Without a deal, Falcons’ Brooking will hit free agency

Derrick Brooks might not be the only veteran Pro Bowl linebacker from the NFC South to hit the open market.

The Atlanta Falcons and Keith Brooking have been unable to agree on a new contract, and the linebacker will head to free agency Friday, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Brooking’s return to Atlanta hasn’t been completely ruled out, but the Falcons’ leading tackler and five-time Pro Bowl selection could have to come back in a reduced role.

Brooking, 33, played on Atlanta’s 1998 Super Bowl team and has been a fixture since. The 11-year NFL veteran is a native Georgian who hasn’t played for a team outside of the state at any level — he played collegiately at Georgia Tech. He also has led the Falcons in tackles for seven consecutive seasons.

Brooking, the Falcons’ starting weakside linebacker, and Michael Boley, the starting strongside linebacker, will be unrestricted free agents. Second-year pro Stephen Nicholas could move into either linebacker slot, but the Falcons plan on filling the other through the draft or free agency.

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