The weeks between the NFL elimination of the home team until pitchers and catchers report is considered the dead period for many fans. Here is how I decided to waste my time.
Falcons Off Season Focus
It has been suggested that the Falcons will have around $22M -$28M to spend on their 2012 roster. The obvious areas for improvement are on an offensive line that couldn’t gain a yard when it mattered and preparing for free agent attrition
Atlanta Falcons 2012 Free Agent and Draft
Top In house Priority
Re-Sign Curtis Lofton
5 year $25 M $5M/per
Lofton is the most important offseason retention. While he may be a 2.5 down player in a pass happy league he is still the keel of the defense. He will be deservedly paid and paired with Spoon.
Notable Players Not Retained.
(Abe, Grimes, HD)
Grimes has played his last down as a Falcon and his skill set is not one you want to pay big money for a 34 year old 5’8 corner who can’t jump anymore. Grimes’ injury late this season provided a tryout that several players seized. Owens, Sanders Dominique Franks and Darrin Walls did nothing to hurt their chances for playing time in 2012 and the draft will add quality depth. The Falcons are committed financially at CB to Dunta who is likely a better fit to the projected new defensive philosophy.
John Abraham has played well for the Falcons but his per snap to salary cap ratio is not appealing outside a one-year deal. With DC Nolan’s blended approach to 3-4 vs 4-3 defense we should se a few players excel with their hands out of the dirt. Candidates Kroy Beirman and Lawrence Sidbury.
Harry Douglas The rookie HD teased fans with promise but couldn’t stay on the field, now HD seeks #2 status and will find it on a bad team near a paper mill in Florida.
Notably Retained – Lofton ($5M) Beirmann ($750k), Snelling ($2.75M), McClure ($1M) Redman ($2.5) Long snapper ($500k) Weems ($500k)
Top Free Agent Target
Demetrius Bell (BUF) - Left Tackle
(Release Sam Baker ($3.7M 2011- cap hit $2M – 2012 - Save $1.7M)
The Falcons must address the left tackle position, Svitek is a good rotational player, and Sam Baker is not. A healthy Mike Johnson will man the RG position, unless they add free agent stud, Carl Nicks. Adding Nicks and taking him away from protecting Brees’s knees is tempting, but the top lineman available will be expensive. But an OL of Bell, Blaylock, McClure, Nicks and Clabo could keep a QB quite comfortable and perhaps be able to gain a yard when needed. We’ll assume the Falcons will skip the Nicks sweepstakes to focus on the defensive line.
Bell is coming off a rookie contract and is young cornerstone and the premium Left tackle in Free Agency.
While DE is a glaring need there is only one player, Avril that would be a difference maker. The Falcons will check the price tag and look elsewhere to improve their line play by looking inside. The rest of the free agents DE’s are like getting another Edwards in that the available DE of note all played with strong DT’s. Hopefully the Falcons notice the correlation between DT play makes and DE sack totals.
Jason Jones (TEN) – DT
Replacing another Falcon first round bust, Jones is a proven beast in the middle. The Falcons have thrown a lot of picks at this position in the draft and haven’t come up with a disruptive force yet able to stuff the run and collapse the pocket. Peter and Babs are a good DT combination but not the disruptive force needed to get the QB of the spot in the NFL playoffs. Adding Jones to the DT rotation makes the DE’s better and the DB’s look competent.
$4/24M $6M per (Replace Peria Jerry: $845000)
The original Honey Badger from LSU would bring a thump to the secondary when coupled with Moore and Dunta. DeCoud is a decent, league average player and likely will be back if Landry can’t be signed, but had the back of his jersey on TV too much this season chasing an opposing WR through the secondary.
$4/$16M $4M per
Free Agent Total Add $12.6M
The Falcons deftly avoided paying first round money for draft bonuses leaving plenty to sign their 6 draft picks.
2012 Draft (Assuming a 4th round supplemental pick)
2nd TE Orson Charles (UGA) or Coby Fleener (Stanford)
Tony ain’t getting younger and two former basketball types at TE seem to help get your team to the Super Bowl. Orson Charles is well known in the southeast but the Falcons might be thinking Coby is their big smart graduate type.
3rd CB Brandon Boykin UGA
He’s got tangibles, intangibles and a gravitational pull to big plays.
4th DE Boise State Senior Shea McClellin
His name is fun to say and several opposing QB’s asked who was blocking him last year.
5th RB Jeff Demps, Florida
Speed in a package: how nice. Third downs and screen games could use a speed injection. Demps doesn’t look like he can handle blocking in the NFL, but neither did Warrick Dunn.
6th C Grant Garner Center Oklahoma State
Incumbent Todd McClure’s best asset at this point in his career is communication and will be the OLINE whisperer one more year. Garner protected the OSU offensive assault and would provide another potential heir to McClure should Hawley struggle.
How would you spend Uncle Blank’s money?