Ex-Patriots, Jets Linebacker to Visit Falcons: Report

Brandon Copeland

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Brandon Copeland of the New England Patriots during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium on November 29, 2020.

The Atlanta Falcons have indicated they will be value shoppers in free agency this year, thanks to the club’s well-documented salary cap crunch.

Case in point: a new report from NFL Insider Adam Caplan (Sirius XM/Fox Sports Radio/97.5 The Fanatic-Philadelphia) reveals that the Falcons are expected to visit with former New England Patriots and New York Jets outside linebacker Brandon Copeland later this week.

In 2020, Copeland—6-foot-3, 263 pounds—appeared in six games for the Patriots (four starts) and contributed 12 total tackles (six solo) with one tackle for loss. He also was a part of 29% of New England’s special teams snaps.

For his trouble, the 29-year-old earned a base salary of $910,000 and a $137,500 signing bonus, but because his contract qualified for the veteran salary benefit he incurred a salary cap charge of just $887,500, this according to overthecap.com.

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Another ‘Qualifying Contract’ for Copeland?

Assuming the Falcons turn out to be interested in signing Copeland, they will presumably offer him another “qualifying contract.” As explained by Front Office Football (FOF), that’s “a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $137,500 in additional compensation [typically via signing bonus]….

The contract would be “charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two credited seasons,” elaborates FOF. That’s the kind of salary cap-friendly deal the Falcons need and figure to pursue this offseason.

Brandon Copeland’s NFL Odyssey

Copeland entered the NFL in May 2013, signing with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent time on the practice squads of the Ravens and Tennessee Titans before he finally found a home with the Detroit Lions, for whom he played in 32 games in 2015 and 2016, mostly on special teams. He was on injured reserve for the entire 2017 season after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Then in 2018 and 2019 he played for the Jets, for whom he had his most impactful NFL seasons. In 2018, for example, he started ten games and contributed 35 tackles (24 solo), plus five sacks, eight tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits.

In 2019 he appeared in only 12 games (three starts) for the Jets, because in August of that year he was suspended by the NFL for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

If he signed on with the Falcons, Copeland would likely be a reserve OLB/rotation pass rusher in 3-4 fronts, and also a prominent part of Marquice Williams’ special teams units. In all seasons in which he has played all 16 games, Copeland has been a part of at least two-third of his team’s special teams snaps.

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