The Atlanta Falcons announced today that they have released linebacker Lofa Tatupu with an injury settlement. Tatupu tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights away from the Falcons' training facility.
In March, the Falcons and Tatupu agreed to a two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Tatupu will only see $600,000 of that deal, which was a signing bonus considered earned upon receipt.
The Seattle Seahawks released Tatupu on July 31, 2011 after the three-time Pro-Bowler had reconstructive surgery on both knees. Tatupu worked out for the Saints and Titans in February before signing on with the Falcons in March.
The Falcons signed Tatupu in order to fill the gaping hole left by the departure of linebacker Curtis Lofton. Lofton has led Atlanta in tackles the past two seasons. Lofton took his talents to the Bayou, signing a 5-year, $33.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Now that Tatupu has been released, the battle between Tatupu and Akeem Dent for the middle-linebacker position is settled. Dent—a third-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft—will inherit the starting job. Falcons brass quietly wanted Dent to win that competition in any event, according to ESPN's Pat Yasinskas.
On Monday, the Falcons re-signed veteran linebacker Mike Peterson. Peterson is not a lock to get his name on the 53-man roster, and if he does, he'll serve only as Dent's backup. If Peterson is forced to see significant action on the field, then Atlanta's defense will suffer a sizable downgrade. Peterson—who will be 36-years-old by Week 1—cannot be relied upon to lead the Falcons defense.