The Falcons recently released veteran cornerback Asante Samuel, and it's apparent they plan to roll with their two second-year cornerbacks, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, as starters. However, if last year taught Atlanta anything they should have learned the fundamental importance of maintaining viable depth at every position.
If you read Alec's breakdown of the cornerback position, you know that Trufant and Alford are both signed through 2016. Robert McClain, who has played nickel pretty effectively over the past two seasons, is a restricted free agent in 2014 and it's reasonable to expect that he can be re-signed at minimal cost. Dominique Franks, who has provided depth over the past few seasons, is an unrestricted free agent in 2014, and both Jordan Mabin and Saeed Lee were signed to futures contracts by the Falcons.
Mabin was an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern in 2012. He was signed by the Ravens and was added to their practice squad in 2012 until Cleveland snatched him up during the last week of the 2012 season. Mabin had 252 tackles at Northwestern along with 31 pass deflections, seven interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Lee, from Alabama State University, was invited to Atlanta's rookie minicamp in 2013 on a tryout basis. Lee ended up being waived following a knee injury suffered in training camp. Lee had 34 tackles, including three tackles for loss, in his final season at Alabama State. He also had five interceptions, 16 pass deflections, one sack, and two fumble recoveries.
While cornerback, considering the solid play of Trufant and, to a lesser extent, Alford, isn't the most pressing need for Atlanta right now, they do need to have some reliable depth at the position. Re-signing Dominique Franks is a possibility, but Franks has been on Atlanta's roster for a number of years and has yet to really establish himself as a fundamental part of the defense. Franks played just 13 defensive snaps last season.
It's interesting, though, that these two players were signed to futures contracts. Lee was, of course, unable to participate in preseason because of the knee injury that led to the team waiving him, and Mabin played just three snaps in preseason. Mabin showed the team enough, however, to prompt them to add him to the practice squad, so they've had a full season to develop Mabin in their system.
The "youth movement" at corner is a very real thing currently, and will remain so unless the Falcons turn to free agency to shore up depth at the position. Will the Falcons develop Saeed Lee and Jordan Mabin as their backups at corner, or will they turn to the draft or free agency to address the lack of depth at the position? Discuss!