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Paul Worrilow signs tender with Falcons, under contract for 2016

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The veteran linebacker isn't guaranteed a starting job, but will compete for one for the fourth straight season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Paul Worrilow is officially back in the fold with the Falcons.

It is fair to suggest that this year will be critical both for Paul Worrilow's Falcons future and his future in the NFL. He's started at middle linebacker for three straight years now, effectively unchallenged in each year, and played in 47 of 48 games over that span, amassing 364 tackles, four sacks, two picks, and three forced fumbles. With an unrestricted free agency payday looming, Worrilow has a chance to blossom at age 25 and cash in heading into 2017 if he can start again and improve.

To say Worrilow is a divisive figure in Atlanta would be to understate things. I think everyone recognizes that he's a great locker room presence and, by all accounts, person, and that he can help this football team. It is fair to suggest, too, that his persistent struggles in coverage and tendency to get blocked out of plays near the line of scrimmage are problematic for a 16 game starter.

The Falcons still haven't landed a clear-cut upgrade over Worrilow, so it's very possible he'll be competing for his starting job again in 2016, and it's even possible he'll face no genuine competition and will simply return to the role. Ideally, I think Worrilow would move around at linebacker as a versatile and useful reserve, but we'll see what the Falcons have planned for him. Welcome him back.