We have spent the last year telling people that Robert Alford was a guaranteed goner in Atlanta. We thought his size wasn’t quite what Dan Quinn was looking for. For example, Quinn brought in Jalen Collins, who is three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier. We thought Alford would head to free agency looking for big money after seeing a similar player Janoris Jenkins sign a five-year, $62.5 million deal.
Alford was also leading the league in penalties and was generally playing undisciplined football early this year. Things sure have changed. He’s cut out the bad penalties and has really stepped up in Desmond Trufant’s absence.
What’s this mean?
We will need to see the specifics on the 4-year, $38 million deal with $21 million guaranteed, but the numbers look friendly. He’s being paid like a good, young number two corner. The guaranteed money is likely his signing bonus and first two years of the deal.
Atlanta was smart to use some of their free cap space this year to cover some of the guaranteed money. His base salary the next two years should be small and should be very manageable. We will have more info on the cap when the specifics come out, but I’m not worried about this deal at all.
Building the defense
One of the things we have wondered is how the Falcons planned to replace Alford while adding other playmakers to the bad defense. Impact players have come at impact prices, so the Falcons have been stuck adding cheaper players like Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby. Alford came in under what young corners are being paid in free agency, so it saves the team from overspending to replace him.
What does it mean for Trufant
This is where things get trickier. Desmond Trufant is going to be one of the highest paid corners in the NFL. You could suggest that the team got this deal done early to pace out cap hits. Or you could suggest the Falcons will struggle to pay both players. I can’t imagine the team letting a player like Trufant walk in free agency, but I don’t think this signing makes an extension for Trufant more likely. Falcons may consider seeing if Collins can step up before they have to get Trufant paid.
What does it mean for the secondary
With the success of Brian Poole and impressive play from Jalen Collins, Atlanta has some more options in their secondary. In the offseason, it was said that the Falcons wanted to move Alford to the slot in nickel formations with Collins manning the outside. We never got to see that after Collins was suspended. We need to wait for Trufant to get healthy, but Atlanta will have options at nickel, and may consider trying out Collins or Poole at safety. There are still plenty of question marks across the secondary, but the team will have plenty of options with their young defensive backs.
Alford has really improved his play. About two months ago he lead the league in penalties and was near the top in burn percentage. He’s turned around his play and was rewarded for it. The numbers are friendly and it lets Atlanta focus on other positions in the offseason. Nice move by the front office getting Alford cheap and pushing some of the cap hit this year.