After a disappointing end to this season, a lot of changes need to be made to realistically take the next step. We are a good team, that beats bad, mediocre, and above average teams. Yet we still struggle to beat good teams, and get mopped by "Elite" teams. As New Orleans, Green Bay, and New England have shown, a great offense can take a lot of pressure off the defense (which I believe isn't that bad). Follow with me after the jump for what I believe we can do to improve ourselves this offseason.
Coaching - This is the biggest thing in my mind. And I don't think there is a person here who would disagree we need a change at some of our coaching positions. Mike Murlarkey needs to go, period. He worked for Matt Ryan when we had a fresh legged down hill runner, and a younger offensive line. I think we also need to reevaluate the coach at offensive line. A fresh face and new blocking scheme that matches with a new coordinator can bring a freshess to this offense. Teams we play have us figured out, we need to go into next year and have teams guessing again.
O-Line - Biggest issue on this offense in my opinion. If I remember correctly, the core of this line gave up over 40 sacks in 2007. Over recent years, it has averaged to the low 20s. However I would attribute this more to Matt Ryan and his talent for getting the ball out. I have seen on numerous occasions, him releasing the ball well before he is ready, just to avoid a sack.
Releases - First and foremost Baker needs to be cut. No reason he should be making a first round draft pick salary and not performing like one. Will Svitek is a serviceable backup, and will not command the same money. Second, McClure has been a Falcon his entire career, but injuries are starting to catch up. I believe this may be his last year. I'm hoping he decides to retire, because I can't see us resigning him.
FA Acquisitions - We need serious help, and with our draft picks limited, there are two free agents I would seriously consider making a run after. One is Carl Nicks, 26, Saints. He is one of the best guards in the league, and young enough to sign to a long term deal to really shore up the interior of the line. The second, Demetrius Bell, 27, Bills. Bell is also in a good age range, and Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked only 22 times this year (around the same attempts as Ryan). He would be an instant upgrade to our LT spot. This signing is also due to the fact we do not have a first round pick.
Draft - I would use our second round pick to get the best center available. I'm not big on college football, so I can't really say who. But it;s hard to imagine resigning McClure, and Hawley proved he cannot play better than a man a decade his senior.
Skill Postions - Our top performing skill players are all on the north side of 30. We resigned Tony G, which helps with the TE situation for another year. However I think two changes need to be made, and some of you might not like it.
Trading Block - While he still had pro bowl stats, and a 100 receptions, his drops and off field shenanigans are starting to affect his performance. Yes, I'm talking about Roddy White, the leading Falcons receiver of all time. White is on the wrong side of 30, and just a reality TV series away from becoming Ocho Cuatro. He commands a high salary, and could get a generous draft pick for his services to a team like Cleveland, Jacksonville, Chicago, MInnesota, Washington, or any other team who lacks a true #1. If we could get a second round draft pick, I would pull the trigger. The second is MIchael Turner. His performance has been declining, but if not for an injury in 09 would have had 4 straight 1000 yard seasons. Snelling has been running hard, and would come in at a much better price and could have more of a role in a new coordinators offense due to his flexibility. We could potentially get back into the fourth round of this years draft for him.
Resign the following guys - Snelling, Mughelli and HD, who would have larger roles in our offense due to the departure of White and Turner.
Do not resign the following guys - Weems
Draft - A power runner to replace Turner in the 5th or 6th, a WR with our 2nd round pick to replace Roddy, and a TE in the 4th to take over for Tony G. UDFA to replace Weems, as we have Quizz and Franks to handle returns.
Tony G would take on the mentor role for all of the young receivers. I don't think there would be anyone better to learn from than him.
QB - Matt Ryan isn't going anywhere. You can't blame him if receivers don't get open, there's no running game, and the line can't block. But we will need to draft a real backup, as Redman is getting old, and the Tampa Bay game made him look real bad.
The two big O lineman signings would obviously cost us a lot. That's why I advocate trading Turner and White to clear up cap space. Also, cutting or trading Dunta (for whatever we can get) and not resigning Abe will allow more flexibility for the cap. I think the Line should be TDs #1 priority this off-season. And they should do what it takes to get that sorted out.
Feel free to share your thoughts, call me a moron, or whatever.