After the Falcons decided not to franchise tag him, however, we have to at least consider the possibility that Willy Mo won't always be ready to play in the Georgia Dome. His comments yesterday indicate a strong desire to stay in Atlanta, but we know how those situations can unfold. We have to be prepared, either way.
With that in mind, I've prepared a short list of alternatives available to the Falcons. Please note that some of these guys have chiefly played free safety, but I believe they could switch to Moore's strong safety pretty easily. Buckle up!
The only real in-house candidate. Mitchell was a late round pick in 2012 and only got a small number of snaps last season, while chipping in on special teams. He's all projection at this point.
A 5'11", 205 pound safety who projects as a solid run-stopper with the ability to learn in pass coverage, Mitchell could certainly be a starter someday. The tools are there. I just don't consider him a real option to take over for Moore in 2013, because he was a somewhat raw rookie just a year ago. His talent doesn't disqualify him, but unless the Falcons have seen something that we fans weren't able to given his limited playing time, Mitchell is likely to be a backup again in 2013.
Yes, Delmas is a free safety, but he's such a stout run defender and intriguing coverage talent that I'm not overly concerned. If Delmas was healthy, he'd be so far out of the Falcons' price range it wouldn't be funny, but he hasn't been healthy much lately.
Delmas might come reasonably cheap on a prove-it deal with incentives, but the Lions probably want to keep the 26-year-old and the injury history makes him a little frightening. The Falcons could try signing him to that kind of deal, moving him to strong safety and letting him work with Mitchell as an insurance policy, but this is also unlikely.
You can also put Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips here, too.
The Giants are likely to try to re-sign Brown, who picked eight passes a year ago. He's not a great run defender by any stretch of the imagination, but he's an opportunistic safety who is pretty decent in coverage. The question is whether last year was fluky, but Brown is young enough to make him an intriguing option.
The Falcons' well-publicized struggles against the run would be the major factor working against this signing.
An old dude. Reed is still pretty good, but his speed and athleticism are slipping and he's really relying on his superior instincts and physicality at this point in his career. You could say much the same thing about Charles Woodson and Gerald Sensabaugh, who is much younger but plays a little like an old dude.
These guys would be nice stopgaps, but you're only squeezing a year or two max out of them before the wheels are coming off. That makes them risks.
From a cost perspective, this is likely the most palatable option. A Matt Elam type could bring a ton of athleticism and potential to the table alongside a relatively affordable salary, but the question becomes one of readiness. Not every safety is good to go from day one, and the Falcons would be rolling the dice here.
As you can see, while it's a fairly deep safety class both in free agency and the draft—and this is without mentioning more expensive options like Dashon Goldson and Glover Quin—there's plenty of questions. I hope they can bring Moore back.
Your thoughts on Moore and these options?