The Atlanta Falcons have added a key piece to their defense, signing linebacker Courtney Upshaw to a deal, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The 26-year-old is set to join a new team after spending his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Upshaw was a second-round pick out of the University of Alabama in the 2012 NFL Draft. He's been a starter for all four years, playing in all 64 possible games and starting 51 of them. He didn't really develop into a top-tier pass rusher (just five sacks in four years), but Upshaw remains one of the better run defenders in the league. Last season, he had 51 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, ranking as the sixth-best 3-4 linebacker on Pro Football Focus.
This is Upshaw's first deal after playing out his rookie contract in Baltimore. Still only 26 years old, there may yet be some untapped potential with him. The Falcons, under head coach Dan Quinn, are constantly trying to improve things on the defensive side of the ball. In recent years, the unit has held them back while Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have kept the offense running.
Upshaw isn't a massive upgrade, but he gives the Falcons a dependable player with a ton of upside who should be slotted in as a starter right off the bat. It will be interesting to see what happens next with O'Brien Schofield, who has not signed a new deal.