The Falcons badly need an overhaul at linebacker, where they've been starting average players for a few years now. If early indications from Flowery Branch can be believed, however, that overhaul is not coming.
To wit: The Falcons have expressed interest in bringing back Philip Wheeler and Paul Worrilow, per ESPN's Vaughn McClure, and figure to bring back Dan Quinn favorite O'Brien Schofield. The team already has Tyler Starr (who could play some DE, I suppose, as could Schofield) and Brooks Reed, and Nate Stupar is at least capable of playing linebacker and figures to return due to his special teams value. Throw in the possibility that Vic Beasley will get some time at linebacker and you've got a bit of a crowded position group without the team bringing in a single free agent or draft pick.
The concern, here, is that the Falcons will punt linebacker for yet another year. If you assume that Reed will be better when he's healthy, that Worrilow will finally break through in his fourth year, and that you'll be adding one starter to this group, it's possible to squint and think the Falcons will be alright if they bolster the front four and the secondary. That assumes, however, that the team lands a starting-caliber player in free agency or the draft, that Reed is a drastically different player than he was in 2015, and that the light will come on for Worrilow in a way it simply hasn't over the last three seasons. It is, in my opinion, both a major risk and a potentially huge mistake to ignore linebacker for yet another year.
Obviously, though, this becomes a much stronger group if you are willing and able to add starters. Land Bruce Irvin and a middle linebacker and suddenly Paul Worrilow is your top reserve, Wheeler can slot in outside as needed, and Starr has yet another year to develop, with Stupar free to concentrate on special teams. That's not a truly great grouping, sure, but kicking Worrilow and Wheeler to full-time reserve roles makes the group a hell of a lot stronger.
This may all be unfounded, of course. The team may not bring back everyone and may make the position group a major priority in the offseason, as many of us have assumed they will. I'm just nervous that the team will have six guys on the roster before they start moving on upgrades, and that it will make them more complacent about upgrading than they have any right to be.
What say you?