Atlanta Falcons Free Agency: A Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Guide

Free agency talk brings out the crazy in everyone.

Some speak of Julius Peppers as though his pass rushing artistry can bring the Falcons to glory. Some pine for Aaron Kampman. Still others sigh and stare out their windows, eyes as wide as saucers, hoping for a sighting of the ethereal Elvis Dumervil. And so on.

Despite being told repeatedly that the Falcons won't be big spenders in free agency, that talks swirls around. It's pretty much inevitable at this point in the off-season, when the only thing more exciting to do is illegal in at least 40 states. So because you're all eager to gather what scraps you can, let's break it down by (potential) position of need. I'll tell you who I think might be worth having around, who definitely isn't and we can debate it until time itself melts down around us. That is how you spend an off-season, my friends!

Join me after the jump and we'll get this rolling.

QUARTERBACK

Thumbs up! Chris Redman. I'm well aware some of you don't care for Rojohombre, but he's familiar with the system and he'll likely sign for a reasonable one-or-two-year tender. It doesn't hurt that this is a truly atrocious group of free agent quarterbacks, but I expect Redman will be effective enough to be our #2 for at least one more season. Bank on it.

Thumbs down! Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, David Carr. It's the triumvirate of terrible former first round picks! The pu pu platter of painfully puerile passers! We've already seen how the Joey Harrington experiment worked out in Atlanta, and the other two combined are about as useful as fur on a lobster. Thankfully, the team is extremely unlikely to sign any of them. Sadly, there's not much out there thanks for the lack of a collective bargaining agreement, which is putting some of the promising younger guys down as restricted free agents.

RUNNING BACK

Thumbs up! Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling. Frankly, this free agency class is dented badly by the lack of a CBA. Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison would be an awesome replacement for Norwood, but he's almost certainly going to be locked up by the Browns and it would take way too much to pry him loose. Unless the Falcons decide to look at a back in the draft, we ought to stick with what we have.

Thumbs down! Willie Parker. Used to be known as a fast back who could do a little bit of everything, but he's much older than Norwood now and his body appears to be breaking down. No thank you.

WIDE RECEIVER

Thumbs up! Domenik Hixon. A talented pass-catcher with good speed and enough blocking potential to fit into the offense, Hixon is unrestricted, likely to be cheap and carries an injury risk that does not outweigh those benefits. If the Falcons were going to sign one free agent at wide receiver, he should be the guy. Heck, if they were going to sign one offensive skill player in free agency, Hixon would still be the guy.

Thumbs down! Terrell Owens. Ancient, declining wide receiver? Let's give him seven years!

OFFENSIVE LINE

Thumbs up! Jeremy Bridges. Not to beat a dead horse with a rock that doesn't bleed, but most of the good free agents promise to be restricted along the line, so the Falcons' best course of action would be to simply continue to build their line through the draft. Failing that, Bridges would be a nice option to backup at the tackles, as he's a quality all-around lineman with pretty good footwork. The team would likely only be competing with the Arizona Cardinals for his services, too.

Thumbs down! Tra Thomas. If the offensive line-starved Jaguars cut you, I don't want you within 100 miles of Flowery Branch. Begone, Thomas!

DEFENSIVE END

Thumbs up! Anthony Montgomery. Again, we're thinking cheap here. Montgomery will not cost the Falcons a ton, but he brings the ability to play either defensive end or defensive tackle to the table and provides solid value against the run and as a pass rusher. He's exactly the kind of versatile reserve the Falcons value. If he would sign a reasonable contract I might support Aaron Kampman, but he struggled in 2009 and is likely to price himself out of the team's consideration.

Thumbs down! Julius Peppers. He just turned 30, he's likely to be incredibly expensive, he's really only useful as a pass rusher and his effort isn't consistent. I've always liked Peppers, but considering the magnitude of the deal it would take to land him, he's way too much of a risk.

LINEBACKER

Thumbs up! Nobody. Those of you who are arguing for a first round pick at linebacker can point to the free agent class at the position. If we're going to upgrade on Mike Peterson, there's no way it's going to come through free agency, where anyone worth a damn is restricted and everyone else is well over 30. If Ahmad Brooks of the 49ers wasn't going to be locked up, I'd suggest him based on his truly incredible emergence this season, but there's really nobody out there that's young or cheap. I'm not even going to bother to do a thumbs down.

CORNERBACK

Thumbs up! Leigh Bodden. We're virtually guaranteed to bring back Brent Grimes (restricted), so Bodden's really the only logical choice. He's under 30, had a nice season for the Patriots in 2009 and would provide a veteran presence for a very young secondary. If the Panthers' Richard Marshall became a UFA he'd be a nice fit because of his physicality, but I doubt Carolina will let him go.

Thumbs down! Dunta Robinson. No indictment of his talent, but we can't possibly afford Dunta Robinson. C'est la vie.

WRAPUP

I fully recognize that a lot of you are going to look at this list and think I shot way too low. I'd argue that the best thing the Falcons can do is identify their biggest needs and address them through the draft, using their limited financial resources (even though it's almost certainly an uncapped year, 2011 could hurt like hell if we go buck wild) to pick up depth at key positions. A free agent class with Leigh Bodden as its jewel, the versatile Anthony Montgomery on the defensive line and Domenik Hixon at wide receiver and perhaps Jeremy Bridges on the offensive line would address a few spots of need for the Falcons without breaking the bank. Bodden's signing would allow Atlanta to focus in on a pass rusher in the draft, too.

But as always, I'm not the final say. Where would you go in free agency?

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