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Inside Slant

Starting strong-side linebacker Michael Boley signed his restricted free-agent tender Wednesday, all but solidifying his return to Atlanta in 2008 unless a rival team wants to part with a first-round draft pick for the rising standout.

On paper, a team coughing up that type of compensation for Boley would be a bad move, value-wise, since Boley was a fifth-round pick in 2005. Boley could hit the unrestricted market next season.

By signing the tender, Boley assured himself of a one-year salary of just more than $2 million, which is a bonanza for him, but arguably less than his value based on his production and long-term upside.

That the Falcons have yet to reach a long-term deal with Boley after beginning extension talks last fall shouldn't be deemed alarming yet. However, they have put themselves in a situation where Boley now has some leverage after the season to walk away, something the Falcons cannot afford to have happen on several fronts.

First, Boley is the team's best defender, if not player. He officially had a career-best 125 tackles last season. His versatility to rush off the edge, drop into zone coverage and be used as a hybrid nickel back makes him even more vital.

Add to the fact that he flourished under former LB coach/current defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder most notably he got more physical makes him too attractive to even gamble on staying without the security of a long-term extension.

Then there's his high character, which is something the Falcons have stressed they want in their players. Boley not only is one of the most well-spoken, analytical players on the team, he's also taken a lead as a public advocate for autism awareness, a cause spawned by him having an autistic son.

Team owner Arthur Blank said at the recent annual NFL meetings that for the Falcons to become a model franchise, they have to start signing players to long-term deals before the final year of their contracts.

There is plenty of time for Boley to get a deal done and the likelihood is, that will happen. Atlanta could wait until after the draft, when it can figure out how to massage its cap space to sign 11 draft picks, four of which are among the top 48 selections.

NOTES, QUOTES

Team owner Arthur Blank, in an interview with the New York Daily News, said that imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick was playing football in the prison league. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered that the prison league had not been active during Vick's time in Leavenworth (Kan.). Vick could be playing catch with some of his inmates, a prison official said.

The confusion isn't anything major, but that Blank remains so interested in Vick and his football-related activities is a sign that Blank clearly has not ruled out Vick re-joining the team once he serves his time on federal dogfighting charges.

Alex Stepanovich, signed as a free agent, will play guard and center dual roles held by Ben Wilkerson. Doug Datish, who spent his rookie season last year on IR after breaking his hand, will also compete to be Todd McClure's backup at center.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have not been contacted about a trade." GM Thomas Dimitroff.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

By Michael Boley signing his tender, the Falcons' linebacking unit is pretty much intact the one unit of the team with some stability. Keith Brooking is penciled in at the middle and second-year player Stephen Nicholas will take over for departed free agent WLB Demorrio Williams.

Brooking said defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will design the defense to be linebacker friendly, but that means defensive lineman will have to play at a high level and the secondary will have to be sound. The line and defensive backfield appear suspect at best, which is why the Falcons have tried to fortify both units with experienced free agents.

Both units also will be stockpiled through the draft.

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

1. Quarterback: Redman and Harrington will compete this offseason for pecking order. If D.J. Shockley is recovered from knee surgery, he could emerge as the No. 2 candidate. However it shakes out, one of those three won't be on the team since the Falcons will draft a quarterback, likely with one of their top three picks.

2. Cornerback: There is more and more thought that the Falcons will use one of their second-round picks to trade into the first round to snatch a cornerback. They might not have to, though because some quality CBs, like Kansas's Aqib Talib, could be there in the second round.

3. Tackle: Size and nastiness are the components offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey wants to add to the offensive line, which is nicked and disjointed at both tackles. Atlanta will bolster the right and left sides, most likely in the draft.

MEDICAL WATCH: LB Keith Brooking had arthroscopic knee surgery in January but he was healthy enough to start offseason workouts with the team.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

PK Morten Andersen is a reliable geriatric kicker that still has some leg left but the signing of Jason Elam takes him out of the picture.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

DE Chauncey Davis (tendered at $927,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation) is a solid backup who will be re-signed, especially with the verdict still out on Jamaal Anderson and John Abraham's injury history.

P/K Michael Koenen's (tendered at $1.47M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) consistency as a punter and kickoff specialist likely will lead to his retention.

FB Corey McIntyre (tendered at $927,000 with no compensation) was the special teams captain, but he might not be an ideal fit in the offense.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

FS Erik Coleman: UFA Jets; $10M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

K Jason Elam: UFA Broncos; $9M/4 yrs, $3.3M SB.

DE Simon Fraser: Not tendered as RFA by Browns; terms unknown.

TE Ben Hartsock: UFA Titans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

CB Von Hutchins: UFA Texans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M.

DT Rashad Moore: Not tendered as RFA by Patriots; terms unknown.

DT Kindal Moorehead: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.

C Alex Stepanovich: UFA Bengals; terms unknown.

RB Michael Turner: UFA Chargers; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

DT Tim Anderson: UFA; terms unknown.

LB Michael Boley: RFA; $2.017M/1 yr.

OL Tyson Clabo: ERFA; terms unknown.

QB Joey Harrington: FA, had been released by Falcons; $1M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

QB Chris Redman: UFA; $4M/2 yrs, $2M guaranteed.

NT Montavious Stanley: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

PLAYERS LOST

TE Courtney Anderson: UFA Bills; terms unknown.

TE Dwayne Blakley: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

DT Rod Coleman (released).

S Chris Crocker: UFA Dolphins; 1.15M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

TE Alge Crumpler (released).

RB Warrick Dunn (released).

WR Jamin Elliott (released).

OT Wayne Gandy (released).

CB DeAngelo Hall (traded Raiders).

QB Byron Leftwich (released).

S Omare Lowe: UFA Seahawks; $605,000/1 yr.

CB Lewis Sanders (released).

LB Marcus Wilkins (released).

OLB Demorrio Williams: UFA Chiefs; $16M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

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Alex Stepanovich, signed as a free agent, will play guard and center dual roles held by Ben Wilkerson. Doug Datish, who spent his rookie season last year on IR after breaking his hand, will also compete to be Todd McClure's backup at center.
I think Step makes the team as 2nd C b/c of experience, and Datish and Wilkerson will battle for just solid depth with Datish winning out b/c of his versatility.
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Brooking said defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will design the defense to be linebacker friendly, but that means defensive lineman will have to play at a high level and the secondary will have to be sound. The line and defensive backfield appear suspect at best, which is why the Falcons have tried to fortify both units with experienced free agents.

That's good to hear.

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I think defensively we need help the most at CB and DT. If Jake Long were there at #3 Atlanta would probably get him instead of a defender, but I'd imagine Dorsey is our likely pick, unless something changes.

Offensively we have play-makers at WR and RB already. Atlanta should look to get a TE in the middle rounds. On the offensive line we are starting to get old at C. Most pressing is LT then RT. I do like Clabo as a front side/lead blocker type at RT, though I'm not sure if he's long-term material or not. I sure hope the new staff can evaluate talent better.

FS would be my 3rd area of concern, but Coleman is a veteran to hold the fort at least. I suppose the hope is for Stone to learn under Milloy for another year and then take over as the SS. If he gets the mental part of the game from Milloy, he could be a solid 'in-the-box' guy for many years.

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loozianafalcon (4/11/2008)
I am a Brooking fan, guys, BUT he cannot be in the middle again this year.
One more year man..Come on you can do it. I would love if we got Mayo, Connor, or Lofton. But then Brooking would have to play WLB:sick:. He is too slow for that. Nicholas can handle WLB and Brooking plays MLB for ONE MORE YEAR. We can get the immense talent at MLB coming out next year.
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slimjim (4/11/2008)
Inside Slant

PLAYERS LOST

TE Courtney Anderson: UFA Bills; terms unknown.

TE Dwayne Blakley: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

DT Rod Coleman (released).

S Chris Crocker: UFA Dolphins; 1.15M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

TE Alge Crumpler (released).

RB Warrick Dunn (released).

WR Jamin Elliott (released).

OT Wayne Gandy (released).

CB DeAngelo Hall (traded Raiders).

QB Byron Leftwich (released).

S Omare Lowe: UFA Seahawks; $605,000/1 yr.

CB Lewis Sanders (released).

LB Marcus Wilkins (released).

OLB Demorrio Williams: UFA Chiefs; $16M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

thats alot of starters gone when you see it on a list lol.

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leo4prez (4/11/2008)
Why is McClure gauranteed a starting position? I thought coach Smith would make all positions up for grabs. Especially on the o line. McClure fit into Alex Gibbs zone blocking scheme but when it comes to man on man I don't like him or Forney.
McClure is the best we got right now. Forney should be gone by the time we know who will take over at RG. Foster, Clabo, or Quarterman have a shot IMO.
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Josh Affonso (4/11/2008)
Brooking said defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will design the defense to be linebacker friendly, but that means defensive lineman will have to play at a high level and the secondary will have to be sound. The line and defensive backfield appear suspect at best, which is why the Falcons have tried to fortify both units with experienced free agents.

That's good to hear.

Only if we manage to fix the d-line.. otherwise the linebackers are going to be taken out by offensive linemen and the VERY young secondary we have will get exposed.

The group we have right now isn't going to cut it.

I don't know why this article doesn't list DT as a need. 

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controlfreak (4/11/2008)
Wow!

9 starters gone. I didnt realize how decimated this team is. It's really sad. You couldnt have convinced me at this time last year that Vick, Crumpler, Dunn, Coleman, D-Mo and D-hall would all not be playing in a Falcons uniform in '08.

This is like a slap in the face.

slap to who's face not mine it justb tells me that either A. they cost more than we have (see ykw's salary cap hit).

or B. they were not good enought to start here or did not want to be here.

also I hope more "starers" are gone it just might improve us ...I mean we were soooo good last year with those "starters"

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slimjim (4/11/2008)
I think defensively we need help the most at CB and DT. If Jake Long were there at #3 Atlanta would probably get him instead of a defender, but I'd imagine Dorsey is our likely pick, unless something changes.

Offensively we have play-makers at WR and RB already. Atlanta should look to get a TE in the middle rounds. On the offensively line we are starting to get old at C. Most pressing is LT then RT. I do like Clabo as a lead guy at RT, though I'm not sure if he's long-term material or not. I sure hope the new staff can evaluate talent better.

FS would be my 3rd area of concern, but Coleman is a veteran to hold the fort at least. I suppose the hope is for Stone to learn under Milloy for another year and then take over as the SS. If he gets the mental part of the game from Milloy, he could be a solid 'in-the-box' guy for many years.

dude what in the world is that thing in the tub ?

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russ7000 (4/11/2008)
slimjim (4/11/2008)
I think defensively we need help the most at CB and DT. If Jake Long were there at #3 Atlanta would probably get him instead of a defender, but I'd imagine Dorsey is our likely pick, unless something changes.

Offensively we have play-makers at WR and RB already. Atlanta should look to get a TE in the middle rounds. On the offensively line we are starting to get old at C. Most pressing is LT then RT. I do like Clabo as a lead guy at RT, though I'm not sure if he's long-term material or not. I sure hope the new staff can evaluate talent better.

FS would be my 3rd area of concern, but Coleman is a veteran to hold the fort at least. I suppose the hope is for Stone to learn under Milloy for another year and then take over as the SS. If he gets the mental part of the game from Milloy, he could be a solid 'in-the-box' guy for many years.

dude what in the world is that thing in the tub ?

Its me not shaving for a while...do you mind!?

:laugh:

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brvslugger10 (4/11/2008)
leo4prez (4/11/2008)
Why is McClure gauranteed a starting position? I thought coach Smith would make all positions up for grabs. Especially on the o line. McClure fit into Alex Gibbs zone blocking scheme but when it comes to man on man I don't like him or Forney.
McClure is the best we got right now. Forney should be gone by the time we know who will take over at RG. Foster, Clabo, or Quarterman have a shot IMO.

Don't get me wrong I think McClure has done what the scheme has indicated him to do. But with this change he doesn't seem to fit. I honestly don't know much about Stepanovich but I was under the impression that he would compete for the starting center spot. I also look forward to seeing Doug Datish. Agreed about RG, my vote is for Clabo. Do you think Carl nicks could start at RT? What about Gosder Cherilus at LT? If TD does then those two guys would be great draft picks.

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2. Cornerback: There is more and more thought that the Falcons will use one of their second-round picks to trade into the first round to snatch a cornerback. They might not have to, though because some quality CBs, like Kansas's Aqib Talib, could be there in the second round.

i hope he falls to the seconded roundd!!!!!!

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3073 (4/11/2008)
slimjim (4/11/2008)
Inside Slant

PLAYERS LOST

TE Courtney Anderson: UFA Bills; terms unknown.

TE Dwayne Blakley: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

DT Rod Coleman (released).

S Chris Crocker: UFA Dolphins; 1.15M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.

TE Alge Crumpler (released).

RB Warrick Dunn (released).

WR Jamin Elliott (released).

OT Wayne Gandy (released).

CB DeAngelo Hall (traded Raiders).

QB Byron Leftwich (released).

S Omare Lowe: UFA Seahawks; $605,000/1 yr.

CB Lewis Sanders (released).

LB Marcus Wilkins (released).

OLB Demorrio Williams: UFA Chiefs; $16M/5 yrs, $5.5M guaranteed.

thats alot of starters gone when you see it on a list lol.

we also got good 1's

FS Erik Coleman: UFA Jets; $10M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

K Jason Elam: UFA Broncos; $9M/4 yrs, $3.3M SB.

DE Simon Fraser: Not tendered as RFA by Browns; terms unknown.

TE Ben Hartsock: UFA Titans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

CB Von Hutchins: UFA Texans; $9M/4 yrs, $2.5M.

DT Rashad Moore: Not tendered as RFA by Patriots; terms unknown.

DT Kindal Moorehead: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.

C Alex Stepanovich: UFA Bengals; terms unknown.

RB Michael Turner: UFA Chargers; $34.5M/6 yrs, $15M guaranteed.

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controlfreak (4/11/2008)
Wow!

9 starters gone. I didnt realize how decimated this team is. It's really sad. You couldnt have convinced me at this time last year that Vick, Crumpler, Dunn, Coleman, D-Mo and D-hall would all not be playing in a Falcons uniform in '08.

This is like a slap in the face.

Well, at the same time, this franchise isnt what it was in 2004...a time when you/we like to remember all of those players. They had multiple seasons to rectify the situation, and it didnt get any better.

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