Sean Weatherspoon is returning to the Atlanta Falcons following a year away from the team. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Weatherspoon and the Falcons agreed to terms on a one-year deal late Thursday.
ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure confirmed the news, citing a text message he received from the linebacker.
The Missouri Tigers product spent the first five years of his career in Atlanta after the Falcons selected him with the 19th pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, but the two sides parted ways when Weatherspoon latched on with the Arizona Cardinals last offseason.
The short-term nature of Weatherspoon's new deal makes sense based on his inability to stay healthy. Weatherspoon has appeared in all 16 games just once (2011) since entering the league in 2010, and his medical history is checkered to say the least.
After battling knee and foot injuries throughout the 2013 season, Weatherspoon suffered a major setback when he ruptured his Achilles tendon the following summer.
|Sean Weatherspoon's Career Stats|
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Since then, it's been difficult for Weatherspoon to recapture vintage form.
Once a heralded prospect, Weatherspoon struggled to impress Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians as he attempted to justify the prove-it deal bestowed upon him by the eventual NFC West champions.
"I need to see a lot, haven’t seen anything yet," Arians said of Weatherspoon prior to last season, per AzCentral.com's Kent Somers. "That’s very discouraging right now, to not know where he’s at as a football player, having missed most of last year and all of this camp."
Things evidently didn't improve, as Weatherspoon's snap count was limited and he just barely cracked double-digit tackles.
"He was one of the best LBs in the NFL in 2011, but that season is an aberration at this point, as it was his only season grading remotely positive," Pro Football Focus' John Kosko wrote. "Weatherspoon played just 159 snaps with the Cardinals in 2015, recording just three stops and 11 total tackles."
The good news for the former first-rounder is that he's back in familiar surroundings and playing for a coach who previously lauded his skill set.
"I know he's got that kind of attitude," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said last February, per McClure. "And you know me, just from watching our style of defense, it's fast and physical. And that's what Sean is."
Atlanta is pressed for depth at inside linebacker even after extending a restricted free-agent tender to Paul Worrilow, so bringing Weatherspoon aboard makes sense for the Falcons with other free-agent options flying off the board at a fast and furious pace.
But beyond proving he can stay healthy, Weatherspoon will need to show Quinn and his staff that he can stuff the run with regularity.
Because if he can't, work may be hard to come by at this time next year.
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