When it comes to restricted free agents, the Atlanta Falcons don't play around.
The team indicated its commitment to keeping the band together, extending first round tenders to Jerious Norwood, Tyson Clabo and Harvey Dahl, second round offers to Jason Snelling and Michael Koenen, and a fifth-round tenderizer to Quinn Ojinnaka. Frankly, no one in the league is going to pay any of those except for maybe Ojinnaka, and he hasn't accrued enough playing time that anyone's going to do more than gently eyeball him. For a point of reference here, keep in mind that whatever round a free agent is tendered is in the round an interested team must give up a draft pick in order to lure them away.
Sadly, there are fewer moronic general managers in the league than there used to be, so nobody's going to give us a first rounder for Norwood.
After the jump, find my brief thoughts on each of these guys. Keep in mind that the Falcons still have three more restricted free agents, too, all three safeties: Charlie Peprah, Jamaal Fudge and Antoine Harris.
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to keep Norwood around.
The first round tender isn't a big deal in 2010, an almost certainly uncapped year, and the Falcons could still trade him. If they're not planning to trade him, the team is obviously convinced he'll be healthy and a big part of the offense in 2010. After all, he's obviously got the talent, and this is not a very deep draft at running back. Finding a truly speedy complement to Michael Turner and Snelling could be very difficult in 2010. This is sensible. This is smart. This is why Thomas Dimitroff can go swimming in his cash, while I can barely find a dollar bill to use as a napkin.
Still, I can't help but think this was at least partially motivated by a desire to keep the greasy hands of the San Diego Chargers off of Norwood. They're desperate for running back help, it's not the world's greatest draft to pick up a starting back and Norwood could've been very tempting at a third round tender. Better safe than sorry.
Again, the tender doesn't make sense in a vacuum, but the Falcons damn sure aren't going to give up a starting tackle in the NFL without making sure other teams will have to pay through some part of their anatomy infinitely less pleasant than the humble nose.
Clabo's the very definition of a solid run-blocking offensive tackle, and he'll definitely be valuable for at least one more year. After that, depending on how the Falcons draft or Garrett Reynolds develops, he may be expendable. Glad to have him aboard one more year, though.
He's ridiculously mean and nasty and he will eat your face if you dare to question him. Based on those criteria alone—and to say nothing of the fact that he's a very good guard with some penalty issues that will hopefully be resolved in 2010—you've gotta give him that first round tender.
Koenen's had a bumpy, up and down kind of career, but when he's on he's one of the best directional punters in the league and he can friggin' boot. The Falcons would've been crazy not to tender him, and doing so at a second round level guarantees teams will stay the hell away from our prized punter. If he has an "up" year in 2010, expect the Falcons to start talking long-term.
Second-round sounds about right. Again, this will keep teams like the Chargers from seriously considering him, and Snelling is a valuable piece of the offensive puzzle in Atlanta, especially if injuries decimate the running back corps (God forbid). All four of these guys are virtually a lock to be on the Falcons next year, unless some team goes completely crazy and snatches them away, giving us a nice pick in return.
He's a valuable reserve offensive lineman on a team that can't possibly have enough of those. For a fifth round tender, he's a nice value, but it also makes him the only guy likely to be stolen from the Falcons by someone else in the NFL. Obviously, we could look at drafting his replacement with whatever fifth round pick we got, but I think I'd rather just keep Quinn the Eskimo around.