For the last couple of years, we've pointed out that the Falcons seemed likely to purge their rosters of familiar veterans in an effort to re-tool and change their identity, especially on defense. Post-2012 that certainly came true with the exits of John Abraham, Tyson Clabo, Brent Grimes and others, while last year was a little quieter on that front.
Make no mistake, though: This is another year where you'll want to keep your eyes wide open for roster cuts. They are looming.
The reasons for this are myriad and obvious. Dan Quinn is in town as the new head coach, and the team already parted ways with Justin Blalock, Harry Douglas and Steven Jackson because they were either aging, expensive, not a scheme fit or all of the above. Those are big moves, and as Quinn gets a better feel for his roster and the raft of incoming rookies he'll be evaluating, he may elect to cut ties with a few popular players due to questions of scheme fit, pure talent and cost.
Here's a brief list of players to watch closely this spring and summer, lest they not make it to the final roster.
Patrick DiMarco: He's spent most of the last two seasons fullbackin' it for the Falcons, but the team signed Collin Mooney to a multi-year deal, and he may fit the profile of what they're looking for in a lead blocker more closely than DiMarco, especially as a runner. He'll need a very strong camp to beat out Mooney.
Peter Konz: He figures to be more useful in a zone blocking scheme, but Konz is dealing with a brand new staff and the team has a ton of options at guard and center. If promising rookie Valerian Ume-Ezeoke catches on and guys like Jared Smith, Mike Person and maybe Harland Gunn make strong cases to stick around, Konz is probably on the chopping block.
Sam Baker: Baker may not even make it to training camp, as Scott Carasik of Bleacher Report has noted. He's older, expensive and coming off two catastrophic injuries, and while the savings for this year will be minimal, cutting him does free up money for the team to play with down the line. If guard shakes out okay and Lamar Holmes turns his slimmed-down physique into better play, I could very easily see Baker getting the axe before, on or after June 2.
Kroy Biermann: His contract makes him relatively easy to cut, which is the primary reason he made this list. Biermann can move around the formation and has real special teams value, so I have to think he'll stick. At the same time, defensive end and linebacker are getting a bit crowded, and most of the guys hanging around right now can do at least one thing better than Biermann.
Tyson Jackson: I have Jackson staying and getting real snaps, but I'd be foolish not to include him on this watchlist. He's expensive, the Falcons have young talent along the defensive front they need to utilize and Jackson was only decently effective a year ago. If the team decides his dollars and snaps would be better used elsewhere, T-Jax may very well be out.
Who do you think may be on the block this year?