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CHAMPIONSHIPS WILL COME, BABY!!!! The trend this time is defense. Defense wins championships, as cliche as it may sound. Our offense is pretty much set. A few additions to the offense along with the rise of a new scheme will do the unit wonders. So instead this offseason will build the foundation of what will eventually become a 3-4 defense. We have a defensive coordinator that has run the 3-4 with great results the past 7 years of his career. We should embellish the idea of making this transition. It wont happen all in one year, so good thing is that we'll still be able to run a 4-3 this year with the way this offseason shakes out. So here we go... According to Pat Yasinskas we are at $96.1 mil. It has been said that the salary cap next year will probably not change from $120.4 mil, but there are also rumblings that it will possibly go up too. This year also includes 3 $500,000 exceptions totaling an extra $1.5 mil towards cap room. I will use a $124 mil cap for this mock to be on the safe side, meaning we would have around $28 mil of free cap space to work with in signing players. Cut/ Let Go Brent Grimes (Reportedly sat out of a playoff game, and I'd rather not be handcuffed to a 29 year-old, 5'8'' corner. Think Antoine Winfield) Curtis Lofton (He is going to command way too much money. He's not a 3 down guy) John Abraham (He's getting older and wants way too much money) Thomas Decoud (Need I explain?) Kroy Biermann (He'll probably want to test his hand somewhere else for more money. He'll get it too) Mike Peterson (Will probably retire) Brett Romberg (Meh) Eric Weems (Is an ace on special teams coverage, but return ability is suspect) Jason Snelling (Very, very serviceable but he'll look for more money elsewhere) Reggie Kelly (Old, waste of depth chart space) Sam Baker (Need I explain? Saves us $3 mil) Kelvin Hayden (Injury prone) Chris Redman (Old. New offensive system means we're not entitled to bring him back) +3 mil => $31 mil cap space Restructuring Contracts Dunta Robinson makes $6 mil this year with $5 mil guaranteed. The least he could do is give us $1 mil back. Jonathon Babineaux makes $4.1 mil this year, but his contract includes $8 mil in bonuses. I would estimate that we could get about $2 mil back depending on whether he has lived up to some of that bonus money yet. +3 mil => $34 mil cap space Re-sign Harry Douglas (Would like to see what he can do with a competent OC)...3 mil James Sanders (Quality safety depth and possible starter)...2 mil Todd McClure (Leader of the oline, but is getting old. He'll come back cheap)...1 mil -6 mil => $28 mil cap space Free Agent Pick-ups LB, Stephen Tulloch (Can play 3 downs and is a baller. I'd rather give him Curtis Lofton's contract).....10 mil RB, BenJarvus Green-Ellis (For when Turner gets those tippy-toes)...3 mil CB, Terrell Thomas (Big corner. Coming off ACL injury. Could get him cheap)...3 mil OG, Jeremy Zuttah (Quality guard. Better than any other guard we currently have. Young)...2 mil LB, Channing Crowder (A nutcase....but we need nutcases!)...1 mil DT, Shaun Rogers (Big body to shut down the run. Him occupying 2 defenders lets Babs do his thing. Corey Peters comes in fresh)...2 mil QB, David Garrard (Knows Koetter's system)...1 mil -22 mil => $6 mil cap space The Draft 2nd Round, Shea McClellin, DE/OLB Boise State 6'3'' 260lbs -This guy is a football player and reminds me a lot of Brooks Reed coming out last year. Maybe not as dynamic as Reed in his pass rushing repertoire, but still very much a dynamic player. McClellin ran a 4.62 at the combine and looked natural in all of his agility drills. He carries his solidly built frame with ease. With Abe leaving, we will need some form of pass rush. McClellin can play with his hand in the ground in our 4-3, but I fully expect him to be an OLB in our 3-4 the following year. 3rd Round, Derek Wolfe, DT/DE Cincinnati 6'5'' 295lbs -Wolfe has been Mr. Consistent his entire collegiate career and capped it off with a stellar senior season in which he accumulated 9.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. He is powerful, almost never getting pushed back at the point of attack and has a relentless motor. Versatility allows him to be able to play inside in a 4-3, or as a 3-4 defensive end. 5th Round, Justin Bethel, DB Presbyterian 6'0'' 200lbs -Small school product but as athletic as they come. Diamond in the rough, that could go higher due to his crazy athletic ability. 40 inch vertical. Nearly an 11 ft broad jump. Running sub 4.5 forties. Thomas Dimitroff is always probing the lower division schools for prospects. Dont be surprised if we pick this guy up. Can play both safety and corner. 6th Round, James Hanna, TE Oklahoma 6'4'' 252lbs -The guy ran sub 4.4 forties. He's got pretty good hands. Had 7 TDs in 2010, but only 2 in 2011 although he had more catches and receiving yards. With it being Tony Gonzales' last year, it would be good to have another young mind soak up some knowledge. 6th Round, Joe Long, OT Wayne State 6'5'' 308lbs (Compensatory Pick: Michael Koenen) -Hey, why not take a shot at the bloodlines??? TD likes the small school guys 7th Round, Patrick Edwards, WR Houston 5'9'' 172lbs -Edwards nearly goes undrafted solely because of his size. He's small and has some speed, but he's not just a return specialist. He's a legitimate wide receiver. His stats may be inflated due to the Houston offense, but look at these numbers...2008: 45rec, 623yds, 4tds....2009: 85rec, 1026yds, 6tds....2010: 71rec, 1100yds, 13tds....2011: 89rec, 1752yds, 20tds............HOLY COW!!! -4 mil => $3 mil cap space Depth Chart (53/53) QB- Matt Ryan, Garrard RB- Turner, Green-Ellis, Quizz, Nance FB- Mughelli, Cox, Nance WR- Roddy, Julio, Douglas, Meier, Edwards LT- Svitek, Long LG- Blalock, Johnson C- McClure, Hawley RG- Zuttah, Jackson RT- Clabo, Reynolds TE- Tony Gonzalez, Palmer, Hanna RE- McClellin, Sidbury DT- Babs, Shaun Rogers, Corey Peters, Vance Walker LE- Ray Edwards, Derek Wolfe, Cliff Matthews LB- Tulloch, Spoon, Nicholas, Crowder, Dent, Adkins CB- Robinson, Thomas, Owens, Franks, Walls SS- William Moore, Schillinger FS- James Sanders, Justin Bethel ST- Bosher, Bryant, Zelenka 2012 NFL Draft Tyler Eifert, TE Notre Dame 6'5'' 250lbs (unless Hanna shows something). Notes The most noticeable feature of this offseason is that the defense is virtually gutted. A lot of people feel that scheme played a factor into our defensive woes. I'll admit that I'm one of those people, but I also watched that same defense play consistently uninspired football. You never knew what you were going to get from the batch of guys that we've had for the past 4 years. Maybe Nolan can come in and get something out of those guys, but it would require breaking the bank to keep them and quite frankly they do not warrant the amount of money that they will want. What I have done is created the bones of a future defense that I see switching to a 3-4. Tulloch is closer to a 3 down linebacker than Lofton. Let's pay him top dollar instead. We still have Spoon, Nic (when healthy), we get to see what Dent can do and we bring in Crowder. The pass rush is not a simple fix this offseason, but I feel that I have given us young guys that can provide energy and at the very least give us the same production as last year....and for less money. They also help us transition to a 3-4 defense. The secondary is also not a simple fix. Do we really want to pay Brent Grimes top dollar even if it's for a year under the franchise tag? We have too many holes to fill just to waste so much money on one guy. Brent makes plays, but he's still 5'8'' and pushing 29 years old. And are we really that worse without him? Moral of the Story We have cap space to work with. Let's use it wisely and build towards the future. I pray that our front office does not get blinded too much by loyalty to average players.