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Atlanta Falcons Free Agency: Lofa Tatupu Signing Spells Curtis Lofton's Exit

Keeping with the theme of bringing in bargain-bin players this offseason, the Falcons have signed former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Even more interesting, the contract is reportedly a two-year deal worth $5.75M in total money, and is quite likely to be very "incentive based."

Just like yesterday's signing Vince Manuwai, Tatupu- a three-time Pro Bowler- also sat out the 2011 season after an injury derailed what has been quite a productive season. The Falcons had apparently invited Tatupu to an individual workout on Friday, and Mike Nolan (who coached against Tatupu several times in the NFC West) must've felt very comfortable with what he saw from the ex-Seattle linebacker.

But with Curtis Lofton still unsigned, what does Tatupu's arrival say about the future of "The Police" in Atlanta?

To give you my short answer: I'm almost certain Lofton will be playing for a different team in 2012. Spreadsheet update:

What Tatupu's signing says to me is that the Falcons were looking for at worst a plan B at middle linebacker should third-round draft pick Akeem Dent falter. Tatupu provides both quality depth and veteran leadership on defense.

But what the terms of the deal also suggest is that Tatupu could push Dent for playing time quite a bit next season. In fact, rumor has it that Tatupu, who is known to be very solid in coverage, could even take over for the hard-hitting Dent on third down under Mike Nolan.

With two solid middle linebackers signed beyond next season already on the roster, Lofton will very likely to walk away as a free agent and sign with another team. Despite his fantastic production playing against the run (100+ tackles in the past three seasons), Nolan was also rumored to have been dissatisfied with Lofton's skills in coverage.

Ultimately, that is why I think the Falcons will opt to run some sort of Dent/Tatupu platoon at middle linebacker next season. Besides, if any of the other rumors hold any truth, then Thomas Dimitroff must be saving all that cap space for Mario Williams. Because, you know, rumors are always true.

So long 5-0, and good luck.

For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic; for everything else free agency-related, head over to SB Nation's NFL hub page.

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