NFL rumors are swirling around Courtney Upshaw. The belief is that the former Baltimore Ravens star has finally decided on his new home in the National Football League. After visiting with the New York Jets, the outside linebacker is close to signing a one-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons, according to ESPN. At just 26 years of age, Upshaw is trying to prove to the Falcons that he can be a long-term part of their plans.
Courtney Upshaw was the 35th overall selection in the NFL Draft during 2012. After notching 9.5 sacks during his senior year with the Alabama Crimson Tide, Upshaw was able to convince the Baltimore Ravens to take a chance on him. Expectations were high from the start because of his draft position and the fact that he was coming from one of the best programs in NCAA football. The Ravens were hoping that they had found a dominant pass rusher.
During his tenure with the Baltimore Ravens, Courtney Upshaw was closer to solid than dominant. The 26-year-old did start for the Ravens when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. During the game, Upshaw forced a fumble from Niners running back LaMichael James. Courtney had a career high 51 tackles and a career high two sacks last season due to Terrell Suggs being injured. That helped increase his value in free agency.
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t too concerned about the loss of Courtney Upshaw. They’ll add defensive players in the upcoming NFL Draft that can replace his contributions. The Ravens are more concerned about the loss of left guard Kelechi Osemele, who signed with the Oakland Raiders very early on in free agency. The addition of Osemele gives the Raiders one of the best offensive lines, if not the best, in the National Football League.
Courtney Upshaw was able to get a contract with the Atlanta Falcons because the team wanted to replace O’Brien Schofield. He’s a free agent, and the Falcons cannot come to terms with the outside linebacker. Schofield will more than likely end up with a different NFL team now that Upshaw is on board. Schofield has interest from the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys would love to find a linebacker to team up with Rolando McClain and Sean Lee.
It will be interesting to see where Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn utilizes Courtney Upshaw. With the Baltimore Ravens, he played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. The Falcons play a 4-3 defensive scheme. Upshaw is believed to be slotted for the starting strong side linebacker spot. However, Quinn might also have him put his hands on the ground at the defensive end spot.
One of the unique things about Courtney Upshaw is the fact that his effectiveness doesn’t show up on the statistics sheet. He likes to disrupt offenses by bull charging his blocker and pushing him into the offensive backfield. Often times, he can push an offensive lineman right into the quarterback. Passers start scrambling whenever they see two big bodies coming right at them. Sometimes, Upshaw can make big plays without racking up the actual sack.
The signing of Courtney Upshaw isn’t going to be noticed by casual NFL fans. Close observers, however, know that the Atlanta Falcons have possibly upgraded their defense by signing a player with a unique skill. Upshaw, former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Derrick Shelby, and former Arizona Cardinals linebacker Sean Weatherspoon are hoping to pump in some life to Dan Quinn’s defense. The Falcons were middle of the pack when it comes to defense, and that’s not good enough.
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