and the personnel aligning in such a way that a 4-3 base made a lot of sense. With only Corey Peters and a couple of unproven players at defensive tackle currently, some ends who could probably play linebacker in a 3-4 and plenty of money to acquire talent that aligns to the scheme, you could and perhaps should argue it's time to strike. I'll be watching with interest.
What would you think of a move to a 3-4 base?