We all know firsthand the ups and downs of being Falcons fans. In a big picture context, this Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era is a pretty great time in Falcons history. The Falcons have evolved from a team that couldn't post consecutive winning seasons into a team that is a perpetual playoff contender. Off the field, this is a team with a real, demonstrated commitment to serving their community, and an owner who doesn't just request that, he expects it. In short, these Falcons make it pretty easy to be a Falcons fan.
And, I'm getting the sense that Atlanta is a desirable location for players to land. The recent decision to cut veterans Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham had been rumored, and weren't a complete surprise, but the way all three handled the news--graciously, and with class--was a pleasant surprise.
Turner shared a statement on his official Facebook page, thanking the organization and wishing them the best in the future. John Abraham went on local radio and NFL Network and repeatedly thanked the Falcons, and the fans. None of these veterans, who all contributed greatly to Atlanta's recent successes, had anything negative to say about the organization that had just dropped them.
Strong safety William Moore was reportedly always ready to test the waters of free agency, and was ranked fifth by Chris Wesseling on NFL.com, and would have been ranked higher minus injury concerns. Moore ended up signing a five year contract with the Falcons yesterday, before speaking to any other teams. Offensive guard Garrett Reynolds, for whom there was surely less of a market, to be fair, also signed with the Falcons without seeing what free agency had to offer. These guys clearly wanted to stay in Atlanta.
And, although TE Tony Gonzalez has yet to make a decision, if he does choose to play one more season in the NFL, it would certainly be with the Falcons, despite the fact that he would have a number of teams interested in his services.
This offseason has also seen Giants TE Martellus Bennett inquiring on Twitter as to who Atlanta's backup tight end is, Darrelle Revis walking around sporting a Falcons cap, and Steven Jackson declaring Atlanta is just one decent running back away from a Super Bowl. What all of that means specifically is certainly open to debate--but it certainly seems that, in general, Atlanta has turned into a team for which players want to play.
That said, the Falcons aren't for everyone. Linebacker Curtis Lofton took some bitter shots at the team as he departed for what he assumed would be greener pastures in New Orleans, which really worked out great for him, assuming that when he stated he wanted to play for "a contender," he meant "a contender for the statistically worst defense of all time." Defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, according to his agent, is ready to get out of town. You can't please everybody all of the time.
But, in general, it seems that the combination of talent, success, and smart and effective management has made the Falcons an appealing place to play. That's good news for a team that came excruciatingly close to a Super Bowl this past season, and needs to add some quality talent to get to that next level.
Do you think Atlanta is an appealing place to play for players on the Falcons roster, and free agents? Why?