Something struck me this weekend, as I considered Steven Jackson's arrival in Atlanta and the rumored interest of players like Karlos Dansby and Osi Umenyiora in wearing the red and black. The Falcons truly have become a destination for free agents.
There was a brief time during the Mike Vick era where players wanted to come to Atlanta to play with the dynamic quarterback, but throughout the team's long history, they generally were only able to grab a handful of high-profile free agents without overpaying for them. Atlanta was not a destination.
Winning changes everything, of course. Jackson is perhaps the best example. He's one of the best running backs in the league over the last decade, and was being courted by both the Falcons and Packers. Green Bay has won a Super Bowl in the last couple of years, have a franchise quarterback in place and easily qualify as one of the league's most respected team. All along, though, Jackson wanted to come to Atlanta because he believed he could win a Super Bowl.
Five years ago, when the Falcons were in shambles, they made a shrewd move to pick up Michael Turner, but it's unlikely any of the big name free agent backs that year would have been all that interested in joining a rebuild regardless. Today, someone like S-Jax considers the Falcons his first priority and takes a reasonable contract to wind up there. That's a little mind-blowing.
The only downside to having so many free agents interested in you is that there's the temptation to push all your chips to the middle of the table, sign a bunch of dudes on the wrong side of 30 and fail to develop young talent. As long as the Falcons continue to be smart about the contracts they're giving out and hit in the draft, I'm not going to worry too much.
This is what winning builds. What are your thoughts on Atlanta being a destination?