The Atlanta Falcons have some major free agent decisions coming up. Brent Grimes, John Abraham and Curtis Lofton could all walk if the Falcons can't make competitive offers, which lends this off-season considerable urgency. Let all three walk and you've just lost a ton of veteran talent and experience on this defense, talent and experience that will not be easy to replace.
We've talked about Grimes before. We haven't yet spent a ton of time on John Abraham, but his day is coming. I want to talk instead about the most likely free agent re-signing, Curtis Lofton, and why the Falcons might re-sign him and why they maybe shouldn't. A real argument with myself, if you will.
If you'll join me after the jump, we'll get right into the breakdown.
The Case For Curtis Lofton
- He's a brilliant run-stopping linebacker, one of the finest in the NFL. In a defense filled with guys who occasionally forget how to tackle, Lofton is a stalwart hitter and one of the league's best at quickly diagnosing run plays. The Falcons wouldn't have such a dominant run D without The Police.
- He's the quarterback of the defense. Lofton, as I just said, reads the offense and helps the coaching staff get everyone to where they need to go. He's also a natural team leader and a good dude, which helps in the intangibles department.
- He's one of the few Falcons who regularly authors big plays. Tackles for losses, the occasional sack, a pass deflection, a forced fumble, that sort of thing.
- There are simply no better middle linebackers on the open market. Teams that could really use him include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. Losing Lofton to a division rival would really hurt. Anyone the Falcons bring in or promote will have to learn a lot in a hurry.
- The fans love him and he'll be sorely missed. You can't make business decisions based solely on this, of course, but it is a factor.
The Case Against Curtis Lofton
- He's not great in coverage. The rumors floating around about busting Lofton down to a two-down player make a certain kind of intuitive sense, because he can be a liability back there. Better usage would help with this, but I don't think he's going to turn into an above average cover 'backer overnight.
- If the Falcons are keeping him around primarily for his run-stopping...well, does it make sense to sign him to a rich long-term deal or use up $7 million in cap on the guy? Akeem Dent is a classic two-down thumper who has shown sound tackling ability. There would be growing pains, yes, but enough that it's worth about $6.5 million to avoid them?
- If the Buccaneers get into a bidding war over Lofton, he may simply become too expensive. At that point, it's too late for the franchise tag.
As with Grimes, the Falcons simply won't use the franchise tag on Lofton, Instead, they'll push hard for a four year extension to keep him in Atlanta, as he is considered a defensive cornerstone.
Obviously I hope this gets done, but look out for the Buccaneers. They have an overwhelming amount of cap space, a need in their linebacking corps and a desire to screw the Falcnos. If they start throwing money around, the Falcons could be in trouble.
Why don't you weigh in?