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Atlanta Falcons free agency is not exactly as it seems


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Atlanta Falcons free agency is not exactly as it seems

April 4, 9:32 AM · Add a Comment

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Fans of the Atlanta Falcons should ask themselves how they would feel if in the 2009 free agency season, in addition to the five starters lost on defense, the team lost the wide receiver that caught Matt Ryan's first NFL pass, a pass that incidentally went for a 62-yard touchdown.

What about the possibility of losing a sixth starter on defense with the loss of defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, a quick under tackle type with 3.5 sacks in 2009.

In recent interviews Falcons head coach Mike Smith has consistently reminded everyone that things aren't completely as they seem.

On the surface, the Falcons 2009 free agency activity appears to have been quiet with only the signings of linebacker Mike Peterson and center Brett Romberg and the re-signing of defensive end Chauncey Davis to whet the fan's appetite.

Smith is trying to remind everyone that the team extended the contracts of 6'4", 215-pound receiver Michael Jenkins (he's the receiver that caught that first Ryan pass) and Babineaux in late November.

By doing so the team avoided allowing two of their talented young core of starters to test free agency.

If those two players had hit the market it's likely the Falcons would have had to pay much more than the four-year extension for the services of Jenkins and the five-year extension of Babineaux.

Jenkins finished 2008 second on the team in receptions (50) and earned 777 yards receiving, averaging 15.5 yards per catch. In addition to the storybook first-Ryan pass touchdown, he added two others.

The 6'2", 284 pound Babineaux, in addition to his 3.5 sacks, had 39 tackles and two passes defensed.

Both players were drafted by the team and at the time of the contract extensions general manager Thomas Dimitroff described them as "players who have made significant contributions to the overall success of our football team."

Michael and Jonathan are both team guys who work hard on and off the field and are both very productive on Sundays.

To understand exactly how good these moves were you have to find similar players in free agency in 2009 to understand the value that Atlanta got by never letting these two starters near free agency.

Jovan Haye is a 26-year-old, 6'2", 285-pound five-year veteran defensive tackle formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Tennessee Titans on March 2. Babineaux would have likely commanded much more than that because of his mix of speed and quickness as a pass-rusher and his solid play against the run.

Jenkins' mix of youth, size and production would have made him a hot receiving commodity as a free agent. With the exception of the 2006 season (he took a 72-yard dip) his receiving yards totals have increased every year. His seven touchdowns in 2006 is a career high and show he can be a reliable red zone target.

Scanning the free agent wide receivers, there's no player that was on the market that showcased Jenkins' height and production for his age. A player like former Steelers receiver Nate Washington's stats compare favorably, though Jenkins' has the edge in size over the 6'1", 185-pound Washington.

Washington ended 2008 with 40 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns, in a similar style of offense in Pittsburgh. Four days after free agency began, Washington signed a six-year $27 million contract, including $9 million in guarantees, with the Tennessee Titans.

The advantages to the Falcons doing the deals this way were multiple.

First, they showed good will to their core players by extending them in the middle of a season and thereby never allowing them to test the free agency market.

By not testing the market, the Falcons got tremendous value with the contracts they had Jenkins and Babineaux sign and they are not locked in to the kind of length and guaranteed money that a free agency contract often demands.

While Jenkins and Babineaux can be considered the keys to the 2009 free agency, it's important to also not forget that Atlanta re-signed five of their other unrestricted free agents, including Davis. While most of these players are role players, one of them, linebacker Coy Wire, moved into a starting role near the end of 2008 and will provide excellent depth and special teams play.

Davis is also a valuable addition because he provides depth to the defensive end position and will battle former first-round pick Jamaal Anderson for a starting role in 2009.

So when you add it all up, the Falcons had a successful offseason, re-signing two core starters and one potential starter, signing a veteran starting linebacker, and a host of role players from Romberg to Wire.

And they did it all in a way that preserves a healthy salary cap status, which is something this current Atlanta regime will always look to maintain.

"Even though it may seem like it may not have been a very active time in free agency for the Falcons," Smith said recently on Atlanta's AM 680 (The Fan)'s Buck and Kincade, "we really, in our mind, signed four free agents."

That's definitely a different take and it's one Falcons fans need to consider. The Falcons new front office has set a precedence, showing they are committed to their own players first.

Those worried about Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White's future status should be pleased to consider this

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Good read. Those extensions were very underrated I think. A solid 4 and 5 year deals for some upcoming players. I personally think Michael Jenkins is going to be our breakout player this upcoming year with 800-1000 receiving yards. He and Matt Ryan have developed a strong chemistry and Ryan trusts Jenkins in man to man situations. Babs already broke out last year with his play and just needs to work on consistency.

Add to the fact that we will slowly build a sturdy foundation for this team throughout the draft, our team chemistry has potential to be one of the best in the league in terms of never quitting and the team giving it their all. While we may rely moreso on the offense this season, its only a matter of 1-2 years before we have quality players on each side of the ball.

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IMO both of those guys are players with limited upside. Both may be solid for us but they will never be Pro-bowlers.

So in one way neither should do poorly for a long period of time but their is a ceiling on what they both will contribute. Is that good or is that not so good?

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Re-signing a player keeps a team from taking a step back at that position. It does not improve the team at that position, it keeps it on the same level. If we lost Bab's, Jenkins, and Davis, we would've taken steps back at UT, WR, and DE. Instead, we re-signed them so that we wouldn't take a step back.

The question is, how have we improved our team? On defense, we lost Brooking, Grady, Boley, and Milloy. We only added Mike Peterson. Maybe DeCoud ends up being a stud and Nicholas proves he's ready for a starting position. We still lost depth/competition, which would make us worse now than we were last year. There's only so much we can fill through the draft.

I know Dimitroff and Smith are great at what they do and will ultimately put a good product on the field. There's still a ton of time left before the regular season.

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Bad read. This article makes it sound like the Falcons made some amazing offseason moves when in fact we're just doing what every other franchise does - resign their good players. Patriots resign their guys, Colts resign their guys - everybody does that.

And like pzummo said, resigning a player keeps a team from taking a step back - it does not improve the team.

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IMO both of those guys are players with limited upside. Both may be solid for us but they will never be Pro-bowlers.

So in one way neither should do poorly for a long period of time but their is a ceiling on what they both will contribute. Is that good or is that not so good?

So I guess if it's not a probowler at every position it's a bad team. This is not Madden!

LMAO. He took Busterson's position in week 12 of 2008. Barring injury Busterson is backing up Babineaux.

Obviously you only watched the stat and lineup sheet. He did not take his job(position) Ja was injured and did not play at all. Watch the da*& game, please.

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So I guess if it's not a probowler at every position it's a bad team. This is not Madden!

Obviously you only watched the stat and lineup sheet. He did not take his job(position) Ja was injured and did not play at all. Watch the da*& game, please.

he's too stuck up to watch the game, jamaal was hurt, reason he didnt play the last few games as you said. his agenda is pathetic.

busterson gotta be the dumbest made-up name ever

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Imo people keep talking about the players we let go. I dont know why, they made our defense slower(except maybe boley and foxworth). They couldn't cover and they where missing a step. How that makes your team better I dont know. I believe we have some good 2nd year players(who are much quicker and better in coverage from what I've seen so far) that will step in and do better than the guys we let go. Bottom line, we did improve our team just by letting those players go IMO.

No matter how much you love a player when he's old he's old.

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Good read.

I don't know what some of you are talking about, but it makes perfect sense...those re-signings of Jenkins and Babineaux saved us cap room and can possibly help us when we try to re-sign White. It makes no sense to re-sign our aging veterans in Grady, Brooking, and Milloy to contracts that aren't worth their abilities. The only player I wanted us to give another shot was Boley only because I felt that he could really adjust to the scheme and be a big playmaker for our defense, but I guess he wanted more than he was worth too. We have a good group of players to take over the starting positions and we will draft depth for those positions just like we did last year.

Trust our FO...I agree, things do look a bit iffy, but if they weren't sure about the guys that are competing for those starter roles, then I'm sure they would've given up the dough to keep the guys we let go.

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I think resigning Jenks was key because his size represents a big mismatch in the redzone....i think he still has a decent amount of upside...probably never a pro bowl guy but certainly serviceable as a second reciever...runs good routes and presents a mismatch vs most second db's.

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IMO both of those guys are players with limited upside. Both may be solid for us but they will never be Pro-bowlers.

So in one way neither should do poorly for a long period of time but their is a ceiling on what they both will contribute. Is that good or is that not so good?

Its good, having playes that contribute on a steady level. I dont know why you say limited upside though, a quick statwhore look on Babs place him in the top 15 amongst DT's in sacks and solo tackles, which in my book aint half bad. Jenkins is 8th in recieving average and 43rd in revieving yards (didnt take the #2 position into account). They both perform at a very high level and watching the games support that, they never take plays off.
LMAO. He took Busterson's position in week 12 of 2008. Barring injury Busterson is backing up Babineaux.
Look below.
he's too stuck up to watch the game, jamaal was hurt, reason he didnt play the last few games as you said. his agenda is pathetic.

busterson gotta be the dumbest made-up name ever

Co-sign.
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