ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 2: Kenneth Darby #34 of the St. Louis Rams is tackled by Haruki Nakamura #43 of the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome on September 2 2010 in St. Louis Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
With talk of cutting Erik Coleman swirling around, I thought it might be good to take a look at a man who could replace him.
The Falcons should be looking to go young and cheap behind their starters at safety, but they need someone who can ball a little. William Moore is no glass cannon, but he's also not suddenly durable after making it through nearly a full season unscathed. Chances are good that whoever's sitting behind him on the depth chart is going to see starter's snaps during at least one game in 2011, so the Falcons can't put all their faith in a special teamer.
There are some solid choices out there—Bernard Pollard is great against the run and Atari Bigby is a big hitter—but they're likely to be a little expensive for the team's tastes. After all, if Coleman does get cut, you don't want to immediately take up two-thirds of the savings you get from that move by signing another backup safety.
That's where Haruki Nakamura comes in. A capable special teamer, sure tackler and decent coverage guy, Nakamura is still only 24 years old and has worked under the tutelage of a fantastic Ravens coaching staff. There are guys available in free agency who have longer pedigrees or more exciting skillsets, but few have his combination of youth, background and well-rounded ability. He's also unlikely to be expensive, having put up minimal stats over the last three years.
Despite their well-publicized love of young players, the Falcons would be taking a big risk going into 2011 with Shann Schillinger and Rafael Bush as the only two safeties between Moore and Thomas DeCoud. Nakamura provides more of a known quantity and still offers plenty on special teams, making him an ideal backup for the next couple of seasons. As long as he's unrestricted, he's worth a contract.