We learned earlier this week that Taylor Gabriel, Dontari Poe, and Kemal Ishmael are hitting the open market, which means all three are unlikely to return to the Falcons in 2018. That’s disappointing on many levels, but with the possible exception of Poe, none of those losses are expected to significantly damage Atlanta’s chances this season.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about who is staying and who is going, however, and Ishmael’s likely departure increases the chances that LaRoy Reynolds will stick around as the team’s de facto reserve linebacker and special teams ace. It could also, possibly, maybe, open up a spot for Sean Weatherspoon.
‘Spoon played an extremely minor role in 2017, joining the team when Duke Riley got hurt to serve as a quality locker room presence and emergency reserve. That’s really his likely role again in 2018, should he return, which should make this a pretty easy call for Atlanta. Still, let’s examine the case for and against his triumphant return to the Falcons again in 2018.
‘Spoon is a beloved player both inside and outside the locker room, and a terrific personality. As a player from the 2012 NFC Conference Championship run, he has deep ties to some of the long-time veterans on this team, and I don’t know anyone who would say he’s been anything less than a stellar influence on the team. That’s the best case for him, really.
When healthy, Weatherspoon is still a solid tackler and retains the instincts that made him a borderline special player for a handful of years early in his career, even if the rest of his game has eroded thanks to time and injury.
You can, to be perfectly candid, snag a late round draft pick or undrafted free agent linebacker who will offer considerably more upside than Weatherspoon does at this stage of his career. Any player you get will likely also offer more value on special teams, and the Falcons are continuing to re-tool their defense to feature fast, hyper-athletic players, and ‘Spoon just isn’t that guy any longer.
There’s just not a lot of chance of ‘Spoon being more than a gameday inactive every week unless injuries strike, and then he’s unlikely to be an asset for this team if he has to play significant snaps. Reynolds is just a better player at this stage of their respective careers.
The Verdict: No
Like I said, this is a pretty easy call. Weatherspoon is a great dude, the kind any team would benefit from having on the sidelines on Sundays, but the Falcons can find an upgrade over him on the field relatively easily. They’ll likely re-sign LaRoy Reynolds and turn to the draft (or their UDFA crop) to take Spoon’s spot on the roster.