Year after year, Falcons learned to temper their expectations for players acquired late in the offseason. Under the old coaching staff, those players were never given snaps unless the team ran out of healthy people above them on the depth chart. Ryan Schraeder knows what I'm talking about.
After final roster cuts in 2014, the Falcons made one tweak to the bottom of their roster: replaced LB Tim Dobbins with LB Nate Stupar. Stupar had bounced around teams for years, and my expectation was he would be limited to special teams duty. He played three defensive snaps.
2015 was, of course a much different story. Thanks to injuries to just about every linebacker, Stupar filled in at every linebacker position. Not only did he fill in, but Stupar made plays. I don't remember the last time an Atlanta linebacker made plays (Curtis Lofton?), but this was a welcome surprise.
Stupar was easily the team's best linebacker in 2015, and one of the few confusing decisions in Dan Quinn's first year was why Stupar did not play more. Justin Durant, when healthy, battled Paul Worrilow for least-impactful defensive player. Durant is now gone, and many expect Worrilow to be demoted.
Why would Quinn not want more of this?
Stupar did get 232 snaps last season, and did well with them. He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Falcons can apply three different tenders ranging from about $1.3 million to nearly $3 million for the 2016 season. Atlanta could also risk letting him walk and try to bring back Stupar at a lower amount during free agency. However I think that would be a foolish decision to save a small amount of money for a player who is, at worst, a great special teamer and solid depth at linebacker.
While Atlanta should add a clear starter at MLB, Stupar should be given a chance to compete for the WLB starting spot.