The Falcons will hold on to the rights to six young players with some potential. This is more or less what's going to pass for big news during this off-season on the player front, so get pumped!
I actually like the talent on display here, though none of these guys are likely to ever be more than reserves for the Falcons. With a slate of free agents coming up and some big decisions to make, it's smart to keep potential contributors in the fold.
Here's a quick rundown of each of these six players. Check back in at noon if you want more thoughts on potential defensive coordinators.
- S Suasei Tuimaunei: Wouldn't you love to listen to announcers struggling with this name for sixteen games a season? I put him first because he's got the best chance of contributing in 2012 thanks to his special teams savvy and excellent tackling. Tuimaunei also offers quality size (6'1", 205) and straight line speed (4.45 40 yard dash) at a position the Falcons traditionally have not had a ton of depth at. If Thomas DeCoud walks, he could stick as a reserve.
- WR Drew Davis: He got lost in the shuffle a bit with Kevin Cone getting called up to the bigs, but Davis is another quality wide receiver prospect from a prolific Oregon offense. He's got pretty good size at 6'2" and decent speed, and he had a reputation for being pretty sure-handed. The Falcons may not bring back Weems and haven't given Kerry Meier much of a shot, so Davis could push for a spot in 2012.
- TE Ryan Winterswyk: A converted defensive end, Winterswyk was always a pretty high-motor guy for a defender. At 6"4", 270 pounds, he projected as a little big of a tweener as a defender, so he's switched sides. He's likely slimming down a little to play tight end and could be an interesting fit as a potentially devastating blocker, though probably not as a receiver. I can't see the Falcons bringing back Reggie Kelly again, so Winterswyk could hang on as the team's de facto blocking tight end.
- TE Tommy Gallarda: Another blocking Boise State tight end with slightly better speed and better hands than Winterswyk, but perhaps a little less potential throwing blocks out in front of the run game. The one plus is that he did have nine touchdowns at Boise State and has the size to be a red zone threat. He's a project, to be sure, but he could be utilized like Michael Palmer was in 2011 down the line.
OT Kyle Jolly: Jolly has—say it with me—quality size (6'6", 315 pounds) and spent some time on Pittsburgh's practice squad in 2010. The Falcons could always use talented
reserveoffensive linemen and don't really have anyone to develop in the system out of Jose Valdez, so Jolly will get some seasoning. At worst, he'll push some guys around in practice.
- S Matt Hansen: He spent training camp with the Falcons as an inside linebacker, but despite some quality practices did not make the team. The Falcons are now apparently trying him as a safety, though he could certainly play linebacker as well. A classic thumper with terrific tackling ability and decent physical skills, Hansen's another project who likely won't stick with the team in 2012. Down the line, though, he's got enough potential to make a little noise.
As I said, most of these guys project to be no better than backups, and we'll be lucky if half of them get to that point. For a team that prides itself on quality depth, though, that's hardly a bad thing, and most of them play positions where the Falcons either are thinner right now or project to be thinner once the free agent dust settles.
Thoughts on these six players?