As Osi Watch 2013 comes to an end, now is as good of a time as ever to examine the Falcons' defensive end situation.
With the acquisition of Umenyiora, Mike Smith has his much-needed replacement for John Abraham. And with a Pro Bowl-caliber DE, Atlanta's front seven looks a heck of a lot better than it did a day ago.
By signing Umenyiora to a two-year contract, Thomas Dimitroff brings in a productive veteran on a deal that won't handcuff the team in the future. And by giving him just $5 million guaranteed, Atlanta gets its top-tier DE without breaking the bank -- leaving the team some wiggle room under the cap.
While Umenyiora may not have put up eye-popping numbers last season, he's certainly had an illustrious career. Here's a few of his more impressive statistical achievements:
All this said, Umenyiora won't be able to give Atlanta an acceptable pass rush on his own. Pat Yasinskas over at ESPN thinks the Falcons may need to make another addition on the D-line, but as long as Kroy Biermann continues to evolve, I think they'll be fine with who they have.
Unless an unexpected move takes place, the Falcons are going to need Biermann to take the next step in his career and blossom into a legitimate, productive starting DE. While his numbers last season were certainly respectable (four sacks, 31 tackles), Nolan is going to expect the Montana native to rush the passer on a more consistent basis and force opponents to key on him, rather than view him as a secondary threat.
It's unlikely that Umenyiora will be able to put up big numbers while constantly double-teamed. It'll be up to Biermann to open up the game for Osi and allow the former Giant to earn his paycheck.
With a tight budget and very few legitimate candidates on the open market, the Falcons would be bests suited to find that extra pass rusher via the draft. And with the 30th pick in the first round this year, Atlanta could bring in a player straight from college that could contribute right away. While many -- including myself -- believe that cornerback is a more pressing issue, it'll be hard for Dimitroff and Co. to pass on a DE if the right one falls into their laps.
"We always go in the draft being needs-based," Dimitroff said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the NFL scouting combine. "At (No.) 30 (in the first round), you are a little more apt to consider multiple positions than you are honed in on one."
One such option at 30 could be Damontre Moore out of Texas A&M. A player with experience at end and outside linebacker, Moore would be a good fit with Mike Nolan's brand of defense.
Looking beyond the first round, guys like Sam Montgomery, Corey Lemonier, Margus Hunt are among other players the Falcons may be targeting -- all capable of stepping in right away next fall and making a difference in the NFL.
"We are in a completely different place than we were five years ago," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "We had a lot of areas that we had to address. This year, I don’t think we have as many as we did five years ago. But we are always trying to get better as a team."
The 6’2, 270 pound end spent a year with the Falcons in 2012, watching and learning from one of the best–John Abraham–not to mention having some seasoned pros like Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury around to show him a thing or two. Now that Massaquoi has had a year to soak it all in and see what being a defensive lineman in the NFL is all about, it’s time for him to turn that upside into a glowing stat sheet.