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Tdwii’S 2012 Off-Season Proposal V1


TheDirtyWordII
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Review

2010 & 2011 ended with resounding thuds. Accountability is tangible now in Flowery Branch and as such, has been adopted by a fan base that not only seems to have grown more devoted in the last 10 years, but has the specter of the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons chief rival, having tasted Super Bowl champagne in recent years. Not two weeks into the off-season and the Falcons have two new coordinators helming the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Offense – Coming into 2011, the book on the Falcons stated that in order for them to be successful, they had to be able to run the ball in order to be successful. By running the ball, that opened up passing lanes for Ryan to exploit. And it would be tough to argue that this wasn’t in fact the case. Such a truth was a significant if not primary factor for why Ryan was not, and should not have been in any discussion about being in the top tier of NFL QB’s. 2011 did not start smoothly either as Ryan struggled mightily through the first 7 games of the season. A dismal 9:8 TD-to-INT ratio, a 6.68 YPA did not seem to bely progress that a 4th year QB, particularly one with the weapons at his disposal should be making. But his final 9 games were a revelation. Posting 102.9 QB rating, Ryan became a prolific and more efficient QB. He was able to better integrate all the Falcons weapons into their offensive attack. While this is an area that Ryan can still improve upon, the insertion of Julio Jones into the mix allowed the Falcons once a decent rapport was built between the two to become a more dangerous offensive team. While hindsight is 20/20, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Gonzalez had his best year as a Falcon this year because defenses no longer could lock onto him as the #2 option in the passing game.

As for Michael Turner, if you look at his composite numbers for 2011, you would see a player who led the NFC in rushing yards and also was able to provide more of a threat in the passing game than he ever had. He is the prototypical lunch pail RB and while he came to Atlanta with the nickname ‘The Burner’, a more appropriate one at this stage of his career would be ‘The Churner’. While the numbers looked great on the surface, it did feel like Turner struggled with consistent production, particularly against solid teams in close contests, more than he had in the past. And despite better production in the passing game, his skill limitations in this area prevent the Falcons from leveraging the RB position as a weapon in the passing game versus just a competent safety valve and as such, there is an element of offensive diversity that the Falcons are leaving on the table given Ryan’s complete command of the offense and QB position. However, it would be unfair to say that this unit did not make progress in 2011…it did unequivocally. Personnel moves can be made to shore up some of these shortcomings, but the key remains Ryan and how the next level in his game can be unlocked. Given the encouraging signs produced this season, his maturation process is still progressing, but it’s not without some significant disappointments. And 24-2 certainly qualifies. Can Dirk Koetter find it…we’ll see.

Defense – 2011 saw the emergence of a new star for the Falcons on defense in Sean Weatherspoon. Almost from the first play of the season, when he knifed through a gap and cut down Matt Forte for a loss, you could see an immediate improvement in the Falcons 2010 1st rounder. He continued to make impact plays throughout the season, although his impact did seem to diminish in the last ¼ of the season as teams either started scheming for him, or he wore down. Nonetheless, Weatherspoon’s emergence represented the first new foundational building block on that unit to emerge since 2008.

Often times I felt the Falcons would start very strong and aggressive on defense. I remember thinking on multiple occasions that the performance in the 1st quarter or even 1st half was exceptional only to look at the stat line after the game and realize that the opposing offense was allowed to gain their sea legs and put up decent numbers. And as much as I use numbers to tell me the story, I know it’s not the whole story. But no game was clearer in this trend pattern than when Green Bay came back to town. On that night, the Falcons defense looked elite for about one half of football. In turn, the whole team did. By the end of the night Aaron Rodgers had sliced up the Falcons for close to 400 yards and the Packers cruised in for a rather matter of fact victory.

With the trade of Van Gorder for Nolan, we go from a first time NFL coordinator to a seasoned one…one who’s also been an NFL Head Coach. I don’t know if I’d qualify this as a theory, but it’s not outrageous to think that while Van Gorder might have been solid at developing a plan of attack, his ability to adjust to the flow of the game or instill that in his players might have been lacking. In addition, Van Gorder’s unit’s performance on 3rd down was horrific. While it was pinpointed as an issue this past season, in his last 3 seasons Falcons opponents converted 43% of their 3rd downs, after a respectable 38% showing in 2008. That simply won’t do and IMO is an example of some of the stagnation that has become a defining trait of this regime.

As such, 2012 promises to be the most unpredictable of years for the Falcons. They’ve perhaps already endured more upheaval in this calendar year, than they have in any other calendar year under Dimitroff/Smith save for 2008. There are more FA’s to consider locking up or letting go on the roster than there has been at any other juncture for this regime. And also, some significant personnel and psychological hurdles to now overcome.

Issues

Offensive Line – The regression of this unit was probably the most troubling development for the Falcons in 2011. Perhaps they had overachieved up until this point under Smith and Paul Boudreau. While they were able to pull it together after a dismal start, the Falcons never really found a suitable replacement for Harvey Dahl who left via FA last year. Dahl had always been mentioned as one of the nastiest and dirtiest players in the NFL, which seemed to make up for whatever lack of natural talent he possessed. With his demeanor gone, it seemed the Falcons lost a bit of their mojo up front. Pass protection was never their strong suit but this was probably the worst we’ve seen Matt Ryan get beat up in his 4 years here. This will need attention.

Paul Boudreau was let go, and that seems to follow his career pattern of staying at a place no longer than 3-4 years and moving on elsewhere. This unit always seemed to be an overachieving bunch, and once guys like Clabo & Blalock got paid - now with expectations affixed to them based on their compensation, they could no longer be termed that.

Garrett Reynolds was a disaster and Joe Hawley aspires to be servicable. So the Falcons have a signficant hole to fill along the line.

Matt Ryan He’s not really a problem/issue. He is though the solution to our problems but at the same time…he has not solved them. As I pointed out above, the Falcons last 9 games saw them make a quantum leap in the passing game. But the bar has been raised in the NFL regarding what constitutes elite level QB play. 10 years ago, the season that Ryan just had would have garnered him All-Pro consideration. Today, he’s the 4th or 5th best QB in the NFC in a best case evaluation at the position. With that said he IS our QB and will be for a long time.

The issue is this. With only 2 years remaining on his deal…this would appear to be time to lock him up for a good part of the next decade and that is going to require Arthur Blank to step up with the most significant financial commitment he’s ever made to a single player. Ryan is due $11.5M in 2012 with another $10M in 2013. Also, given his 0-3 playoff record…you might be getting him at a bit of a value. Signing Ryan to a long term contract that converted his salary next year to signing bonus which would diminish the hit on the Falcons salary sap for next year would be a wise move at this point and I suspect you’ll see the Falcons move in that direction. Ultimately, this is the type of deal I figure would be good for both; 8 years - $136M - $54M guaranteed. Convert $11.5M of his 2012 salary to signing bonus with an additional $24M in immediate bonus money.My salary cap knowledge is rudimentary, but if I had to guess, such a deal offers the Falcons as much as $10M worth of salary cap room to play with that they did not have previously.

The ironic thing with Ryan IMO is that when he came into the NFL, if there was one thing you didn’t question about him, it was his intangibles. He was seen as a student of the game, someone who was going to put in the work to be the best he could be. I think he gets criticized unfairly for his perceived lack of physical attributes/talent. No, he doesn’t have Stafford’s arm or Vick’s legs. But IMO his deep throws lack accuracy, not arm strength. And you simply don’t throw for 4200 yards & 29 TD’s without having significant skills. So the calls to change the offense to something for akin to a WCO because he lacks arm strength are tough to take seriously. Not that he wouldn’t succeed in one, but it’s not the only offense he can have success in. But really, I think it’s the intangibles that are holding him back now. Championship intangibles. ‘I speak for the Falcons’ intangibles. While it probably only is a pet peeve of mine and not indicative of anything significant, having Ryan come out of the tunnel 3rd to last at this stage of his career is ludicrous. I don’t think that by having him come out last, anything will change. But symbolically, sometimes it’s difficult to go from boy to man amidst a static environment and circumstances. It wouldn’t hurt Ryan to actually say something of significance in an interview instead of him toeing a company line or making sure he doesn’t say anything inflammatory. Ryan is quick to deflect credit. That’s a great quality, however, IMO it starts to feel disingenuous when you do it ALL the time. And also if you take responsibility/blame for poor performances. If you do that, well now you’re just a ‘by the book’ guy, and that’s not really inspirational.

Look at the great ones. Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Big Ben…they all have a quality that is not physical, but rather an aura that defines them as a quarterback. They got to that point not by following a script. Too often, I feel Ryan is trying to be the QB and franchise leader he feels the Falcons want him to be versus perhaps a more individually defined version. Perhaps the loong term committment will free Ryan to do this and also allow the Falcons to coax him in that direction.

Pass Rush – This almost feels like it’s one perennially. However, the Falcons did IMO show progress in this area. For one, the 2011 season saw the Falcons post their highest sack total when you take out Abraham’s contribution. While Abraham did not play at his 2010 All-Pro level, the slack was picked up by 4 other players who posted at least 3 sacks (Weatherspoon, Peters, Sidbury, Edwards). Overall, it felt like the Falcons were able to generate pass rush from multiple pressure points this season as opposed to previous seasons when they relied largely on Abraham. However, the Falcons did suffer from a chronic issue where they went long stretches without seeming to cause the QB to even flinch allowing said QB to more easily find their reads and rhythm. The issue here is that the Falcons have limited resources in draft picks and higher priorities in FA to find personnel that can be brought in to augment the existing unit. Ray Edwards was brought in to provide a bookend presence but his impact was minimal – he wasn’t really that much of an upgrade over Jamaal Anderson. He’s known as someone who disappears for stretches of a season at a time, but I was hoping that stretch wasn’t 16 games. Is it fair to expect him to bounce back? My early read on him after watching him for 16 games is that he looks rather stiff and was less athletic than I thought he would be. While a knee injury was said to have plagued him a bit this year, he’s not close to the pass rusher that a declining Abraham is at this late stage of his career and 8 sacks would seem to be his ceiling. Kroy Biermann probably has one more shot to become an impact player and I’d like to see Nolan make Biermann & Sidbury his star pupils.

2012 Off-Season

Re-Sign (in priority)

Brent Grimes; 6 years - $51M - $20M guaranteed. $15M signing bonus

Curtis Lofton; 6 years - $54M - $21.5M guaranteed. $14M signing bonus

Eric Weems; 4 years - $5.5M - $1.75M Guaranteed. $1.25M signing bonus.

Kroy Biermann; 3 years -$10.5M - $5M guaranteed; $4M signing bonus

Chris Redman; 2 years - $3M - $2M guaranteed; $1.5M signing bonus

Todd McClure; 1 year - $1.75M

James Sanders; 1 year - $1M

Allow to Leave

John Abraham

Thomas DeCoud

Harry Douglas

Mike Peterson

Kelvin Hayden

Jason Snelling

The Falcons will have some tough calls to make this off-season. So far under Dimitroff/Smith, the Falcons have been able to build their team on the backs of rather cheap talent. With the exception of Abraham and Gonzalez, none of their other free agents are big money players which means the Falcons won’t realize all that much in salary cap savings/removal by allowing a lot of these players to leave.

As it relates to the re-signs, Grimes and Lofton are really 1a & 1b. The Falcons know they can’t allow either to leave, but finding a player to replace Grimes IMO would be more difficult than finding a Lofton replacement, although not by much. Lofton has become the stoic leader of this unit and 2011 has been his best season. As such, the Falcons need to set an example that they take care of their own.

It’s difficult to measure Chris Redman’s value. Aside from a 3 game stretch in 2009, Redman has hardly seen the field in Matt Ryan’s 4 seasons. But he’s now 35 and it’s certainly worth asking if he’s still going to be the back-up. I don’t think he would garner much interest on the open market so competition to sign him would be minimal if non-existent. So 2 years seems about right, with but one of the years guaranteed. But at the end of the day, this is a position the Falcons haven’t paid much attention to and as such, re-signing Redman is necessary.

McClure would seem to be a year-to-year proposition now. Also 35, McClure was drafted in the year after the Falcons went to the SB. So his beard is certainly gray. He’s always been a middle of the road player, but at the same time painstakingly consistent and that will be difficult to replace when the time comes. That said, 35 year old middle of the road players have to play on one year deals or not at all and it seems he still wants to play.

While Sanders is still relatively young, could he get more than a 1 year deal on the open market? His play was OK for the Falcons – but he showed no playmaking ability. He’s a dependable player in that he’s going to limit his mistakes and not beat himself. I choose Sanders over DeCoud in large part because I think DeCoud will be able to garner a better contract on the FA market. DeCoud is actually the better player, but not by so much that the Falcons can blindly re-sign him and to build the 2012 version of the Falcons, some tough calls are going to need to be made and this is one of them. Maybe we’re robbing Thomas to pay Brent. Either way…Sanders is a 2012 Falcon.

Having Abraham and Douglas leave was a tough call. But the one stat that grabbed me in 2011 was how many of Abraham’s sacks came against rookies (or very young QB’s). It was like 6 of his 9.5. And the consistency from week-to-week simply was not there in terms if game impact. He’s still a dangerous player and he’ll find work no doubt. But in the end, I think it’s time to thank him for his significant contribution to the Falcons.

I had originally had Douglas on the keep list…but the thing that bothered me the most about him was that aside from a half of football when he took over for an injured Julio, I didn’t notice him much this year. In a season where the Falcons threw for more yards than at any other time in their history, Douglas accounted for 498. And 133 of those came as an injury replacement. IN the slot role, whether it was Douglas’s inability to make an impact or Ryan inability to bring him into the game flow on a consistent basis…making a longer term commitment to him without him having really done much didn’t make sense. You’d have to think that Julio will be a bigger part of the offense in 2012 leaving less room for Harry. So either via a combination of Weems/Meier or someone else unforeseen, I think we save the money here.

Allowing Snelling to leave or at least try and leave is a testament to how little attention he drew last year on the open market. Nothing he did this year would seem to suggest he raised it. The Falcons could probably wait until after the draft to re-sign him if necessary. But during the frenzied period…he’s a non-priority.

I was one of those who did not stump for the signing of Ray Edwards. I thought Kroy Biermann was the same class of player or could come close at least. While Edwards certainly didn’t set the world afire during his first season in Atlanta, Biermann really struggled to find his role on this team. But with Abraham gone, the Falcons find a way to do a front-loaded cost effective deal with Biermann who still remains one of the better hustle players the Falcons have. Perhaps under Mike Nolan, he can get an 8-10 sack year out of a player I thought would be able to do this.

Mike Peterson has been a very nice player for the Falcons and transitioned extraordinarily well to a reserve role in 2011. But with Akeem Dent having been drafted, he’s a logical ready-made replacement after a season of apprenticeship. On the plus side, I’d be surprised if Peterson latched on anywhere else so if something happens to the LB corps, he could be brought back off the street potentially.

FA – Carl Nicks; 6 years - $69M - $40M guaranteed.

Far as I can tell, the Falcons have two personnel holes along the O-Line that I would classify as immediate priorities and we all know what they are; LT & RG. LT is the bigger one IMO. With that said though, Nicks is the best available FA at the moment on the market and given that he fills a position of need, the Falcons will break the bank for him and are almost forced to. Too frequently, the Falcons allowed pressure up the middle that caused issues in both the pass & run games.

A problem this creates is that this means the Falcons are playing on average over $21.6M/year to 3 O-Line positions which is REALLY high. But on the flip side, this has been the drafting history of the Falcons under Dimitroff along the O-Line:

Sam Baker

Garret Reynolds

Joe Hawley

Mike Johnson

Andrew Jackson

To date, the Falcons have preferred to develop their own within this unit, but it’s hard to justify continuing along this track when guys fail to develop into contributors. We know now that Baker simply is a below average LT. Reynolds was a disaster at RG. Hawley qualifies as serviceable at best at the moment although his ceiling may be higher than what’s been shown. Johnson has been a ghost and Andrew Jackson is a 2011 7th rounder who while being deemed good value at the time of his selection, is a completely unknown quantity.

In retrospect, would the Falcons have been better off securing Harvey Dahl who signed a fairly modest contract with the Rams? Maybe, but it was also common knowledge that the Falcons were pressed up against the 2011 salary cap. So in fairness, it seemed that there was only so much they could do during that time. With this signing, they deal a blow to their arch rival as well, which is always nice but are going to have to overpay to do it. Compared to the deal Logan Mankins signed with the Patriots, this represents an average of $2.5M more/season.

CAVEAT: I’d still peg the chances of Nicks making it to the FA market at less than 50%. I simply can’t see Drew Brees letting this happen. The talk is that the tag will need to be used on Brees thereby eliminating the possibility of it being used on Nicks. And I know the Saints have some significant FA’s to sign. So this is a 'wait and see what happens' situation. But if Nicks makes it to the open market…we have to be on his doorstep at 12:01AM on the opening day of signing period.

Trade: The Falcons trade a 2013 4th round draft choice to the New England Patriots for Matt Light. Extend Light for 2 years (through 2014) and convert 2012 salary to signing bonus.

In one of my proposals last year, I advocated this signing then too. It would not have been a bad move although I underestimated how much it would take to sign him. The term to describe Light at this stage of his career is dependable…and that would represent an upgrade for the Falcons at the LT slot. The first order of business would be sign Light to a 2 year extension in order to convert his $3.4M 2012 scheduled salary to signing bonus which would help lessen his cap charge in an off-season where the Falcons have to re-sign a lot of their own.

For the Patriots, the need for additional picks in the 2012 draft is not as pronounced since they have an additional 1st & 2nd rounder (they are missing a 5th rounder due to the OchoCinco trade). But the Patriots are usually thinking a year ahead in these scenarios and since they traded their 2013 5th rounder already (Albert Haynesworth), Belichick could see this as an opportunity to regain an asset lost for a player that may have little role with the 2012 Patriots. Nate Solder was their 1st round selection last year and the Patriots signed Light in large part because the lockout eliminated any chance for the physically gifted but raw OT out of Colorado to provide the Pats coaching staff confidence that he could handle the role from the get go. But Solder has acquitted himself well this year to the pro game (albeit mostly at RT filling in for Sebastian Vollmer) and it would stand to reason that the Pats would want to have both start in 2012 while cycling in 2011 5th rounder, Marcus Cannon, player who only dropped that far in the draft due to a battle against lymphoma, in a reserve role.

There are better LT’s for sure, but Light is available for an affordable price. He’s a pros pro and will represent an upgrade at a critical position for the Falcons. It also buys them time to find a long term solution at the position in 2013.

2012 Mock Draft

There has been a lot of debate as to the prowess of Thomas Dimitroff’s drafting ability. But if you can claim in your four years of drafting that of the 32 players you have drafted, 26 are on your roster still (and that team has had the success of the Falcons)…you have to tip your cap. Obviously not all players drafted are major contributors and in some cases are on their way to being busts (Mike Johnson, Peria Jerry to name two).

Last year, albeit on another board, I correctly forecasted the Julio Jones trade-up close to 7 weeks prior to the draft. While I liked Kyle Rudolph if we had stayed put at #27, the prospect of acquiring Jones was something I felt the Falcons needed to do. Still, I do admit that when the trade actually went down on draft day, I was shocked. But the logic I presented at the time seemed to jive with how Dimitroff wound up selling the deal afterwards. Will I hit another nail on the head this year? Well, I did predict us drafting ‘Spoon as well a year earlier, but this year without a pick until the 50’s…well, my streak may end. Here’s how I see the 2012 draft shaking out.

Round 2: David Wilson; RB – Virginia Tech

As much as I like Jason Snelling, there are just physical limitations to his game that can’t be ignored. And the cold hard truth is that that since the 2010 New Orleans game when we defeated them in the Superdome, a period of 26 games, Snelling’s production reads like this:

96 carries

280 Rushing Yards

2.9 YPC

63 receptions

413 Receiving Yards

3 TD’s

While his presence in the passing game has been useful, his complete inability to provide support in the run game has forced the Falcons to rely again too much on Turner. While Jacquizz Rodgers has shown in spurts that he has game, I don’t trust his size in pass protection yet. He also strikes me as a future Darren Sproles type, where you’ll need to manage his snap count. And in offense that lacks a certain degree of diversity, Snelling is a less effective version of Turner with better hands. The Falcons need to do better at this position. I’m forecasting the Falcons to catch a bit of a break here on the basis that RB’s simply drop on draft day, even the top tier. Mark Ingram went from being a Top 10 guy to #28 overall. Wilson has future feature RB written all over him.

Turner is not bad. Granted, he does little to excite you in terms of his meat & potatoes style, but he is limited. Wilson has explosion and burst which he brings in a solid, but compact frame. The idea for the Falcons with this pick will be to introduce an RBBC arrangement which will keep both Turner and Wilson fresh, while developing special packages for Rodgers to contribute in.

FALLBACK: Chis Polk; RB – Washington

Round 3: Ladarius Green; TE – Louisiana-Lafayette

As a big fan of Rudolph, it’s clear that I am concerned about filling the void that will be created when Tony Gonzalez does retire. And I will admit that that desire to bring Rudolph on board was done independently of the Julio Jones acquisition. The need for another weapon in the passing game is simply not as dire as I thought it was last year. However, when you look at our depth chart, TE is an incredibly thin position for the Falcons. Michael Palmer is our #2 TE and according to profootballfocus.com has averaged 11-12 offensive snaps/game during his first two NFL seasons. I don’t see Palmer as a viable long term or even injury replacement for Gonzo. It’s also clear that the Falcons did in fact spend a good deal of time investigating Rudolph as an option.

The emergence of Jimmy Graham in New Orleans & Rob Gronkowski (not to mention Aaron Hernandez) speak to the trend of big athletic TE’s that provide match-up nightmares for defenses becoming more prevalent, especially in elite offenses and passing attacks. In Green, the Falcons can feel good about the succession plan at the position and while they would ideally ease Green into the professional game, he could provide situational support immediately. Green is going to have to hit the weight room but he has the frame to put on 10-15 more pounds and oozes athleticism. His blocking is going also going to require significant work. Tony Gonzalez had his best season with the Falcons last season and you would think based on his performance and appearance that he could go on for another 2-3 years. And even if that’s true, having a player of Green’s ilk that the Falcons can use as yet another weapon, and yet be a developmental prospect for a core role in future years is another case of the Falcons thinking ahead.

Round 5: Brandon Brooks; OG – Miami OH

Brooks is raw…very raw. But at 6’5 340, possesses great size and very solid athleticism for a man as big as he. While Nicks is certainly Plan A, Brooks doesn’t really even qualify as Plan B because he probably won’t be able to contribute until 2013. But drafting Brooks shows the Falcons are looking to change their philosophy a bit along the O-Line and will not necessarily shy away from size like they seem to have in previous drafts.

Round 6: Austin Davis; QB – Southern Mississippi

Against DET, when Matt Ryan went down, I thought the season was over. Fortunately, the injury looked worse than it was. But in a year where the Falcons came thisclose to an existence without Matt Ryan, watched the Colts fall apart without Peyton Manning and get beat by the Texans with T.J. Yates, the Falcons need to realize that their back-up situation is tenuous and that steps need to be taken to find someone they can count on to caddy for Ryan, for years to come. JPW has really not shown anything in his 3 seasons with the Falcons and while Redman still seems capable, additional qualified depth at this position is warranted.

Davis is a gritty type QB with lots of moxie who profiles perfectly as a back-up. He’s got good (not great) NFL size at 6’2 220. But he’s got tons of game experience having started at Southern Miss since his freshman year (he’s thrown 1500 college passes). He sported a career 3-to-1 TD:INT ratio and showed mobility (1355 career rushing yards). The Southern Miss football program though improved every year he was at the helm. He’ll have to be coached up and should not be counted on to even contend for QB2 until 2013. But the Falcons finally invest in a worthwhile prospect to develop behind Ryan.

Round 7; Vince Browne; DE – Northwestern

Brown was more effective in 2010 with 7 sacks and 58 tackles. But the Falcons have had some success with drafting D-Lineman in the 7th round (Vance Walker, Cliff Matthews), so they continue to the trend.

Forecasted Concerns/Questions

Why sign Ryan now? The Saints let Brees get to FA. Ryan’s got 2 years left.

Think about this though relating to Brees. Whatever they wind up signing Brees to will simply add to their bloated 2012 cap figure. He is not counting against it. I don’t know why Brees was not signed prior to this, but IMO, it has to be an error on their part. Brees will command top dollar and while I think the chances of him leaving are nil, agents don’t get sentimental and the 2012 league year represents a gun to the Saints head. In addition, waiting until now could crimp the Saints ability to maneuver on the open market or at least in retaining other critical pieces to the team. I would not want the Falcons to find themselves in that position. Even waiting until next off-season to sign Ryan makes little sense because it’s quite possible the signs of significant progress he showed over the last 9 games this year could manifest themselves over 16 in 2012. Waiting 1 more year could cost the Falcons in my estimation an additional $25M over the life of the deal. Lock him up now. He took the next step.

We have pass rush issues, O-Line issues and you spend 3 of our 5 picks on skill position players!!??

Since 2008, believe it or not, of the 32 draft selections the Falcons have made, the Falcons have spent but 7 selections on skill position players.

Julio Jones

Jacquizz Rodgers

Kerry Meier

Matt Ryan

Keith Zinger

Harry Douglas

Thomas Brown

As a percentage of draft picks used on skill position players, the Falcons rank 31st of 32 NFL teams during this time period. Even if you give the Falcons Tony Gonzalez as one of their draft picks since they traded a 2nd rounder for him, they still rank 31st in terms of percentage.

While the Falcons made a big move for Julio last year, their lack of focus in drafting at these positions is one of the reasons I think the Falcons offense has stalled a bit. Personnel and depth at skill positions allow for versatility and diversity on that side of the ball. We got a little taste of that with Jacquizz this year who added an element we hadn’t had since Norwood was able to stay healthy.

Sean Payton said it best. NFL football now is about adjustments and being able to confuse your opponent. Concealing what you are going to do until the last possible moment and having the ability to adjust on the fly. The teams that do it best…they win.

If you look at the play distribution and carry ratio for two of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, New Orleans and Philadelphia…you’ll see the success they have in their run game is set up in large part due to the lower percentage of time their RB’s are actually carrying the ball.

Sproles/Thomas/Ingram combined for 319 carries. But they were on the field 1266 snaps. So they ran the ball 25.2% of the time when those players were in the game. Now Sproles ratio was much lower (14.3%) while Ingram’s was much higher (55.7%). But the point is, the Saints running game wasn’t based on ability as it was on misdirection.

As for the Eagles, LeSean McCoy might be the best RB in the NFL now. He ran the ball on 30.5% of his snaps. His versatility though allows him to create plays in the passing game.

Turner, he ran the ball on 301 of his 628 snaps; 47.9%. Sometimes being predictable isn’t just about what play you call on first down. It’s about the different personnel you can call plays out of. So to me, RB is a real need for the Falcons.

What if Nicks doesn’t make it to FA? He’s your only guy.

The Falcons patter has been to target one big FA name when they venture out into the marketplace. I think they are cognizant of not bringing in too many new veteran faces at a time that sign big deals. I suspect that come the late March/early April time frame, when the FA market has been raked of its prized assets, more affordable and less intrusive talent will be looked at, probably at the safety position to begin with. Losing DeCoud will not be insignificant as he is a viable NFL starter. But he’s so prone to making big mistakes whether it’s on coverage or via bad angles he takes to the ball. And quite frankly, his propensity to over-celebrate routine plays irks me. If another James Sanders type makes it to FA, I could see the Falcons make a play…and it’s possible that availability doesn’t come about until July/August.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure personnel is the biggest problem the Falcons have. To me, it’s the stigma of stagnation now. At the time Dimitroff and Smith were hired, I think the hope was that we’d be where we’re at right now. The problem was that ‘the process’ was accelerated with the magical 2008 season. We thought we’d be getting our first playoff loss in 2011 back then, not our third. I never felt the Falcons hit their stride this past season. I don’t think you can count destructions of teams like Jacksonville and Tampa who had checked out by the time we played them as times when they looked elite. I’m talking about hitting a groove that when you’re on, you go into Green Bay and win by 17. Sometimes those grooves last 2-3 weeks…sometimes they last almost all season. Either way, the Falcons didn’t even really taste the former. Shaking up the establishment is a start, but to me, the Falcons have enough ‘players’ to be winning playoff games. Heck, the 49ers who were dismal last year are in the NFC Championship.

Signing Nicks isn’t a ‘this move will get us over the top move’. It’s a ‘we need to protect our $136M investment better’ move. I don’t see any other moves out there with this FA class that provides that good of an answer to this significant a problem.

As always – these are the types of debates I relish having and I don’t mind criticisms or opposing POV’s. Sometimes I see things from one POV and when someone else presents theirs, I see their logic. So bomb away!

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Great post. Nice to read a fair critique of Ryan that's not drenched in agenda. I agree with almost everything you suggest. Not sure about letting Abe walk without attempting to get a deal. Totally disagree with letting Harry walk. I think he could flourish in this new system if Koetter lives up to his sales pitch, remember, Mularkey's known for not knowing how to use the slot. He was the reason New England got Welker.

.Not sold on resigning Weems, or letting go of Snelling. Love the Mock, the trade for Light, and totally agree on trying and getting Nicks.

Great stuff as usual.

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Great post. Nice to read a fair critique of Ryan that's not drenched in agenda. I agree with almost everything you suggest. Not sure about letting Abe walk without attempting to get a deal. Totally disagree with letting Harry walk. I think he could flourish in this new system if Koetter lives up to his sales pitch, remember, Mularkey's known for not knowing how to use the slot. He was the reason New England got Welker.

.Not sold on resigning Weems, or letting go of Snelling. Love the Mock, the trade for Light, and totally agree on trying and getting Nicks.

Great stuff as usual.

Harry Douglas is a 4 year guy now. Now one of those seasons was on injured reserve with the ACL...but he's not really shown consistently that he can be a factor.

Mularkey may not use/focus on the slot guy, but between Roddy/Julio/Gonzo...that amounts to about 400 targets (they combined for 393 in 2011 with Julio missing close to 4 games). To me, you've got two studs at WR and a great TE. So Harry is no better than the 4th guy. And the Falcons have said we're going to be focusing on improving the screen game.

So I don't see an upward track for Harry to make much more of an impact than he's making now. In fact, I see a smaller role for him moving forward. And since he provides little special teams value...I would think he would from an opportunity standpoint look to see what he could find on the open market.

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Matt Ryan

But really, I think it’s the intangibles that are holding him back now. Championship intangibles. ‘I speak for the Falcons’ intangibles. While it probably only is a pet peeve of mine and not indicative of anything significant, having Ryan come out of the tunnel 3rd to last at this stage of his career is ludicrous. I don’t think that by having him come out last, anything will change. But symbolically, sometimes it’s difficult to go from boy to man amidst a static environment and circumstances. It wouldn’t hurt Ryan to actually say something of significance in an interview instead of him toeing a company line or making sure he doesn’t say anything inflammatory. Ryan is quick to deflect credit. That’s a great quality, however, IMO it starts to feel disingenuous when you do it ALL the time. And also if you take responsibility/blame for poor performances. If you do that, well now you’re just a ‘by the book’ guy, and that’s not really inspirational.

Look at the great ones. Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Big Ben…they all have a quality that is not physical, but rather an aura that defines them as a quarterback. They got to that point not by following a script. Too often, I feel Ryan is trying to be the QB and franchise leader he feels the Falcons want him to be versus perhaps a more individually defined version. Perhaps the loong term committment will free Ryan to do this and also allow the Falcons to coax him in that direction.

Great post, can't really disagree very much with anything you've said here. One thing that might be an issue with Nicks is that we would be bringing him here to play RG, and I'm not sure he would want to do that having been a LG for most, if not all, of his career. Money can make a lot of players ignore some of the things they don't like however, so if we throw enough his way, it's possible.

But what I really keyed in on was your comments on Ryan & I've quoted them here. You are so correct that Ryan has, since he's been here, seemed to be following a script. Everything from him seems scripted, and I think it takes away from the real Matt Ryan. It's eroding the fire & the passion that you need to see from your QB from time to time. A lot of that, IMO comes directly down from the front offices. AB was embarrassed by Mike Vick. AB thought the world of Vick & trusted him, but that trust was betrayed and it not only hurt Mr. Blank, but it really put a bad image on the Falcons & their front office themselves. The fallout with the harsh tensions between the pro & anti Vick sides factors in as well to the thinking from the FO.

So in comes Ryan & I have to believe that they coached him up to be this perfect guy who is always going to do & say the right thing. They don't want any embarrassments coming from their franchise QB's anymore like there were near the end of Vick's time in Atlanta. But while they succeeded in getting a QB who looks the part off the field, they seem to have taken away something as well. When he first came in, he had the "it" quality, but it's harder to see now. It's like the FO has neutered him to some extent. It comes off now as fake & scripted where as guys like you mentioned Brees/Brady/Rodgers/Big Ben are not.

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Great post, can't really disagree very much with anything you've said here. One thing that might be an issue with Nicks is that we would be bringing him here to play RG, and I'm not sure he would want to do that having been a LG for most, if not all, of his career. Money can make a lot of players ignore some of the things they don't like however, so if we throw enough his way, it's possible.

Then move Blalock. Then you get better at 2 OG spots.

But what I really keyed in on was your comments on Ryan & I've quoted them here. You are so correct that Ryan has since he's been here, seemed to be following a script. Everything from him seems scripted, and I think it takes away from the real Matt Ryan. It's eroding the fire & the passion that you need to see from your QB from time to time. A lot of that, IMO comes directly down from the front offices. AB was embarassed by Mike Vick. AB thought the world of Vick & trusted him, but that trust was betrayed and it not only hurt Mr. Blank, but it really put a bad image on the Falcons & their front office themselves. The fallout with the harsh tensions between the pro & anti Vick sides factors in as well to the thinking from the FO.

So in comes Ryan & I have to believe that they coached him up to be this perfect guy who is always going to do & say the right thing. They don't want any embarrassments coming from their franchise QB's anymore like there were near the end of Vick's time in Atlanta. But while they succeeded in getting a QB who looks the part off the field, they seem to have taken away something as well. When he first came in, he had the "it" quality, but it's harder to see now. It's like the FO has neutered him to some extent. It comes off now as fake & scripted where as guys like you mentioned Brees/Brady/Rodgers/Big Ben are not.

I've been banging this drum awhile, but there is still this sense I get from him that he's just this big kid. And eventually the maturity and self-assuredness will kick in to where he isn't as deferential as he appears to be. But he's going on 27/28 now. Time for that to happen.

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If the Falcons spend a draft pick on a running back, I'd like to see them pick up LaMichael James. I'm not so sure I agree with keeping Weems, and with the addition of LaMichael James, the return man position would be set, and bringing back Weems wouldn't be needed. I'd like to see if anyone would trade some picks for Michael Turner, although I couldn't imagine getting anything higher than a 3rd rounder for him.

I'm not sure I agree with letting Abe walk either. He can, and should come back with a cap friendly deal.

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While I like just about everything you covered, I don't agree with taking a running back with our first pick. We have Turner (who is still servicable), Quizz (who is showing signs of a steal in the draft), Gatrell Johnson and Antone Smith. Sure, you have us letting Snelling walk, but you also mention offering to him AFTER the draft, a draft that you have us picking up another running back. That would be 6 running backs (Smith and Johnson are mainly ST guys though.) My personal opinion is going for the OG with the second rounder and a Center in the 5th. I like the Green pick though.

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Harry Douglas is a 4 year guy now. Now one of those seasons was on injured reserve with the ACL...but he's not really shown consistently that he can be a factor.

Mularkey may not use/focus on the slot guy, but between Roddy/Julio/Gonzo...that amounts to about 400 targets (they combined for 393 in 2011 with Julio missing close to 4 games). To me, you've got two studs at WR and a great TE. So Harry is no better than the 4th guy. And the Falcons have said we're going to be focusing on improving the screen game.

So I don't see an upward track for Harry to make much more of an impact than he's making now. In fact, I see a smaller role for him moving forward. And since he provides little special teams value...I would think he would from an opportunity standpoint look to see what he could find on the open market.

I just don't see us replacing him with someone that could be as good of an insurance policy in case Roddy or Julio get hurt. He's local, and it seems he loves the team. I don't think his price tag will be prohibitive. We'll see.

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I don't like letting Abraham walk.

I can't see us paying him a hefty contract like he's going to want. If we can get him back cheaply and let him know his role might be reduced, then sure. I really think Nolan is going to tap into Sidbury's potential. I like the idea of him being the rush 'backer in a 3-4.

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I would be more than fine with them not paying Beirmann, Weems and Redman.

Beirman is a rag doll out there once a blocker gets a hand on him.

Redman is useless. This team put up 42 points in a half under Ryan, 3 in a half under Redman. Offense never moved the ball under Redman.

Weems I like, but there are multiple guys on the roster who can fill his role. He has returned less kicks this year than past. Douglas, Franks, etc can fill the KR role just as good.

I think Abraham is re-signed sooner than you think. His deal will be easier to put together, since it will likely be short term. Deals for Lofton and Grimes will be more intricate and take longer since it is their 'pay day' deals.

I dont really think the offense needs any work outside of the OL. I would pull whatever strings I could to get a LT. I think McClure would be back for 1-2 years yet. RG, I like Nicks, but really could see a round 2 pick being used there to compete with Mike Johnson (who was also a relatively high pick for a OG).

Defense is where the work needs to be done, both retaining our core talent, and bringing in new talent.

A good deep cover safety would (IMO) be the biggest addition this team could make outside of someone to hit the QB. With money tied into Edwards, and him having an injured season, I dont think DE is changed much. I also like our DT rotation, and think it will only improve after Babs had an unusual down year.

Imagine what a Ed Reed, Eric Berry, Earl Thomas type of FS could do to help the pass defense! They need to sniff out a top FS to help this defense!

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Great well thought out post... I love the idea of extending ryan now to help sign other guys .. daying tha tho, i dnt like letting our best pass rusher go and not having a replacement.. do you really feel confident going into the season with edwards being your best guy?

I dnt see lofton getting that kind of deal with no individuals acculates to help boost his contract.. he isnt a patrick willis type of player so a 30+mil contract would warrent his skill...

I honestly dnt think drafting more skill positions is the problem at all, i truly believe it was lack of getting other player involved... Meier HD and quizz was non existent, bringing in more high rd sill positions mean having to feed thoes guys as well, giving the fact that our problem on offense is the o-line and not the skill position then it would only make more sense to take our highest picks and put it towards the defensive side of the ball...

With no pass rush brought in FA i think its time TD bring in a talented pass rusher for nolan.. so i would draft a DE with our 2nd.. with our 3rd if we were able to get nicks and lite then i would take a C to compete with haaley and not just give him the job.. if i draft a C i wouldnt bring mcclure back.. great player but is a liability in the run game now...

If the best saftey cnt remember his name but if he drop close to us in the 2nd then i would go after him and get a pass rusher with our 3rd

Edited by madman88
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I do like the idea of re-signing Matt Ryan now. I still think he is one of the best QBs in the game, and the best young QB in the game. (he and Stafford)

getting him now would hopefully make the deal a little more friendly, and free up cap.

The reason I see that possibly not happening, is that ATL has so many other guys they need to attend to first, for fear of losing them.

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While I like just about everything you covered, I don't agree with taking a running back with our first pick. We have Turner (who is still servicable), Quizz (who is showing signs of a steal in the draft), Gatrell Johnson and Antone Smith. Sure, you have us letting Snelling walk, but you also mention offering to him AFTER the draft, a draft that you have us picking up another running back. That would be 6 running backs (Smith and Johnson are mainly ST guys though.) My personal opinion is going for the OG with the second rounder and a Center in the 5th. I like the Green pick though.

Even in the scenario I presented, Snelling would be 6 of 6. When you start talking Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith...they've been in the league a combined 5 years and haven't done anything.

What I presented above does not dispute that Turner is still servicable. It's why he would still be part of my plans for 2012. But the one-dimensionality of his game really limits how the Falcons can use misdirection and catch defenses off guard. Adding another dimension in a guy like Wilson not only improves productivity, but also versatility and offensive diversity. Cut Turner's snaps down to about 450, Wilson at 450, Jacquizz at 450...and the amount of looks and play calls you can run expand exponentially.

Great well thought out post... I love the idea of extending ryan now to help sign other guys .. daying tha tho, i dnt like letting our best pass rusher go and not having a replacement.. do you really feel confident going into the season with edwards being your best guy?

I dnt see lofton getting that kind of deal with no individuals acculates to help boost his contract.. he isnt a patrick willis type of player so a 30+mil contract would warrent his skill...

I honestly dnt think drafting more skill positions is the problem at all, i truly believe it was lack of getting other player involved... Meier HD and quizz was non existent, bringing in more high rd sill positions mean having to feed thoes guys as well, giving the fact that our problem on offense is the o-line and not the skill position then it would only make more sense to take our highest picks and put it towards the defensive side of the ball...

With no pass rush brought in FA i think its time TD bring in a talented pass rusher for nolan.. so i would draft a DE with our 2nd.. with our 3rd if we were able to get nicks and lite then i would take a C to compete with haaley and not just give him the job.. if i draft a C i wouldnt bring mcclure back.. great player but is a liability in the run game now...

If the best saftey cnt remember his name but if he drop close to us in the 2nd then i would go after him and get a pass rusher with our 3rd

I put these two replies together specifically as it related the Abraham reply because it seemed to follow a similar theme of having a guy in a position so we can cross off that checkbox that was mentioned above with Turner. Sometimes it's time to let a guy go. I remember the debates we had about DeAngelo Hall and people thinking we had to keep him because we didn't have a replacement. Abraham is not a cancer like Hall was and the reason to sever ties with Abraham has to do with advancing age, free agency and a lack of desire to sign him to another 3-year type deal, not team chemistry. But the logic still holds. If Kyle Vanden Bosch got a 4 year $26M deal two years ago - why would Abraham just sign a cap friendly deal for us in his last get rich contract?

I think people tend to one-dimensionalize the contracts these guys sign. In one sentence you say, we shouldn't pay up to sign Lofton...however, $30M+ is OK for Abraham? Cause that's what it's going to likely take.

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Great read. I keep Harry Douglas- for one, as you mentioned, the amount of skill position players we have drafted- most of which later rounds- HD can be that , i think his fall off was a mixture of MM system and MR having issues finding the top 3 targets. You can get him involved alot more, basically the reverses and runs that Julio ran were previously his

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Even in the scenario I presented, Snelling would be 6 of 6. When you start talking Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith...they've been in the league a combined 5 years and haven't done anything.

What I presented above does not dispute that Turner is still servicable. It's why he would still be part of my plans for 2012. But the one-dimensionality of his game really limits how the Falcons can use misdirection and catch defenses off guard. Adding another dimension in a guy like Wilson not only improves productivity, but also versatility and offensive diversity. Cut Turner's snaps down to about 450, Wilson at 450, Jacquizz at 450...and the amount of looks and play calls you can run expand exponentially.

I put these two replies together specifically as it related the Abraham reply because it seemed to follow a similar theme of having a guy in a position so we can cross off that checkbox that was mentioned above with Turner. Sometimes it's time to let a guy go. I remember the debates we had about DeAngelo Hall and people thinking we had to keep him because we didn't have a replacement. Abraham is not a cancer like Hall was and the reason to sever ties with Abraham has to do with advancing age, free agency and a lack of desire to sign him to another 3-year type deal, not team chemistry. But the logic still holds. If Kyle Vanden Bosch got a 4 year $26M deal two years ago - why would Abraham just sign a cap friendly deal for us in his last get rich contract?

I think people tend to one-dimensionalize the contracts these guys sign. In one sentence you say, we shouldn't pay up to sign Lofton...however, $30M+ is OK for Abraham? Cause that's what it's going to likely take.

. Dnt get me wrong, i think its time to let abe go. But im not confident enough to leave my pass rush with edwards,kroy, sid and matthews... It would be better for this team to stop giving the offense more weapons, we need high rd talent to help nnolan out.. i rather have a young guy learning while struggling then have nobody to groom and just continue to struggle for a 5th year with a pass rush..

And i dnt think lofton gets a 50mil contract.. look, beason signed a 50mil 25gaureenteed... I love lofton but he isnt a beason.. thats why i say he gets around 30+mil

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Review

2010 & 2011 ended with resounding thuds. Accountability is tangible now in Flowery Branch and as such, has been adopted by a fan base that not only seems to have grown more devoted in the last 10 years, but has the specter of the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons chief rival, having tasted Super Bowl champagne in recent years. Not two weeks into the off-season and the Falcons have two new coordinators helming the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Offense – Coming into 2011, the book on the Falcons stated that in order for them to be successful, they had to be able to run the ball in order to be successful. By running the ball, that opened up passing lanes for Ryan to exploit. And it would be tough to argue that this wasn’t in fact the case. Such a truth was a significant if not primary factor for why Ryan was not, and should not have been in any discussion about being in the top tier of NFL QB’s. 2011 did not start smoothly either as Ryan struggled mightily through the first 7 games of the season. A dismal 9:8 TD-to-INT ratio, a 6.68 YPA did not seem to bely progress that a 4th year QB, particularly one with the weapons at his disposal should be making. But his final 9 games were a revelation. Posting 102.9 QB rating, Ryan became a prolific and more efficient QB. He was able to better integrate all the Falcons weapons into their offensive attack. While this is an area that Ryan can still improve upon, the insertion of Julio Jones into the mix allowed the Falcons once a decent rapport was built between the two to become a more dangerous offensive team. While hindsight is 20/20, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Gonzalez had his best year as a Falcon this year because defenses no longer could lock onto him as the #2 option in the passing game.

As for Michael Turner, if you look at his composite numbers for 2011, you would see a player who led the NFC in rushing yards and also was able to provide more of a threat in the passing game than he ever had. He is the prototypical lunch pail RB and while he came to Atlanta with the nickname ‘The Burner’, a more appropriate one at this stage of his career would be ‘The Churner’. While the numbers looked great on the surface, it did feel like Turner struggled with consistent production, particularly against solid teams in close contests, more than he had in the past. And despite better production in the passing game, his skill limitations in this area prevent the Falcons from leveraging the RB position as a weapon in the passing game versus just a competent safety valve and as such, there is an element of offensive diversity that the Falcons are leaving on the table given Ryan’s complete command of the offense and QB position. However, it would be unfair to say that this unit did not make progress in 2011…it did unequivocally. Personnel moves can be made to shore up some of these shortcomings, but the key remains Ryan and how the next level in his game can be unlocked. Given the encouraging signs produced this season, his maturation process is still progressing, but it’s not without some significant disappointments. And 24-2 certainly qualifies. Can Dirk Koetter find it…we’ll see.

Defense – 2011 saw the emergence of a new star for the Falcons on defense in Sean Weatherspoon. Almost from the first play of the season, when he knifed through a gap and cut down Matt Forte for a loss, you could see an immediate improvement in the Falcons 2010 1st rounder. He continued to make impact plays throughout the season, although his impact did seem to diminish in the last ¼ of the season as teams either started scheming for him, or he wore down. Nonetheless, Weatherspoon’s emergence represented the first new foundational building block on that unit to emerge since 2008.

Often times I felt the Falcons would start very strong and aggressive on defense. I remember thinking on multiple occasions that the performance in the 1st quarter or even 1st half was exceptional only to look at the stat line after the game and realize that the opposing offense was allowed to gain their sea legs and put up decent numbers. And as much as I use numbers to tell me the story, I know it’s not the whole story. But no game was clearer in this trend pattern than when Green Bay came back to town. On that night, the Falcons defense looked elite for about one half of football. In turn, the whole team did. By the end of the night Aaron Rodgers had sliced up the Falcons for close to 400 yards and the Packers cruised in for a rather matter of fact victory.

With the trade of Van Gorder for Nolan, we go from a first time NFL coordinator to a seasoned one…one who’s also been an NFL Head Coach. I don’t know if I’d qualify this as a theory, but it’s not outrageous to think that while Van Gorder might have been solid at developing a plan of attack, his ability to adjust to the flow of the game or instill that in his players might have been lacking. In addition, Van Gorder’s unit’s performance on 3rd down was horrific. While it was pinpointed as an issue this past season, in his last 3 seasons Falcons opponents converted 43% of their 3rd downs, after a respectable 38% showing in 2008. That simply won’t do and IMO is an example of some of the stagnation that has become a defining trait of this regime.

As such, 2012 promises to be the most unpredictable of years for the Falcons. They’ve perhaps already endured more upheaval in this calendar year, than they have in any other calendar year under Dimitroff/Smith save for 2008. There are more FA’s to consider locking up or letting go on the roster than there has been at any other juncture for this regime. And also, some significant personnel and psychological hurdles to now overcome.

Issues

Offensive Line – The regression of this unit was probably the most troubling development for the Falcons in 2011. Perhaps they had overachieved up until this point under Smith and Paul Boudreau. While they were able to pull it together after a dismal start, the Falcons never really found a suitable replacement for Harvey Dahl who left via FA last year. Dahl had always been mentioned as one of the nastiest and dirtiest players in the NFL, which seemed to make up for whatever lack of natural talent he possessed. With his demeanor gone, it seemed the Falcons lost a bit of their mojo up front. Pass protection was never their strong suit but this was probably the worst we’ve seen Matt Ryan get beat up in his 4 years here. This will need attention.

Paul Boudreau was let go, and that seems to follow his career pattern of staying at a place no longer than 3-4 years and moving on elsewhere. This unit always seemed to be an overachieving bunch, and once guys like Clabo & Blalock got paid - now with expectations affixed to them based on their compensation, they could no longer be termed that.

Garrett Reynolds was a disaster and Joe Hawley aspires to be servicable. So the Falcons have a signficant hole to fill along the line.

Matt Ryan He’s not really a problem/issue. He is though the solution to our problems but at the same time…he has not solved them. As I pointed out above, the Falcons last 9 games saw them make a quantum leap in the passing game. But the bar has been raised in the NFL regarding what constitutes elite level QB play. 10 years ago, the season that Ryan just had would have garnered him All-Pro consideration. Today, he’s the 4th or 5th best QB in the NFC in a best case evaluation at the position. With that said he IS our QB and will be for a long time.

The issue is this. With only 2 years remaining on his deal…this would appear to be time to lock him up for a good part of the next decade and that is going to require Arthur Blank to step up with the most significant financial commitment he’s ever made to a single player. Ryan is due $11.5M in 2012 with another $10M in 2013. Also, given his 0-3 playoff record…you might be getting him at a bit of a value. Signing Ryan to a long term contract that converted his salary next year to signing bonus which would diminish the hit on the Falcons salary sap for next year would be a wise move at this point and I suspect you’ll see the Falcons move in that direction. Ultimately, this is the type of deal I figure would be good for both; 8 years - $136M - $54M guaranteed. Convert $11.5M of his 2012 salary to signing bonus with an additional $24M in immediate bonus money.My salary cap knowledge is rudimentary, but if I had to guess, such a deal offers the Falcons as much as $10M worth of salary cap room to play with that they did not have previously.

The ironic thing with Ryan IMO is that when he came into the NFL, if there was one thing you didn’t question about him, it was his intangibles. He was seen as a student of the game, someone who was going to put in the work to be the best he could be. I think he gets criticized unfairly for his perceived lack of physical attributes/talent. No, he doesn’t have Stafford’s arm or Vick’s legs. But IMO his deep throws lack accuracy, not arm strength. And you simply don’t throw for 4200 yards & 29 TD’s without having significant skills. So the calls to change the offense to something for akin to a WCO because he lacks arm strength are tough to take seriously. Not that he wouldn’t succeed in one, but it’s not the only offense he can have success in. But really, I think it’s the intangibles that are holding him back now. Championship intangibles. ‘I speak for the Falcons’ intangibles. While it probably only is a pet peeve of mine and not indicative of anything significant, having Ryan come out of the tunnel 3rd to last at this stage of his career is ludicrous. I don’t think that by having him come out last, anything will change. But symbolically, sometimes it’s difficult to go from boy to man amidst a static environment and circumstances. It wouldn’t hurt Ryan to actually say something of significance in an interview instead of him toeing a company line or making sure he doesn’t say anything inflammatory. Ryan is quick to deflect credit. That’s a great quality, however, IMO it starts to feel disingenuous when you do it ALL the time. And also if you take responsibility/blame for poor performances. If you do that, well now you’re just a ‘by the book’ guy, and that’s not really inspirational.

Look at the great ones. Brees, Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Big Ben…they all have a quality that is not physical, but rather an aura that defines them as a quarterback. They got to that point not by following a script. Too often, I feel Ryan is trying to be the QB and franchise leader he feels the Falcons want him to be versus perhaps a more individually defined version. Perhaps the loong term committment will free Ryan to do this and also allow the Falcons to coax him in that direction.

Pass Rush – This almost feels like it’s one perennially. However, the Falcons did IMO show progress in this area. For one, the 2011 season saw the Falcons post their highest sack total when you take out Abraham’s contribution. While Abraham did not play at his 2010 All-Pro level, the slack was picked up by 4 other players who posted at least 3 sacks (Weatherspoon, Peters, Sidbury, Edwards). Overall, it felt like the Falcons were able to generate pass rush from multiple pressure points this season as opposed to previous seasons when they relied largely on Abraham. However, the Falcons did suffer from a chronic issue where they went long stretches without seeming to cause the QB to even flinch allowing said QB to more easily find their reads and rhythm. The issue here is that the Falcons have limited resources in draft picks and higher priorities in FA to find personnel that can be brought in to augment the existing unit. Ray Edwards was brought in to provide a bookend presence but his impact was minimal – he wasn’t really that much of an upgrade over Jamaal Anderson. He’s known as someone who disappears for stretches of a season at a time, but I was hoping that stretch wasn’t 16 games. Is it fair to expect him to bounce back? My early read on him after watching him for 16 games is that he looks rather stiff and was less athletic than I thought he would be. While a knee injury was said to have plagued him a bit this year, he’s not close to the pass rusher that a declining Abraham is at this late stage of his career and 8 sacks would seem to be his ceiling. Kroy Biermann probably has one more shot to become an impact player and I’d like to see Nolan make Biermann & Sidbury his star pupils.

2012 Off-Season

Re-Sign (in priority)

Brent Grimes; 6 years - $51M - $20M guaranteed. $15M signing bonus

Curtis Lofton; 6 years - $54M - $21.5M guaranteed. $14M signing bonus

Eric Weems; 4 years - $5.5M - $1.75M Guaranteed. $1.25M signing bonus.

Kroy Biermann; 3 years -$10.5M - $5M guaranteed; $4M signing bonus

Chris Redman; 2 years - $3M - $2M guaranteed; $1.5M signing bonus

Todd McClure; 1 year - $1.75M

James Sanders; 1 year - $1M

Allow to Leave

John Abraham

Thomas DeCoud

Harry Douglas

Mike Peterson

Kelvin Hayden

Jason Snelling

The Falcons will have some tough calls to make this off-season. So far under Dimitroff/Smith, the Falcons have been able to build their team on the backs of rather cheap talent. With the exception of Abraham and Gonzalez, none of their other free agents are big money players which means the Falcons won’t realize all that much in salary cap savings/removal by allowing a lot of these players to leave.

As it relates to the re-signs, Grimes and Lofton are really 1a & 1b. The Falcons know they can’t allow either to leave, but finding a player to replace Grimes IMO would be more difficult than finding a Lofton replacement, although not by much. Lofton has become the stoic leader of this unit and 2011 has been his best season. As such, the Falcons need to set an example that they take care of their own.

It’s difficult to measure Chris Redman’s value. Aside from a 3 game stretch in 2009, Redman has hardly seen the field in Matt Ryan’s 4 seasons. But he’s now 35 and it’s certainly worth asking if he’s still going to be the back-up. I don’t think he would garner much interest on the open market so competition to sign him would be minimal if non-existent. So 2 years seems about right, with but one of the years guaranteed. But at the end of the day, this is a position the Falcons haven’t paid much attention to and as such, re-signing Redman is necessary.

McClure would seem to be a year-to-year proposition now. Also 35, McClure was drafted in the year after the Falcons went to the SB. So his beard is certainly gray. He’s always been a middle of the road player, but at the same time painstakingly consistent and that will be difficult to replace when the time comes. That said, 35 year old middle of the road players have to play on one year deals or not at all and it seems he still wants to play.

While Sanders is still relatively young, could he get more than a 1 year deal on the open market? His play was OK for the Falcons – but he showed no playmaking ability. He’s a dependable player in that he’s going to limit his mistakes and not beat himself. I choose Sanders over DeCoud in large part because I think DeCoud will be able to garner a better contract on the FA market. DeCoud is actually the better player, but not by so much that the Falcons can blindly re-sign him and to build the 2012 version of the Falcons, some tough calls are going to need to be made and this is one of them. Maybe we’re robbing Thomas to pay Brent. Either way…Sanders is a 2012 Falcon.

Having Abraham and Douglas leave was a tough call. But the one stat that grabbed me in 2011 was how many of Abraham’s sacks came against rookies (or very young QB’s). It was like 6 of his 9.5. And the consistency from week-to-week simply was not there in terms if game impact. He’s still a dangerous player and he’ll find work no doubt. But in the end, I think it’s time to thank him for his significant contribution to the Falcons.

I had originally had Douglas on the keep list…but the thing that bothered me the most about him was that aside from a half of football when he took over for an injured Julio, I didn’t notice him much this year. In a season where the Falcons threw for more yards than at any other time in their history, Douglas accounted for 498. And 133 of those came as an injury replacement. IN the slot role, whether it was Douglas’s inability to make an impact or Ryan inability to bring him into the game flow on a consistent basis…making a longer term commitment to him without him having really done much didn’t make sense. You’d have to think that Julio will be a bigger part of the offense in 2012 leaving less room for Harry. So either via a combination of Weems/Meier or someone else unforeseen, I think we save the money here.

Allowing Snelling to leave or at least try and leave is a testament to how little attention he drew last year on the open market. Nothing he did this year would seem to suggest he raised it. The Falcons could probably wait until after the draft to re-sign him if necessary. But during the frenzied period…he’s a non-priority.

I was one of those who did not stump for the signing of Ray Edwards. I thought Kroy Biermann was the same class of player or could come close at least. While Edwards certainly didn’t set the world afire during his first season in Atlanta, Biermann really struggled to find his role on this team. But with Abraham gone, the Falcons find a way to do a front-loaded cost effective deal with Biermann who still remains one of the better hustle players the Falcons have. Perhaps under Mike Nolan, he can get an 8-10 sack year out of a player I thought would be able to do this.

Mike Peterson has been a very nice player for the Falcons and transitioned extraordinarily well to a reserve role in 2011. But with Akeem Dent having been drafted, he’s a logical ready-made replacement after a season of apprenticeship. On the plus side, I’d be surprised if Peterson latched on anywhere else so if something happens to the LB corps, he could be brought back off the street potentially.

FA – Carl Nicks; 6 years - $69M - $40M guaranteed.

Far as I can tell, the Falcons have two personnel holes along the O-Line that I would classify as immediate priorities and we all know what they are; LT & RG. LT is the bigger one IMO. With that said though, Nicks is the best available FA at the moment on the market and given that he fills a position of need, the Falcons will break the bank for him and are almost forced to. Too frequently, the Falcons allowed pressure up the middle that caused issues in both the pass & run games.

A problem this creates is that this means the Falcons are playing on average over $21.6M/year to 3 O-Line positions which is REALLY high. But on the flip side, this has been the drafting history of the Falcons under Dimitroff along the O-Line:

Sam Baker

Garret Reynolds

Joe Hawley

Mike Johnson

Andrew Jackson

To date, the Falcons have preferred to develop their own within this unit, but it’s hard to justify continuing along this track when guys fail to develop into contributors. We know now that Baker simply is a below average LT. Reynolds was a disaster at RG. Hawley qualifies as serviceable at best at the moment although his ceiling may be higher than what’s been shown. Johnson has been a ghost and Andrew Jackson is a 2011 7th rounder who while being deemed good value at the time of his selection, is a completely unknown quantity.

In retrospect, would the Falcons have been better off securing Harvey Dahl who signed a fairly modest contract with the Rams? Maybe, but it was also common knowledge that the Falcons were pressed up against the 2011 salary cap. So in fairness, it seemed that there was only so much they could do during that time. With this signing, they deal a blow to their arch rival as well, which is always nice but are going to have to overpay to do it. Compared to the deal Logan Mankins signed with the Patriots, this represents an average of $2.5M more/season.

CAVEAT: I’d still peg the chances of Nicks making it to the FA market at less than 50%. I simply can’t see Drew Brees letting this happen. The talk is that the tag will need to be used on Brees thereby eliminating the possibility of it being used on Nicks. And I know the Saints have some significant FA’s to sign. So this is a 'wait and see what happens' situation. But if Nicks makes it to the open market…we have to be on his doorstep at 12:01AM on the opening day of signing period.

Trade: The Falcons trade a 2013 4th round draft choice to the New England Patriots for Matt Light. Extend Light for 2 years (through 2014) and convert 2012 salary to signing bonus.

In one of my proposals last year, I advocated this signing then too. It would not have been a bad move although I underestimated how much it would take to sign him. The term to describe Light at this stage of his career is dependable…and that would represent an upgrade for the Falcons at the LT slot. The first order of business would be sign Light to a 2 year extension in order to convert his $3.4M 2012 scheduled salary to signing bonus which would help lessen his cap charge in an off-season where the Falcons have to re-sign a lot of their own.

For the Patriots, the need for additional picks in the 2012 draft is not as pronounced since they have an additional 1st & 2nd rounder (they are missing a 5th rounder due to the OchoCinco trade). But the Patriots are usually thinking a year ahead in these scenarios and since they traded their 2013 5th rounder already (Albert Haynesworth), Belichick could see this as an opportunity to regain an asset lost for a player that may have little role with the 2012 Patriots. Nate Solder was their 1st round selection last year and the Patriots signed Light in large part because the lockout eliminated any chance for the physically gifted but raw OT out of Colorado to provide the Pats coaching staff confidence that he could handle the role from the get go. But Solder has acquitted himself well this year to the pro game (albeit mostly at RT filling in for Sebastian Vollmer) and it would stand to reason that the Pats would want to have both start in 2012 while cycling in 2011 5th rounder, Marcus Cannon, player who only dropped that far in the draft due to a battle against lymphoma, in a reserve role.

There are better LT’s for sure, but Light is available for an affordable price. He’s a pros pro and will represent an upgrade at a critical position for the Falcons. It also buys them time to find a long term solution at the position in 2013.

2012 Mock Draft

There has been a lot of debate as to the prowess of Thomas Dimitroff’s drafting ability. But if you can claim in your four years of drafting that of the 32 players you have drafted, 26 are on your roster still (and that team has had the success of the Falcons)…you have to tip your cap. Obviously not all players drafted are major contributors and in some cases are on their way to being busts (Mike Johnson, Peria Jerry to name two).

Last year, albeit on another board, I correctly forecasted the Julio Jones trade-up close to 7 weeks prior to the draft. While I liked Kyle Rudolph if we had stayed put at #27, the prospect of acquiring Jones was something I felt the Falcons needed to do. Still, I do admit that when the trade actually went down on draft day, I was shocked. But the logic I presented at the time seemed to jive with how Dimitroff wound up selling the deal afterwards. Will I hit another nail on the head this year? Well, I did predict us drafting ‘Spoon as well a year earlier, but this year without a pick until the 50’s…well, my streak may end. Here’s how I see the 2012 draft shaking out.

Round 2: David Wilson; RB – Virginia Tech

As much as I like Jason Snelling, there are just physical limitations to his game that can’t be ignored. And the cold hard truth is that that since the 2010 New Orleans game when we defeated them in the Superdome, a period of 26 games, Snelling’s production reads like this:

96 carries

280 Rushing Yards

2.9 YPC

63 receptions

413 Receiving Yards

3 TD’s

While his presence in the passing game has been useful, his complete inability to provide support in the run game has forced the Falcons to rely again too much on Turner. While Jacquizz Rodgers has shown in spurts that he has game, I don’t trust his size in pass protection yet. He also strikes me as a future Darren Sproles type, where you’ll need to manage his snap count. And in offense that lacks a certain degree of diversity, Snelling is a less effective version of Turner with better hands. The Falcons need to do better at this position. I’m forecasting the Falcons to catch a bit of a break here on the basis that RB’s simply drop on draft day, even the top tier. Mark Ingram went from being a Top 10 guy to #28 overall. Wilson has future feature RB written all over him.

Turner is not bad. Granted, he does little to excite you in terms of his meat & potatoes style, but he is limited. Wilson has explosion and burst which he brings in a solid, but compact frame. The idea for the Falcons with this pick will be to introduce an RBBC arrangement which will keep both Turner and Wilson fresh, while developing special packages for Rodgers to contribute in.

FALLBACK: Chis Polk; RB – Washington

Round 3: Ladarius Green; TE – Louisiana-Lafayette

As a big fan of Rudolph, it’s clear that I am concerned about filling the void that will be created when Tony Gonzalez does retire. And I will admit that that desire to bring Rudolph on board was done independently of the Julio Jones acquisition. The need for another weapon in the passing game is simply not as dire as I thought it was last year. However, when you look at our depth chart, TE is an incredibly thin position for the Falcons. Michael Palmer is our #2 TE and according to profootballfocus.com has averaged 11-12 offensive snaps/game during his first two NFL seasons. I don’t see Palmer as a viable long term or even injury replacement for Gonzo. It’s also clear that the Falcons did in fact spend a good deal of time investigating Rudolph as an option.

The emergence of Jimmy Graham in New Orleans & Rob Gronkowski (not to mention Aaron Hernandez) speak to the trend of big athletic TE’s that provide match-up nightmares for defenses becoming more prevalent, especially in elite offenses and passing attacks. In Green, the Falcons can feel good about the succession plan at the position and while they would ideally ease Green into the professional game, he could provide situational support immediately. Green is going to have to hit the weight room but he has the frame to put on 10-15 more pounds and oozes athleticism. His blocking is going also going to require significant work. Tony Gonzalez had his best season with the Falcons last season and you would think based on his performance and appearance that he could go on for another 2-3 years. And even if that’s true, having a player of Green’s ilk that the Falcons can use as yet another weapon, and yet be a developmental prospect for a core role in future years is another case of the Falcons thinking ahead.

Round 5: Brandon Brooks; OG – Miami OH

Brooks is raw…very raw. But at 6’5 340, possesses great size and very solid athleticism for a man as big as he. While Nicks is certainly Plan A, Brooks doesn’t really even qualify as Plan B because he probably won’t be able to contribute until 2013. But drafting Brooks shows the Falcons are looking to change their philosophy a bit along the O-Line and will not necessarily shy away from size like they seem to have in previous drafts.

Round 6: Austin Davis; QB – Southern Mississippi

Against DET, when Matt Ryan went down, I thought the season was over. Fortunately, the injury looked worse than it was. But in a year where the Falcons came thisclose to an existence without Matt Ryan, watched the Colts fall apart without Peyton Manning and get beat by the Texans with T.J. Yates, the Falcons need to realize that their back-up situation is tenuous and that steps need to be taken to find someone they can count on to caddy for Ryan, for years to come. JPW has really not shown anything in his 3 seasons with the Falcons and while Redman still seems capable, additional qualified depth at this position is warranted.

Davis is a gritty type QB with lots of moxie who profiles perfectly as a back-up. He’s got good (not great) NFL size at 6’2 220. But he’s got tons of game experience having started at Southern Miss since his freshman year (he’s thrown 1500 college passes). He sported a career 3-to-1 TD:INT ratio and showed mobility (1355 career rushing yards). The Southern Miss football program though improved every year he was at the helm. He’ll have to be coached up and should not be counted on to even contend for QB2 until 2013. But the Falcons finally invest in a worthwhile prospect to develop behind Ryan.

Round 7; Vince Browne; DE – Northwestern

Brown was more effective in 2010 with 7 sacks and 58 tackles. But the Falcons have had some success with drafting D-Lineman in the 7th round (Vance Walker, Cliff Matthews), so they continue to the trend.

Forecasted Concerns/Questions

Why sign Ryan now? The Saints let Brees get to FA. Ryan’s got 2 years left.

Think about this though relating to Brees. Whatever they wind up signing Brees to will simply add to their bloated 2012 cap figure. He is not counting against it. I don’t know why Brees was not signed prior to this, but IMO, it has to be an error on their part. Brees will command top dollar and while I think the chances of him leaving are nil, agents don’t get sentimental and the 2012 league year represents a gun to the Saints head. In addition, waiting until now could crimp the Saints ability to maneuver on the open market or at least in retaining other critical pieces to the team. I would not want the Falcons to find themselves in that position. Even waiting until next off-season to sign Ryan makes little sense because it’s quite possible the signs of significant progress he showed over the last 9 games this year could manifest themselves over 16 in 2012. Waiting 1 more year could cost the Falcons in my estimation an additional $25M over the life of the deal. Lock him up now. He took the next step.

We have pass rush issues, O-Line issues and you spend 3 of our 5 picks on skill position players!!??

Since 2008, believe it or not, of the 32 draft selections the Falcons have made, the Falcons have spent but 7 selections on skill position players.

Julio Jones

Jacquizz Rodgers

Kerry Meier

Matt Ryan

Keith Zinger

Harry Douglas

Thomas Brown

As a percentage of draft picks used on skill position players, the Falcons rank 31st of 32 NFL teams during this time period. Even if you give the Falcons Tony Gonzalez as one of their draft picks since they traded a 2nd rounder for him, they still rank 31st in terms of percentage.

While the Falcons made a big move for Julio last year, their lack of focus in drafting at these positions is one of the reasons I think the Falcons offense has stalled a bit. Personnel and depth at skill positions allow for versatility and diversity on that side of the ball. We got a little taste of that with Jacquizz this year who added an element we hadn’t had since Norwood was able to stay healthy.

Sean Payton said it best. NFL football now is about adjustments and being able to confuse your opponent. Concealing what you are going to do until the last possible moment and having the ability to adjust on the fly. The teams that do it best…they win.

If you look at the play distribution and carry ratio for two of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, New Orleans and Philadelphia…you’ll see the success they have in their run game is set up in large part due to the lower percentage of time their RB’s are actually carrying the ball.

Sproles/Thomas/Ingram combined for 319 carries. But they were on the field 1266 snaps. So they ran the ball 25.2% of the time when those players were in the game. Now Sproles ratio was much lower (14.3%) while Ingram’s was much higher (55.7%). But the point is, the Saints running game wasn’t based on ability as it was on misdirection.

As for the Eagles, LeSean McCoy might be the best RB in the NFL now. He ran the ball on 30.5% of his snaps. His versatility though allows him to create plays in the passing game.

Turner, he ran the ball on 301 of his 628 snaps; 47.9%. Sometimes being predictable isn’t just about what play you call on first down. It’s about the different personnel you can call plays out of. So to me, RB is a real need for the Falcons.

What if Nicks doesn’t make it to FA? He’s your only guy.

The Falcons patter has been to target one big FA name when they venture out into the marketplace. I think they are cognizant of not bringing in too many new veteran faces at a time that sign big deals. I suspect that come the late March/early April time frame, when the FA market has been raked of its prized assets, more affordable and less intrusive talent will be looked at, probably at the safety position to begin with. Losing DeCoud will not be insignificant as he is a viable NFL starter. But he’s so prone to making big mistakes whether it’s on coverage or via bad angles he takes to the ball. And quite frankly, his propensity to over-celebrate routine plays irks me. If another James Sanders type makes it to FA, I could see the Falcons make a play…and it’s possible that availability doesn’t come about until July/August.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure personnel is the biggest problem the Falcons have. To me, it’s the stigma of stagnation now. At the time Dimitroff and Smith were hired, I think the hope was that we’d be where we’re at right now. The problem was that ‘the process’ was accelerated with the magical 2008 season. We thought we’d be getting our first playoff loss in 2011 back then, not our third. I never felt the Falcons hit their stride this past season. I don’t think you can count destructions of teams like Jacksonville and Tampa who had checked out by the time we played them as times when they looked elite. I’m talking about hitting a groove that when you’re on, you go into Green Bay and win by 17. Sometimes those grooves last 2-3 weeks…sometimes they last almost all season. Either way, the Falcons didn’t even really taste the former. Shaking up the establishment is a start, but to me, the Falcons have enough ‘players’ to be winning playoff games. Heck, the 49ers who were dismal last year are in the NFC Championship.

Signing Nicks isn’t a ‘this move will get us over the top move’. It’s a ‘we need to protect our $136M investment better’ move. I don’t see any other moves out there with this FA class that provides that good of an answer to this significant a problem.

As always – these are the types of debates I relish having and I don’t mind criticisms or opposing POV’s. Sometimes I see things from one POV and when someone else presents theirs, I see their logic. So bomb away!

I like actually. I think you are focusing on WHAT WE CAN BOLSTER in the offseason and that's the offense. We have Matt in his prime, Roddy and Julio; now is the time to kick the Oline up and get some rb versatility. And, I think you are realistic in your approach. Light would be a great stop-gap; possibly a 2-3 year fill at OT. It'd be nice to get a FS; but one could argue, maybe Franks or Duntae becomes that player. Owens, even? Bottom line with Nolan, I think we can focus more scheme and retention on defense; whereas on the OLine we just need an overhaul

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. Dnt get me wrong, i think its time to let abe go. But im not confident enough to leave my pass rush with edwards,kroy, sid and matthews... It would be better for this team to stop giving the offense more weapons, we need high rd talent to help nnolan out.. i rather have a young guy learning while struggling then have nobody to groom and just continue to struggle for a 5th year with a pass rush..

And i dnt think lofton gets a 50mil contract.. look, beason signed a 50mil 25gaureenteed... I love lofton but he isnt a beason.. thats why i say he gets around 30+mil

I can understand the trepidation about Abraham. But value is value and if KVB got $26M over 4 years during the 2010 off-season, Abraham is going to get at least $8M/year. And I wouldn't prioritize Abe over Lofton.

Lofton is young, he's the rock of our defense - it's playcaller in the huddle. He's coming off a year where he finished with 147 tackles (5th in the NFL - according to ESPN.com) to go with 8 TFL's, 7 PD's and 2 INT's. He had a BIG time season.

Beason's best year BTW was: 142 tackles, 10 TFL's, 7 PD's and 3 INT's. They are very close and the deal I proposed at $51M was over 6 years. Beason's $50M deal was over 5. So I'm proposing an average/year of $8.5M...a similar figure to what it's going to take to sign Abe. Heck, Gonzo just signed for $7M.

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nice read s always TDWII.....like the analysis a lot. As far as the offseason moves, here is where I fall:

Abe:

agree let him walk. He's about to hit the wall and Falcons will begin to get more pressures with scheme now than just a pure pass rusher. Falcons need to use Abe's money in other areas. Getting Mike Nolan will help cushion the blow of letting Abe go.

Grimes

I would like to keep Grimes but Falcons are going to have to clear more cap room to keep him and get Nicks and make a few other moves. I could go either way on Grimey -would be nice to keep him.

Nicks

I agree that Falcons should pull out all the stops to sign him if he hits free agency. I just believe he would make the whole offensive line better and Matt would be able to "step up" in the pocket more. While we would have to overpay to get Nicks, we need Matt Ryan to "be all that he can be" and that can only be achieved with better pass protection. also Falcons will convert more short yardage running plays behind Nicks..

2nd round Running Back

yeah, I gotta disagree here TDWII. Falcons have too many needs to go 2nd round running back. Michael Turner/Quizz/Antone Smith. We can squeeze one more year out of Turner and the rest before we have to draft a RB. Given that we are down two draft picks and holes all over the roster, using our premium draft pick for RB seems foolish to me.

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1. the idea of having TDWii as the AJCs Falcons journalist/'beat' guy is superb!!

DLed is worse than a joke; he's an embarassement... sorta' like the results (lack of) of some previous Falcons' Coordinators.

2. TDWii your write-ups and thoughts are well done. I always enjoy them.

3. I agree on Ryan being resigned NOW. Get him on a long-term deal (8 to 10 years would work for me) that pays him well and helps our short-term and long-term Salary Cap management.

3a. Ryan is gonna' be the FIRST person that understands and supports us spending $$$ to get a legit high-quality OL.

4. I was also very high on getting Kyle Rudolph last draft at #27. I didn't foresee TD going to get Julio but I definently supported it then and even more so now. I was already of the belief that Julio, not AJ, was the best WR of the draft, and one of the best WRs potentially ever. I am not familiar with L Green but I do want us to get a highly athletic TE with height and reasonable bulk on our roster. I am most interested in getting T Eifert (Notre Dame) in next years draft or perhaps P Lutzenkirchen (Auburn) but could support drafting for one this season with the right pick location, and then again next also for that matter.

5. I wanted us to trade Turner after last season and was hoping we would draft Jaquizz. I got half of my wish. Turner hurts our offense. We need a good 3-headed RB committee. I believe Snelling & Rodgers are more valuable to us than Turner is. I agree we need to add another all-purpose back with more bulk than Quizz, that also has great hands, vision, and cutting ability (Turner has NONE of those attributes). I think we can draft that RB lower in the draft though.

6. OL - Trying to get Matt Light would be a great move. (I actually did just that in last years IMD for my team). Evaluating the acquisition of Gaither is an idea also. I would love to get Nicks, but it's not the most likely thing to happen. Perhaps Grubbs or another FA OG would suffice, but that RG position MUST be fixed immediately. I am not optimistic that Johnson is going to work out there, and Hawley is not the answer; perhaps Jackson comes back and can be the guy, but we simply have to solve that position without question. McClure is old, solid, average at best; I am not sold on Hawley being the next C. I was optimistic before this season and was glad he got to start for McClure.. but that went poorly and then at RG he underwhelmed. He was better than Baker there... LMAO!!... or cry.

6a. There are players at C, G, and RT (perhaps move Clabo inside) in this draft that would all help us if we draft them in 2nd and/or 3rd rounds. I prefer to get a legit G in FA and then draft another C prospect.

7. I like the QB Davis idea. I agree we need to add a QB for quality depth and age reasons. He is definently worth consideration.

8. DL and LBs- I can only see us keeping Abe if he takes big pay cut on a 1 year deal that allows us $$$ for other options. I believe Sidbury has been under-utilized for two seasons now (angry.png ) and Abe is simply over-rated and over-valued. Cliff Matthews has some serious upside and I think Ray Edwards will rebound with better pass rush results in 2012. Our DTs are not getting much done IMHO. P Jerry ??? wth?? Babs disappeared at times this season, just like Abe; he should not be doing this.

Lofton should be resigned unless Dent is ready to step in. Spoon is a stud at WLB (why did we play him at SLB last season??) just as I figured he would be. Nicholas ??? ummm? Can Dent step in to the Sam role?

I think we can play a good Hybrid D under Nolan with our personnel; it could be great with a couple front-7 upgrades.

9. I want Koetter to bring an innovative O to the field. Use Julio in numerous ways; speed sweeps, reverses, shovels, wheel routes from motion across theformation, fro the backfield, etc. Use the Screen game with Snelling, Rodgers and RB#3. I want an offense very similar to that of the Saints. Payton is a great Tactician; I want that here.

10. I don't know what to think about HD. Part of me thinks it was MM route combos and our bent on run-first; but I also realize Ryan just does not trust him much and there was a good reason for that last year, this year I'm not sure.

I am ready to cut bait with Weems and DeCoud (Geez Dude!!).

I am ticked off with Grimes if he actually did sit himself against the Giants; if true, he walks. Period. I don't want him on the team.

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