Greetings ladies and gents. The season with such high expectations has come to an end. While it looked in preseason that this team had all the pieces for success, the stubbornness of an offensive coordinator, an offensive line with a lot of holes, and a defense that was not quite good enough to carry the team resulted in a first round knockout. Thus, we begin the long and disappointing discussion of the offseason. Interestingly enough, we got off to a huge start with both coordinators moving on to other teams. Glad to see them get other opportunities and I wish them the best. Their time in Atlanta was certainly coming to an end, so for both to gain comparable or better jobs is a great result for them. In my opinion, this means the Falcons now have three major decisions to make in the offseason: coordinators, free agents, and the draft. The coordinator decisions have been a hot topic around here for the past week or so, so I will avoid that topic in this post. Instead, I will focus more on our free agents (who I think should come back, who I think should be let go) and the draft (which is one of my favorite discussion topics). Without further adieu, let's begin.
The Falcons have a monstrous list of free agents. Let's take a look at the big fish in our free agent pool this year (Note, some of these might have been resigned and I missed it. Just let me know and I will update it.):
Jason Snelling- He contributed greatly to the team this year with the injury to Ovie Mughelli. He showed that he can contribute in blocking and protection, as well as gain a few yards when his name is called in the huddle or Matt dumps the pass off to him. That being said, he ran the ball only 44 times and had 26 receptions. Not exactly taking a load off of Turner. With Ovie coming back and Quiz maturing, I don't think we bring Snell back to Atlanta next year.
John Abraham- Yes. We need him back. This pass rush is poor even with Abe giving it 110% when he is on the field. I can't imagine the horror that would occur without him. I'd imagine we could sign him for a contract a little less than he is currently making, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 years, $7 million a year.
Brent Grimes-This is a tough one. Grimes is a great player and he deserves to be a part of this team. On the other hand, signing Grimes and Abraham would eat up a lot of our salary cap. I think we have to try and resign Grimes, but only if the price is right. If he is looking for top five cornerback money or so, or we have to franchise him, it could cause TD to do some tough work around the salary cap. I think 5 years, $32 million would be more than fair.
Curtis Lofton- He is the quarterback of the defense, he is a fantastic football player, and he has to come back and play in a Falcons uniform. With him and Spoon on defense, this is one of the best, young linebacker corps in the NFL. Whatever it takes to sign him, do it. He will certainly be cheaper than Grimes or Abraham. 5 years, $28 million seems appropriate to me, putting him in the range of Vilma, Ryans, and Greenway.
Kroy Biermann- This is tough. Kroy has done well when he plays, but he does not have a starting role in Atlanta. I think the best case scenario for both parties is to sign a one year, $2 million contract and then we can have the discussion again next year when we will be able to have more definitive answers as to the potential of Sidbury or Matthews.
Thomas DeCoud- I will admit I am not the biggest DeCoud fan. I think he can definitely contribute to this team, but the price has to be right for DeCoud. If we pay him more than 2 mil a season, it will be a poor, poor decision. 3 years, $4 million sounds fair to me, but I don't know if he would accept that.
Todd McClure- A great veteran presence, but one that should no longer be the starting center. If we can sign McClure to the veterans minimum for a year and keep him here to finish out his career and mentor his successor, I think it is the best case scenario. I know McClure wants to play, and injuries do happen, so having a guy like McClure able to step right in would be fantastic. If he wants more money than he is currently making, I say we bid goodbye.
Harry Douglas- Eh, all I ever hear about this guy is potential. He has looked great at times but other times he disappears for very long stretches. I think we resign him to a one year deal around $1million and give him a chance to shine under a new coordinator.
Eric Weems- I believe it is time for Eric Weems to part ways with the Atlanta Falcons. He is a fifth string receiver, a return man, and a special teams ace. I think all of these things can either be found on our team (I'm looking at youDominique Franks) or through the draft. Thank you for your time and best of luck.
Chris Redman- Seeing Redman take up $2.5 million of our salary cap disturbs me, to be quite honest. If Matt Ryan was to go down, I think we would be in trouble regardless of who was coming into the game. I think we can find someone who can do that for much less money than we are paying Redman. I will attempt to address that later. (See 7th round of Draft below)
There are also some guys who could leave who do not have quite as much of an impact. Let's look at them here.
Mike Peterson- I love the guy. I really do. This is change from before when he was a starter and I hated him. But seeing a veteran who is willing to play special teams and still be a leader on the team is awesome. I would love to see him back again.
Mike Cox- Filled in admirably this year, but he will not be resigned, especially with Ovie coming back. Thanks for your hard work.
Vance Walker- He is an RFA, a good backup in the rotation, and he is Tech guy. I see no reason why we wouldn't resign him to a contract.
Michael Palmer- He is a body who can come in and contribute if we need him to. I think we pick up a young TE in the draft, but Palmer will be needed.
Joe Zelenka- It's funny how no one realizes how important the long-snapper is until he gets hurt (am I right Vikingsfans?). Bring back Joe, he has done a fine job.
Antone Smith- We have exclusive rights, just like with Palmer. I don't particularly care for Smith but he is a solid player and could continue to contribute in rare opportunities. If there is something better, move on. If not, we will see Smith next year.
Kelvin Hayden- I like the guy. He came in and played well in the nickel. But after his injury, Franks and Owens filled in admirably and I think Hayden will sign elsewhere and the Falcons give Franks and Owens the job.
James Sanders- It is scary the lack of depth we have at safety. I think we address this in the draft next year, and because of that, we bring Sanders back.
There are always free agent possibilities from other teams. I figured this post is getting long winded already, so I will allow someone else to address that topic. Now, my favorite part of the offseason, the draft. There are some fairly obvious team needs, which of course can change based on free agency. At this point, I would say our needs consist of OL, TE, DE, RB, QB. Here is how I see our draft playing out.
2nd round: Coby Fleener TE Stanford- Fleener might be my favorite TE in this draft. I hope he falls to us with our selection. I love his presence in the redzone and as a safety blanket (sound familiar?). If he is off the board already, a guy like Orson Charles might be a good selection. (Other Options- TE Orson Charles UGA, OT Andrew Datko FSU)
3rd round: Matt McCants OT UAB- If we go tight end early, we have to address the offensive line here. We might be hard pressed to find a starting quality tackle in the third round, but McCants has a lot of talent. He is raw, but he is versatile. (Other Options- TE Michael Egnew Missouri, S George Iloka Boise St)
5th round: Jeff Demps RB Florida- You can't teach speed, and Demps certainly has a lot of it. He could become a nice scatback if we feel Quiz is ready to be the #2. He could contribute on special teams and return kicks. (Other options: C William Vlachos Alabama, OG Jaymes Brooks VT)
6th round: Tysyn Hartman FS Kansas St- Intelligent player, team captain, 6th all-time in interceptions in school history. He is the kind of guy I want to play on special teams and fill in on defense in a crunch. (Other options: WR Marquis Maze Alabama, WR Keshawn Martin Michigan St)
7th round: Kellen Moore QB Boise State- What more could you want from a backup quarterback? He is smart, accurate, and a proven winner. I think he is the steal of the draft, and we might even need to grab him in the sixth to get him. (Other options: RB Darrell Scott USF, CB DeQuan Menzie Alabama)
I know, I know. I didn't pick up a defensive end. I think with the depth we have (Abe, Bierrman, Edwards, Sidbury), anyone picked up this year would be competing with Matthew to be active. Next year we have a first round pick, and that would be the time to get a very good DE. Beside that, I also know this is far from perfect and it will undoubtably change based on the actions in the offseason. But I just wanted to throw this out here, give some variety to the coordinator discussions, and get some feedback for future posts. Let me know what you think.