This is in some ways a set-up for tomorrow morning's post, so humor me here. I'm going to attempt to answer my own question.
Basically, I'm wondering if Jason Snelling, who has become a fan favorite over the past few seasons, will be wearing red and black when the season begins. We've already pretty much established that Jerious Norwood won't be back without a significant pay cut, if at all, so I think it's fair to say the Falcons will make a play for Big Snell.
What concerns me is how much interest he'll get on the open market.
The vagaries of the new collective bargaining agreement will settle the question of his free agent status, but backs who can run with some power, catch passes and block reasonably well are not in abundant supply. Running back is a position that's relatively easy to fill with young talent, but Snelling's a quality player and teams like the Lions, the Bears, and the Bengals (oh my!) could certainly use his talents. The Falcons may find themselves in a bidding war, and Thomas Dimitroff tends to leave him machine gun belt full of dollar bills at home when it's comes to signing backups.
I think it's at least a possibility. I'm a card-carrying member of the Jason Snelling fan club, so I'd rather not see him leave the team he's been such a valuable contributor for the past four seasons. But realism does tend to intrude on that, and if teams are willing to give him a big multi-year contract....well, maybe it's time to see what Gartrell Johnson has to offer. It'll be a tough call.
Obviously, if free agency goes the way of the dinosaurs and is struck by the meteor of labor impasse, buried under the ash of the volcanic something or other and my God I've lost control of this metaphor entirely, Snelling will be with the Falcons regardless. So that'd make things easier.
What say you, friends?