I figured it was time to start talking contingencies if John Abraham isn't re-signed.
One option, of course, is to roll with who the Falcons have in-house. That counts on Lawrence Sidbury taking the leap, Ray Edwards improving and some complementary pieces falling into place. I wouldn't bet against Sid having a great year, but the Falcons are likely to be wary about handing the keys over to him. Abe's got awfully big shoes to fill.
Why not fill them with Robert Mathis? Colts' owner Jim Irsay has talked of wanting to re-sign Mathis, but the lightning-quick defensive end will be 31 and Indy's entering a full-blown rebuilding mod and are still wrestling with Peyton Manning and his contract. Mathis is likely to hit the open market and poke around for a bit.
But why Mathis for the Falcons? He's incredibly consistent, posting between 9.5 and 11.5 sacks each of the last four years. In his nine seasons in the NFL, he has 83.5 sacks and has a reputation as a tough, fast end who can help out against the run but really makes his name as a pass rusher. He's also an Atlanta native and a fairly durable dude.
The age is a concern, of course. He's also not as big as someone like Abraham, who has two inches and about 20 pounds on Mathis. That doesn't worry me overmuch because Mathis has still been remarkably productive and he's three full years younger than Abraham, meaning a four-year deal wouldn't hamstring the Falcons by bringing aboard an ancient player.
Ultimately, this signing would depend heavily on whether the Falcons re-sign Abraham and whether they believe Kroy Biermann or Sidbury is ready to step up and take on a full-time starting role. If the chips fall the right way, Mathis is probably the best option out there.
What do you think of Mathis?