2012 NFL Free Agents: Why Curtis Lofton Should Re-Sign with the Atlanta Falcons

Scott CarasikContributor IIMarch 24, 2012

Lofton should come back and resume his role in the middle of the defense.
Lofton should come back and resume his role in the middle of the defense.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Curtis Lofton is arguably the best free agent still out there. Lofton has been the stalwart leader of the Falcons defense the past four years. He's one of the top middle linebackers in the NFL and a key contributor to the Falcons defense.

Curtis has been amazing statistically for the Falcons to go along with his leadership. Lofton has averaged 123 tackles, 1.0 sacks and two forced fumbles every year. He has also improved his coverage every year and his pass deflections and interceptions have been increasing.

Lofton has been testing the free-agency waters the past two weeks and has been courted by the Eagles, who went with DeMeco Ryans; the Buccaneers, who seem to be disinterested in paying Lofton the amount he wants and the Saints, who have under $1 million in cap space.

The Falcons have only $1.5 million in cap space, but could easily clear cap by re-signing Grimes long-term and lowering his cap hit this year from $10.281 million to a much more manageable figure.

The Falcons could also open cap by cutting either fullback Ovie Mughelli, saving $3.0 million in cap space, or left tackle Sam Baker, saving $2.56 million in cap space.

Lofton's suitors are fading fast and it's looking more likely that Lofton could come back to the Falcons. He has been working out with his Falcons teammates all offseason and even been talking with the team this offseason. His bond with the current Falcons is a large part in why he would come back to the team.

The linebacker market has been determined this offseason with the deals from Patrick Willis, Jon Beason, Jerod Mayo, D’Qwell Jackson and David Harris. The average top-five deal for the middle linebacker position is a six year, $46.6 million deal with an average of $25.6 million guaranteed.

Lofton will likely have to take a discount with the Falcons in order to stay, especially since there have been reports of him looking into the $8-9 million range per year. Lofton should end up around the $5.5-6 million range per year, and that would be the likely offer from Atlanta, as it's a very similar offer to the one Stephen Tulloch just signed with the Lions.

With the market being set and Lofton losing suitors rapidly, it's becoming more and more logical for him to come back to the Falcons and fully embrace the new scheme under Mike Nolan.

Bringing Lofton back will allow more scheme versatility for the Falcons between the 4-3 and 3-4 sets. Lofton is a thumper who has been improving in coverage and this team would be wise to bring back the 5-0.