The question of whether the Falcons bring back Jonathan Babineaux is, perhaps, not the most pressing question. The Falcons badly need upgrades at defensive tackle through free agency and the draft, and realistically, Babs would return as a backup who probably wouldn’t have a ton of playing time.
On the other hand, it’s a question because of what Babineaux has meant to this franchise, and because the team still very clearly needs solid depth on the interior of the defensive line. Babineaux has been here since 2005, is fifth all-time in games played and is ninth in all-time sacks, and still showed flashes of his old self in 2016. If he’s gone, Atlanta’s essentially down to Grady Jarrett and Tyson Jackson at defensive tackle, and will need to sink both free agent and draft capital into the position. They probably should do that regardless, but it increases the urgency a bit if Babineaux walks.
If Babs does go, he’ll leave behind the kind of legacy that leads you to wonder if he’ll eventually make it to the Ring of Honor. He doesn’t have the flashy statistics, but he certainly has an argument for one of the best and most consistent defensive linemen in the team’s history, and that’s worth a great deal.
I can’t image a Falcons team without Babineaux—he’s been here longer than The Falcoholic has existed—but I may have to this offseason. We will likely know pretty soon.