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2011 NFL Free Agency: Mike Peterson, Stephen Nicholas Still Question Marks At Linebacker

As we move to the defensive side of the ball, there are a couple of positions that could go in any number of directions, with one of those is strong-side linebacker. Obviously Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon are locked in as starters next season, but for that third spot the Falcons will have a few options to work with.

Mike Peterson: Listed at a youthful 35 years old, Peterson's age has definitely caught up with him. While he definitely held his own in the run game as he has throughout his career, he also proved that he can still make plays and be a difference maker on defense. The Falcons certainly seem to agree.

Still, in 2010 he did post the lowest tackle total in his career (59) since 2006 when he only played five games, and his durability (which hasn't been great) is on the decline. If the Falcons do choose to sign him for one more year, my biggest concern is if he can still be an effective starter for an entire season.

Regardless, I think the Falcons should keep him for one more year for a couple of reasons: A) At best, Peterson is a solid starter who can still play the run well. B) At worst, he's cheap, veteran depth for a pretty thin LB corps. C) He can serve as a guy who'll mentor eventual successor Akeem Dent, and help ease Dent's transition to the NFL.

Stephen Nicholas: This guy is definitely a toss-up. If the Falcons are able to keep him around, then obviously you can say your farewells to Mo Pete. But in all honesty, I'm betting that Nicholas bolts for another team who'll pay him more.

Let's face it, when the Falcons took Dent they basically a message saying "we don't see Nicholas as our long-term solution at OLB." But for Nicholas, the problem is that he's definitely looking for the best deal he can get this offseason. In addition, he's likely to draw the interest of a few LB-depleted teams including the Lions.

In a world of infinite monies, I say sign him. Sadly, this world doesn't exist, and the Falcons probably shouldn't overpay for a guy who his an average starter at best. The money could certainly be diverted elsewhere, and I'm absolutely fine having Dent being the fourth linebacker on the team.

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.