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With Injuries, What Roles Will Newly Signed Receivers Fill?

I can't possibly do any wailing and gnashing of teeth that will add anything new to the discussion, so I'll just send my well-wishes along to Harry Douglas. Here's hoping he's back on the field in 2010 healthy and ready to make a difference, and I'll be wishing fervently that his recovery goes swiftly.

The impact here, of course, is that we instantly lose a dynamic return man and an up-and-coming wide receiver. Roddy White will get to camp at some point, but replacing Douglas in the slot could be a real challenge for the Falcons. In an effort to address the receiver concerns, the team went out and grabbed veterans Marty Booker and Robert Ferguson.

Here's what you need to know about both of them, in a very condensed form. Neither is a major factor at this point, and the Falcons would be much better off bumping Finneran into the slot and carrying young guys than counting on either to contribute in a meaningful way this year. Ouch, right?

We'll tackle Booker first. He did some real damage as recently as 2007, when he hauled in 50 passes, and in 2006 he hauled in six touchdowns. Last season he started five games for the Chicago Bears and snagged only 14 passes. At 33 years old, he could provide some value as a fourth receiver who can spell Finn in the slot and Jenkins outside if need be. If one of these two guys is going to make the team, let it be Booker, I say. He is, however, a complete non-factor on special teams, which negates his value somewhat.

Next up is Ferguson, whose dossier is not as impressive. In 2007 he grabbed 32 passes, which was off his career high by only six, and the guy has only 13 touchdowns in eight NFL season. As a fifth receiver you could justify carrying him, if not for the fact that we have young receivers like Aaron Kelly or Darren Mougey who have infinitely more potential. Ferguson's true value could be as a returner; he hasn't performed in that role since 2006, but was plenty capable during his time with the Green Bay Packers in that role.

Basically, the best choice for the Falcons would be to combine the two and create a Robert Booker or a Marty Ferguson, a guy who could offer modest pass-catching ability and some special teams value. Because that's simply not going to happen, the team needs to decide whether it's going to miss what Douglas could offer on offense or special teams more, and I have a feeling it's going to lean heavily in favor of special teams. If that's the case, look for Ferguson to win a job and Booker to move on to another team. If Troy Bergeron can offer that special teams value, though, I'd feel much more comfortable with Booker on the depth chart.

Ideally, we would carry these receivers this year:

  • Roddy White
  • Michael Jenkins
  • Brian Finneran
  • Marty Booker
  • Aaron Kelly
  • Troy Bergeron

In a perfect world, that would leave Mougey or another young receiver on the practice squad. That depth chart certainly doesn't look as nice as it would if Douglas was still around, but with Tony Gonzalez on the roster and a strong running game, the Falcons can probably get by with it. I'm not going to say that seeing Finn in the slot doesn't make me a little nervous at this stage of his career.

How about you guys? Who do you think will make the roster, and what do you think of the signings?