If you want the truth, don't go to an NFL front office or coaching staff. They'll tell you with a straight face that the sun is shining during a solar eclipse.
You need to keep this in mind even with our beloved Atlanta Falcons, because they've got the smokescreen down to a science. Last off-season, the Falcons continually sent out signals that maybe they were interested in Ray Edwards, but oh no wait they weren't, but maybe possibly they were. At the end of all this, the Falcons did what common sense suggested they'd do: Go out and get Ray Edwards.
This off-season, we've seen a host of eyebrow-raising statements from the team. To name a few:
Michael Turner will have reduced carries and the Falcons really like this year's running back class,
- Mike Smith is comfortable with Sam Baker starting,
- Brent Grimes could get the franchise tag and the Falcons fully expect to re-sign him,
- Thomas Dimitroff is actually a vampire
As I said yesterday to one astute reader, there's no way all these things are true. You'll start to see the Falcons linked to prospects that they won't come close to drafting, and they'll be linked to free agents they're never going to sign. It's in every team's interest to drive up the value of their own free agents if they don't expect to re-sign them and to run some misdirection plays in the media in order to keep teams guessing about who they'll go after and who they plan to draft.
Don't believe me? Go back to last off-season again. The Falcons kept the Julio Jones thing under wrap until a couple of days before the draft. They signed Edwards after a lot of will-they, won't-they nonsense. They played coy about free agents like Michael Jenkins and Michael Koenen. In short, they acted like a typical NFL front office.
The fact that this front office plays the game as well as anybody else should lead you to think carefully about why these statements are being made. Why express faith in Sam Baker, who played terribly, was injured and lost his job to a journeyman fifth-round pick? Maybe it's because you believe in him, but maybe it's because you want a little leverage if you decide to trade him, or you want to keep other teams guessing about whether you'll target a left tackle in the draft.
Ditto Grimes. If you think he might walk or you think there are teams that desperately want him, mentioning the franchise tag and your high level of interest can drive his price up at minimum or grease the skids for a trade at (far-fetched) maximum. It's also possible that you mean what you say, of course, but teams can't possibly know that.
If this seems like a paranoid interpretation or an unnecessary amount of skulduggery, know that this has been common practice for years. The Falcons will do what they think benefits the Falcons, first and foremost, because it's in their best interest to do so. That includes not exactly 100% telling the whole truth.
The upshot is that you should take everything you're hearing with a healthy grain of salt until you see it come to fruition. That doesn't mean we're going to stop talking about it, but I would save your Baker Rage until we know he's going to be the starting left tackle.