Matt Bryant is keeping an eye on the scoreboard. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
This is sure to be a hot topic in the coming days.
Frankly, I think a lot of us were surprised that guys like Robert James and Rob Bruggeman ended up on the final roster. Actually, before we go any further, it's probably fair to note that "final" is a misnomer. Before kickoff against the Steelers next Sunday, you're likely to see the roster morph a little still, and the practice squad still has to come together.
With that in mind, I thought I'd quickly run through positions on the Falcons and see where there might be puzzle pieces that fit among Saturday's cuts. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to add your own choices in the comments. See you after the jump.
Brett Ratliff: I advocated for Ratliff earlier this season, and was promptly accused of being a moron. Fair enough.
It's hard not to like Ratliff's tools, but he was unable to beat out Colt McCoy in Cleveland, and that guy makes John Parker Wilson look like a human howitzer. The Falcons seem quite content with their three quarterbacks, so Ratliff's probably not even going to get a sniff. He's the only guy I could really see the Falcons considering, though Colt Brennan (formerly of the Redskins) and Tom Brandstater (formerly of the Broncos/Colts) have some talent.
Chad Kackert: The Falcons are very deep here right now, so I can't see them scooping up any true tailbacks given the fact that Antone Smith is on the active roster and Dmitri Nance played well enough to win a spot on the practice squad. Kackert, a guy from my alma mater, did well against us for the Jaguars and offers a blend of pass-catching skill and running skills rare for a true fullback. He might be worth poking with a stick if injuries strike at some point this season.
T.J. Houshmanzadeh: He's been released, so his ridiculous $7 million salary this year is no longer a factor. Housh is slowing down considerably and he can't match Michael Jenkins for speed, but he'd be an enormous upgrade over Brian Finneran. As sure-handed as they come, Housh has something left in the tank, but he's going to be popular around the NFL. I doubt the Falcons get more than a whiff of him before he's snapped up.
I assume the team would still like to look for young receivers, so after signing Troy Bergeron or Ryan Wolfe to the practice squad, perhaps they'll look at Dezmon Briscoe (Bengals), Blair White (Colts), or Greg Mathews (Bears). The team could use as much depth as possible at the position. Briscoe's the most talented, but he's unlikely to last long on the waiver wire.
At least for this season, the Falcons are completely set. Tony Gonzalez, Justin Peelle and Michael Palmer make for a formidable trio, and either Keith Zinger or Robbie Agnone will be available from the practice squad if anything goes wrong. I wouldn't expect them to touch tight end until 2011.
Guy Whimper: Ignore the awesome/pathetic name for a moment. Whimper's got extensive experience on special teams for the Giants, has good size at 6'5" and 302 pounds, and at 27 probably has a few good years ahead of him. The deep Giants never found much use for him, but the Falcons may want to take a look at him. Then again, maybe they're happy with Bruggeman.
There's a lot of at least average quality linemen who have been released around the NFL, so the team will probably explore that. It's always helpful to have a lineman or two available on the practice squad, and I'm not sure the Falcons are sold on guys like Blake Schlueter, even though I personally like his talent. This is one to watch, from a futures perspective, considering that Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl emerged from the practice squad.
The Falcons couldn't find any room for Thomas Johnson, and their very deep set of defensive tackles ensures they won't be poking around here. They're equally set on the outside as long as everyone stays healthy. A weakness before Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith rode into town, the line is now arguably one of the team's biggest strengths.
Makes me a little giddy to say that. I won't lie.
There's just not much out there. Local product Brandon Sharpe looks like he has some talent, but the Cowboys just cut him and the Falcons aren't exactly struggling at inside linebacker. Robert James has a bit of a target on his back as it is, and Bear Woods could be breathing down his neck by the end of the season. If that happens, someone like Sharpe or another UDFA dredged from the depths of free agency could be a good choice to take his place on the practice squad.
Brian Williams is on the roster, and it's hard to imagine he's going anywhere. He's a veteran with past success in the league, he's got a good relationship with Mike Smith and it's going to be hard for him to frigg things up too badly considering he's going to be fourth on the depth chart.....we hope.
But hey, you can always look around. It's not like Dominique Daniels lit the world on fire in pre-season, but maybe he'll eventually land on the practice squad. The Falcons appear set at safety, with Eric Brock on speed dial and Rafael Bush looking to build on the promise he showed this off-season with a likely role on the practice squad. Quinton Teal is a very good special teamer, but I can't imagine Shann Schillinger getting booted for someone who's older and has less upside.
Matt Bryant's going to have to deliver early.
None of these guys are necessarily better than Bryant, but Dave Rayner (Bengals), Kris Brown (Texans), and Justin Medlock (CFL) are all out there and readily available. Steve Hauschka, who already lost the job to Bryant once, was just released by the Lions. There are options out there, but hopefully we won't have a need to turn to any of them.
So that's a brief look at the roster from my perspective, and where the Falcons might be able to pick up a couple of quality players. Continue the discussion in the comments.