The Atlanta Falcons will certainly keep their options open heading into free agency. Part of that process is scoping out the proverbial scrap heap. Every off-season, teams cuts players, looking for cap space. Then the rumors start. "Will [insert favorite team] sign [insert over-the-hill veteran]?!" It's like going to the carnival and stuffing your face with cotton candy and corn dogs - it's fun for a while, but sooner or later, you're gonna need a puke bucket.
Several big names were released in the past couple of days. Let's take a look.
Hawk fell out of favor in Green Bay last season. He reportedly struggled with bone spurs, getting surgery to fix the issue about 3 weeks ago. Hawk says it didn't affect his performance on the field, but the Packers designated him "waived/failed physical" today. There's certainly reason to question his health going forward. For what it's worth, that designation was locked in because he failed his exit exam. The exit exam obviously preceded the surgery, thus it's entirely possible the surgery fixed the problem. Plus Hawk says there really wasn't a problem in the first place.
How will he play in 2015? I wouldn't bet on Hawk regaining his form. He struggled mightily in 2014, rating negatively in 10 of the 18 games he played in. In 2014, Hawk was arguably one of the worst, if not the worst (Paul Worrilow certainly gave him a run for his money), insider linebacker in the league. He just isn't the player he once was, and while the Falcons need to upgrade their linebacker corps, there are other options.
It's anyone's guess how the Falcons will sort out their running back corps in the next couple months. They will certainly look to improve the running game through free agency and the draft. And as part of that process, they will likely emphasize scheme over personnel. In other words, I don't expect the Falcons to run out and sign an over-the-hill running back with negligible tread on the tires. Instead, they will transition the offensive line and plug running backs in accordingly.
Bush is another guy that probably won't regain his prior form. While he rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2013, a pesky ankle injury led to an unremarkable 2013 (76 carries/297 rushing yards/2 rushing touchdowns). This isn't 2006, and while no one questions Bush's dedication (Lions GM Martin Mayhew called him a "warrior" and raved about him playing through injuries at a presser just last week), it probably isn't a good time to invest.
Dan Quinn and his merry band of roster ninjas are certainly on the look out for offensive line depth. And let's be honest, the deck will need some shuffling if the Falcons do attempt a wholesale conversion to a zone blocking scheme.
The Eagles officially parted ways with Herremans today. He's proven, veteran depth at guard, capable of playing some tackle in a pinch. He did struggle a bit with injuries last season, which will undoubtedly affect his price tag, presumably making him more affordable. Remember, this is the guy that helped LeSean McCoy win the rushing title in 2013. He's no slouch. As veteran depth, the Falcons could do far worse. So if he's healthy, and if the price is right, it's a worthwhile signing waiting to happen.
If there's a concern, it's that he won't come cheap. The Eagles were looking at a $6.2 million cap hit in 2015 if they retained Herremans, and he reportedly rejected the opportunity to renegotiate his deal. That doesn't seem like a player that's going to love playing for the veteran minimum, though the Eagles will be on the hook for $2.4 million in dead money no matter what.
These are few names you'll hear bandied about in the days ahead. In my estimation, none of these guys will land in Atlanta. Whether it's injury concerns or sticker shock, the Falcons are probably going to steer clear. If you're still reading this, feel free to leave the obligatory "no thanks," "get real, James," etc. in the comments; the more dismissive your comment, the better!