It seems difficult to believe, but we've only been at this free agency think for a little over a week. What wild and crazy times we've seen, eh?
The Falcons moved aggressively to lock up their guys before free agency began and shortly after it opened, resulting in the return of William Moore, Garrett Reynolds, Sam Baker and Tony Gonzalez. They also pounced on Steven Jackson, ensuring the Atlanta offense will be as terrifying as ever in 2013. That's all the good news.
On the other side of the ledger, the Falcons have done little work on the defense, which is a cause of growing concern for Falcons fans. Vance Walker has walked, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham were released and the Falcons have not brought in a single outside free agent. I preach patience as I always do, but it's growing increasingly likely that your patience is going to have to extend until the draft.
Why? Three simple reasons.
- The Falcons have limited cap space and need to sign a full draft class, one that could potentially have eleven players.
- The Falcons have made a point of talking up their young talent early on, and I don't think it's all smoke. Jonathan Massaquoi, Travian Robertson and Robert McClain are all going to get cracks at significant roles.
- The Falcons want to wait out the market and let bargains fall into place. They aren't budging from that strategy.
Taken together, this suggests that the Falcons will not be making any more big splashes in free agency. I could see them offering up a couple of reasonable contracts to a free agent pass rusher, a defensive tackle like Richard Seymour or a cornerback like Antoine Winfield, but that's about the extent of it. They're serious about stocking the defense with young, dynamic athletes who fit into Mike Nolan's system, and they're serious about making use of the talent they already have on hand.
This wasn't immediately apparent, and I figured the Falcons would take steps to nail down a couple of plus defenders in free agency. The way the market has developed and the way the Falcons have approached it has made me fairly certain that the S-Jax signing was the single most exciting thing that will happen between now and the opening of OTAs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but given the inherent uncertainty in every draft class, it is at least mildly frightening.
Ultimately, though, there's a plan here. We complained about the way the Falcons left their starters on the field in 2012, and the overall age of the defense last year. By committing fully to a young, opportunistic unit with a handful of useful veteran pieces, the Falcons may actually be better off both next year and the long run. May.
Whether this approach pays off is a matter we will be debating for months, but I believe it's where we're headed. I'd love to hear you weigh in.