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Falcons must add or develop playmakers on defense


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Falcons must add or develop playmakers on defense

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Falcons defensive end John Abraham, who made the Pro Bowl and was selected to the All-Pro first team, is the team's most feared playmaker on defense.

Abraham, who will make $8 million in base salary next season, is paid accordingly. He's set to receive the second-highest base salary on the team behind quarterback Matt Ryan ($11.25 million).

With Abraham in the last year of his contract and turning 33 in May, the Falcons don't appear to have his heir apparent on the roster. Yet they have some well-priced veterans whom they may part ways with and use those funds in free agency.

Cornerback Dunta Robinson ($5.5 million) is the second-highest-paid player on defense, followed by defensive end Jamaal Anderson ($3.558 million), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux ($3.5 million) and safety Erik Coleman ($3 million).

Anderson and Coleman don't project as starters, but have starter base salaries. If the team needs those funds in free agency, it could trade or release those players.

The team spent much of last season overhauling the secondary where there is clearly still work to be done.

This offseason, because of production and Abraham's age, the attention will shift to the defensive line.

While Abraham returned to form with 13 sacks after just 5.5 in 2009, the rest of the defensive ends, Kroy Biermann (3), Anderson (2), Chauncey Davis (1) and Lawrence Sidbury (0), combined for six sacks. Head coach Mike Smith has stated that the Falcons would like 10 sacks coming from the end spot opposite of Abraham.

The inability to get sacks was exposed late in the regular season by the New Orleans Saints and in the divisional playoff game by the Green Bay Packers.

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder tried to create pressure with blitzing schemes, but New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees escaped eight times. In the playoffs, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers escaped four times, once on a critical third down in the third quarter.

If the Falcons' defensive line could mount pressure and get sacks from their 4-3 base defense or from their 3-3-5 nickel package, then they could drop more players into coverage and force quarterbacks to have laser-like accuracy.

The team has some key decisions to make concerning its linebacker unit.

Weakside linebacker Mike Peterson, strongside linebacker Stephen Nicholas and reserve Coy Wire could become free agents. The team drafted Sean Weatherspoon in the first round in 2010 and he showed promise before ankle and knee injuries hampered his rookie campaign.

"Mike is a guy that we really enjoy having around here on a number of levels," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said of Peterson.

In the secondary, Robinson, who was signed to a six-year, $57 million contract, was paid to be a playmaker. He fought through a severe technique change, hamstring injury and concussion to have a solid season.

With teams electing to stay away from Robinson, Brent Grimes was heavily targeted. He made the most of his opportunities and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.

In 2010, Grimes was targeted a league-high 119 times by opponents, according to Stats, Inc. Grimes knocked down 23 passes and had five interceptions, which was tied for the team lead with safety William Moore.

Grimes' contract status is murky because of the labor situation. His contract is up and, under the old system that runs out in March, he would become an exclusive rights free agent.

A problem spot for the Falcons was at nickel back. Brian Williams, who suffered a late-season knee injury, was unable to remain healthy over the past two seasons.

Christopher Owens opened the season as the starter at nickel, but couldn't hold the position. With Williams out, Owens struggled mightily in the playoff game against Green Bay.

One option might be for the Falcons to play some "heavy" nickel and give Coleman, who accepted his demotion at strong safety, a shot at nickel back. Also, Dominique Franks is an option after a year of learning the defense.

Starting safeties Thomas DeCoud and Moore showed promise and should continue to blossom. Rookie Shann Schillinger made a big contribution on special teams before he fractured his ankle and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 28.

The key for the defense over the offseason is to find more playmakers either on the roster, in the draft or in free agency.

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Please sign Ray Edwards or Charles Johnson at DE and get Champ Bailey in for NB.

Johnson and Bailey are going to be highly thought of and priced accordingly. Luckily, Bailey has already said he wants to go to an organization that can win a Super Bowl. I believe we qualify in that catigory. We have a better shot at him than 20 other teams. Johnson on the other hand is going to be a tougher situation. i think he may command a price that we are not willing to pay. We shall see.

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ja98 and erik coleman make starter money??wow. does coleman even see the field except for special teams??

Maybe this is the year that JA98 finally gets the boot? We say this every year about the guy (well, I do anyway). I can't see him and Coleman being here next season.

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Maybe this is the year that JA98 finally gets the boot? We say this every year about the guy (well, I do anyway). I can't see him and Coleman being here next season.

I think Coleman goes before JA98.

JA98 actually went well for us this year and made worthy contributions to that DT rotation especially against the run i think we actually are going to keep the guy around.

Mo Pete well I wonder if he can go one more year theres a decision to be made with him.

NB while Owens struggled I'm not ready to throw him on the scrap heap yet and I'm also interested in how Franks goes next year aswell.

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yea.. since we are adding a DE... I think this the year JA98 get that boot...

FA wise.. I think Charles Johnson will get around 7-8 million a year which is very affordable if u are getting a 10+ sack a year LDE... I'm not sure how long champ contract will be but i dont think it will be as big as some think... i do know he is not playing NB... Maybe in a charles woodson type role but not full time pure NB.

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nice to have another great pass rushing DE but CB ASomugha would help us the most we can do so many things on defense with a Shut down CB. Move Grimes to NB. Why PASSING--Green Bay, Rodgers 31-36-0-366. Grimes was getting beat play after play most of those yards came againts Grimes.. Grimes made Rogers look like Jonnhy Unitas. Is it me or does our defense make and average QB look like Johnny Unitas?? We beat the Packers if we had Asomugha playing left CB and Gimes or Williams playing NB.We need to get some Man coverage CBs like the Jets have. quit playing the 10 yard off zone defense crwp...

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nice to have another great pass rushing DE but CB ASomugha would help us the most we can do so many things on defense with a Shut down CB. Move Grimes to NB. Why PASSING--Green Bay, Rodgers 31-36-0-366. Grimes was getting beat play after play most of those yards came againts Grimes.. Grimes made Rogers look like Jonnhy Unitas. Is it me or does our defense make and average QB look like Johnny Unitas?? We beat the Packers if we had Asomugha playing left CB and Gimes or Williams playing NB.We need to get some Man coverage CBs like the Jets have. quit playing the 10 yard off zone defense crwp...

With the Raider's new head coach, I'd be surprised if Aso left.

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I think Coleman goes before JA98.

JA98 actually went well for us this year and made worthy contributions to that DT rotation especially against the run i think we actually are going to keep the guy around.

Mo Pete well I wonder if he can go one more year theres a decision to be made with him.

NB while Owens struggled I'm not ready to throw him on the scrap heap yet and I'm also interested in how Franks goes next year aswell.

Not to mention Anderson actually has a cap hit of roughly 1 million.

Most of his money was tied to incentives which he obviously has not met. But for what his cap hit actually is it was solid value.

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::NEWS FLASH:: Aaron Rodgers is good! Also, Grimes does not have the skill set or the size to play NB. He is fine where he is. And everybody who is remotely realistic knows that it will be a HUGE surprise if the Falcons actively go after Nnamdi Asomugha or any other premeire free agent. They will do their due diligence but chances are not great that they become Falcons. Also, sometimes we as fans tend to think of this with a "Madden NFL" mindset where we are the only team interested in a great player when in reality their are 31 other teams

and the money is real.

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Monster DE on the left side. Problem solved, for the D-Line. Should help the Dee Bees.

I think with Grimes, Robinson, Owens, Williams and Franks. We should be okay. Wouldn't hurt to get another corner via. Draft.

Also perhaps draft another DE or something :/

This is me addressing defense. :D

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ja98 and erik coleman make starter money??wow. does coleman even see the field except for special teams??

U didn't know that...LOLOL...expecially JA98. He got paid very well... B)...and Coleman is a product of the way we do things. Giving him that kind of $$ in the beginning says that they didn't expect anyone to challenge for his position.... ;)

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I think Coleman goes before JA98.

JA98 actually went well for us this year and made worthy contributions to that DT rotation especially against the run i think we actually are going to keep the guy around.

Mo Pete well I wonder if he can go one more year theres a decision to be made with him.

NB while Owens struggled I'm not ready to throw him on the scrap heap yet and I'm also interested in how Franks goes next year aswell.

He certainly played better and would be worth keeping...if he had been drafted in the 3rd or 4th round and paid accordingly.

His contribution simply doesn't warrant the money for a #8 overall pick. I think he's gone with Jerry getting healthy and if we add a DE in FA. We have an abundance of less expensive rotational DT's.

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I'm for getting ray Edwards and drafting Romeus to replace Davis and JA98. That way we get an immediate impact and can play Sidbury and let Romeus wait until he is completely healthy. If he never gets there, we only lost a mid round pick. Nothing serious.

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want a pass rush?

see my sig!

there likely wont be a day one sack master @ pick 27!

I would be happy w a DE in FA and CB, RB, WR and TE in early draft.

Great minds think alike. I just posted the same thing in another thread. Don't reach for a DE at 27. We reached for one in 2007 at #8. How did that work out for us?

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I believe the front office has its eye on Charles Johnson in free agency. We are known for making at least one big splash in free agency each year. They view Johnson as a compliment to Abraham for the short-term and his eventual replacement for the long-term. Remember guys, Abe has only one year left on his contract. I would also consider taking a flyer on Haynesworth, if the money was right. It's time for this defense to get nasty.

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