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A Potential 2013 Atlanta Falcons Free Agent: Defensive End Paul Kruger

The soon-to-be ex-Raven could be a nice fit for the Falcons.

USA TODAY Sports

Any way you slice it, the Falcons need pass rushing help. They couldn't send a much stronger signal short of inking a tattoo that says "PLEASE GOD HELP US" on Mike Smith's forehead in neon script.

Given that reality, you have to figure they'll at least explore the open market. It's not a great one this season, filled with question marks and lesser options, but one name has come up multiple times. That name is Paul Kruger.

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger is one of the team's key defensive players. -Bruce Raffel, Baltimore Beatdown

The current Baltimore Raven is an interesting player. He stands about 6'4", 270, and has something less than elite athleticism. What he does offer is a relentless motor, great on-field awareness and an excellent sense of exactly how he should be throwing that bulk around.

On balance, what Kruger offers is the total package. He can rush the passer, drop back in coverage and stop the run, and he's above average in all three facets of his game. He finished up the year with nine sacks and swatted down a half dozen passes at the line of scrimmage, and we know he can play in a 3-4 if the Falcons want to go with that look. He's a mighty useful player.

What's less clear is whether he's an elite pass rusher, especially on a defense that can't offer him a ton of help there. If John Abraham returns, he at least has a quality bookend there, but short of that he'll be generating a pass rush mostly on his own. There's also the little matter of cost, because Kruger will want to be paid big bucks for his breakout 2012. If he's asking for $7 million plus per season, the Falcons are likely to skate right past him.

Ultimately, the affordability question is probably going to be what dooms Kruger in Atlanta. Even if the team manages to clear $15-20 million in cap space in the days and weeks ahead, they'll need to use that money to bring back guys like William Moore and Sam Baker. There may well not be enough left for someone like Kruger.

Your thoughts on Kruger?