The Atlanta Falcons basically didn't possess a pass rush in 2013. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked them as the worst pass rushing team in the entire NFL. They finished with 32 total sacks. So, why should they get rid of the team's sack leader from last season?
Osi Umenyiora signed a two-year, $8.5 million (max of $12 million) deal a year ago. He recorded 7.5 sacks in his first year with the team, accounting for nearly a quarter of the Falcons' production. However, fans aren't exactly eager to see him back in red and black.
A few factors are working against Umenyiora's potential to stay in Atlanta. If you watched him play in 2013, you know the fact that he led the team in sacks isn't exactly something to celebrate. He only had a few games where he really stood out, if that, and we can probably all agree he's losing a step.
PFF gave him a pass rushing productivity score of 7.5 That stat takes into account sacks, hits and hurries and number of snaps. Fifty-three defensive ends received better ratings.
Umenyiora will turn 33 in November. And to top it all off, the Falcons could save $3.5 million in cap space if they cut him. He is owed a $500,000 roster bonus on March 25.
Another player potentially on the chopping block, Kroy Biermann would save just over $3 million if he is released.
Biermann suffered a torn Achilles early in 2013 and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. He's never been a star on the defensive line. He posted a career-high five sacks in 2009. On his way back from a major injury, fans are certainly on board with cutting him as well.
However, is the money saved worth losing two veteran players on an already depleted line?
Remember John Abraham? He was so old and decrepit. The Falcons let him go just at the right time. Phew, they avoided wasting money on that gu...wait, what? He went to the Pro Bowl last year? He had 11.5 sacks? How is that even possible?
No, I don't think Umenyiora is as talented as Abraham, but I do think he has enough left in the tank to make an impact. Let's not jump the gun. The Falcons have just under $26 million in cap space at the moment. (Corey Peters signed a 1-year deal after that article was posted.) The remaining players they have to re-sign won't be too costly overall. Thomas DeCoud is likely to be cut, which would save $4.2 million. That leaves more than enough money to make a few splashes in free agency.
As for Biermann, I'm somewhat indifferent. He's proven to be valuable in the past, and he can provide a versatile piece to Mike Nolan's defense. His effectiveness in the pass rush seemed to take a dive prior to the injury, but he's a solid run stopper and he can drop in coverage if needed. If the Falcons were strapped for cash, these moves would make more sense.
If the Falcons cut Biermann and Umenioyra, that leaves them with Malliciah Goodman, Stansly Maponga, Jonathan Massaquoi and Cliff Matthews at defensive end. Spare me your "but they have potential!" argument. That's an extremely young, inexperienced group, and now you're asking them all to take on bigger roles on arguably the league's worst defensive line? Can't wait to see how that turns out.
Of course we all expect the Falcons to target major names at defensive end in free agency. If they can sign someone like Michael Johnson, that sets them up to draft a pass rusher like Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney (we'll save that discussion for later). Until they have new talent in place, though, I don't see the point of cutting last year's leading pass rusher just for the sake of saving money to add to an already large sum.
What's your take? Should the Falcons go ahead and cut these two? Just one of them? Neither? Go ahead and rant below.