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Falcons Team Report


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Falcons Team Report

Yahoo! Sports - Mar 10, 12:36 am EST

Inside Slant

Notes, Quotes

Strategy and Personnel

Either way, Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes is set to hit the jackpot.

The former undrafted free agent, who was discovered by former Falcons coach Bruce Plummer out of tiny Shippensburg University, was slapped with the team's franchise tag.

He could walk into the office at the start of free agency, sign the tender and be in line for $10.6 million big ones.

However, because Grimes has essentially been on year-to-year contracts since 2007 and because he wants a long-term deal, his agent said that signing the tag is the last thing on his mind.

Grimes made $2.63 million last season.

"We have no plans to sign the tag at this time," wrote Grimes' agent Ben Dogra in a text to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We hope to be able to continue to discuss (through) all the issues at the appropriate time."

At the NFL Scouting Combine, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team was considering putting the franchise tag on Grimes. He went on the team's flagship radio station, 790TheZone, last Friday (March 2) and announced that Grimes would receive the team's tag.

"That's at the top of our list, as you could imagine," Dimitroff said. "We spent a lot of time on this decision and we decided that we will put the franchise tag on Brent Grimes. We are looking forward to continuing discussions with his representatives. We are excited about having him back for the next year, if not more. This is a good thing for us as an organization."

He also addressed why the team feels that Grimes is worth more than $10 million.

"Our feeling is (that) Brent Grimes is an excellent athlete who can move, cover and break on the ball with some of the top corners in this league," Dimitroff said. "We feel comfortable with his abilities and the way they he's picked up our system and has settled in nicely over the last few years that we've been here. ... Brent Grimes obviously does that against, big, small, fast or slow receivers in this league. We're encouraged about having him back."

The Grimes' camp would like something in the neighborhood of the six-year, $57 million contract the Falcons gave to Dunta Robinson. Grimes has been the team's top corner, but they are using the leverage that's provided to them by the collective bargaining agreement.

If Grimes fully pursues the holdout route and doesn't play until Week 10, the Falcons prepared by getting Dominique Franks and Christopher Owens more action late last season. Also, Grimes didn't play in the team's playoff game after a late-season knee injury.

Some contend he was protecting his free agency status over the team's needs.

"Our young corners had to play at the end of the season," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Dominique Franks did a nice job. He played our nickel, our fifth (defensive back) and he got a lot of experience. Christopher Owens, because of injuries, had to play as well."

Much like Grimes when he was trying to earn playing time, Franks sparkled on the practice field last season. Some of the old-timers placed him on the "All-Flowery Branch" team. Like Grimes, he has to take his All-Flowery Branch play downtown to the Georgia Dome.

Offensive guard Vince Manuwai signed with the Falcons. He was released by Jacksonville on Aug. 3 after finishing the 2010 season on injured reserve with a back injury.

He worked out for the Titans in October, but ultimately did not play in the NFL last season.

The 6-2, 333-pounder was a third-round pick in 2003 who started 105 of the 111 games he played for the Jaguars, and is considered a strong run blocker.

In Atlanta, he joins offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who was his coordinator for four seasons in Jacksonville.

General manager Thomas Dimitroff said the team is not in negotiations with quarterback Matt Ryan for a contract extension at this time. Under his regime, the team usually extends the contract in the last year of the deal late in the season.

That was his modus operandi with Jonathan Babineaux and Michael Jenkins in 2008.

Running back Jason Snelling, who tested the free-agency waters last season before returning to the Falcons, agreed to terms with the team on a three-year, $4 million contract Thursday.

Snelling, 5-11, 234 pounds, was originally selected by the Falcons in the seventh round (244th overall) of the 2007 NFL draft.

Last season, Snelling rushed for 151 yards on 44 carries. He also added 26 receptions for 179 yards and one touchdown.

In five seasons with the Falcons, Snelling has totaled 1,192 yards on 300 carries with seven touchdowns while adding 107 catches for 827 yards and five touchdowns.

Snelling is the fourth player the Falcons have re-signed or tagged in order to keep them from becoming free agents on Tuesday.

The Falcons placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes on Monday.

Starting free safety Thomas DeCoud signed a five-year, $21 million contract, tight end Michael Palmer and running back Antone Smith signed their exclusive rights contracts on Tuesday. On Wednesday, defensive end Kroy Biermann signed a three-year, $12 million contract.

Negotiations with defensive end John Abraham, the team's sack leader, are in a holding pattern. Negotiations with middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, the team's leading tackler, were termed "amicable," but no deal has been reached.

Former Falcons linebacker Coy Wire, who orchestrated the team's offseason program last year during the lockout, said the team does not have a bounty program.

Wire made the statement to the Buffalo News while discussing the bounty program that was in place with the Bills under Gregg Williams.

He also played for Mike Mularkey and **** Jauron in Buffalo and said that neither coach had a bounty system.

During his tenure as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, Williams rewarded players for big plays and also for knocking players out of games, the NFL announced on Friday. Williams, who was recently hired as the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, admitted to the allegations and apologized in a statement.

In addition to Wire's claims that the Bills' had a bounty system, The Washington Post reported that Williams had a bounty system in place while he was the Redskins' defensive coordinator.

Williams was Buffalo's head coach from 2001 through 2003. Wire was selected in the third round (97th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft and said the program was in place when he arrived.

Wire, 6-0, 225 pounds, compiled 206 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and six passes defensed in nine NFL seasons between the Bills and Falcons. He was released by the Falcons in September.

A 2001 S

tanford graduate with a sociology degree, Wire is a tireless reader with deeply held religious beliefs. His academic pursuits, coupled with a life-threatening neck injury in 2007, have led him to study the powers of the mind.

He was selected by his teammates for the Ed Block Courage Award in 2009 for being an inspiration to the squad.

Wire has been working on a book, "Change Your Mind: 10 Unconventional Secrets to Retrain Your Brain" which is scheduled to be released this month.

The Falcons and the Saints have been bitter rivals since both teams entered the league in the late 1960s as expansion teams.

Quote To Note:

"Our desire was never to make a splash move. We've never made any move in mind to try to boost the brand. … We'll always analyze what's in front of us and the possibility of going after something in the draft as far as moving up and even moving back. Our history, since we've been here since 2008, has been not to move back. Again, that's probably more the personality of myself, Mike Smith and our owner Arthur Blank."

—Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff reflecting on last season's Julio Jones trade and picking at 55 overall in the second round this year.

Former Georgia tight end Orson Charles, who caught nearly 100 passes in three seasons for the Bulldogs, had a rough performance at UGA's Pro Day on Monday.

Once considered a surefire first-rounder, he might fall and be available when the Falcons pick with the 55th choice of the draft. He ran a slow 40-yard dash in difficult conditions at the Woodruff Practice Fields.

With the wind gusting to 20 mph, Charles covered the 40 yards in 4.9 seconds while running into the wind and 4.75 with the wind.

"Running against the wind was kind of discouraging," Charles said. "I heard a couple of my times and I feel like I can do a little better. If I had to take anything back, I'd like to take that 40 back and prove that I am like a 4.5 or 4.6 guy."

Charles, Stanford's Coby Fleener and Clemson's Dwayne Allen are considered the top tight ends in the draft and Charles hopes to be the first tight end selected.

Falcons coach Mike Smith has made UGA's Pro Day one of his regular stops on the scouting trail and was on hand for Charles' workout.

"It's part of the evaluation," Smith said. "You want to get an opportunity to meet these guys and have an opportunity to learn more about them. Obviously, we spend the majority of our time watching tape and evaluating them. This gives us an opportunity to learn more about how they grew up, what they've done and what their makeup is."

Team Needs

Defensive end: With John Abraham slated to hit free agency, the Falcons are looking for a replacement for their top end in their rotation. Ray Edwards, who had an uninspiring first season with the Falcons, will be back after an injury-marred season. With Kroy Biermann re-signed, waiting in the wings are Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan may want to experiment more with Biermann, who has done a nice job while dropping into coverage.

Right guard: The Falcons drafted Mike Johnson in the third round of the 2010 draft and expected him to step in and win the job. However, he was beaten out by Garrett Reynolds and ended up on injured reserve. When Reynolds broke down against superior athletes like Detroit's Ndamukong Suh, Joe Hawley - the center-in-waiting - had to take over.

Left tackle: Head coach Mike Smith gave left tackle Sam Baker a big endorsement. He likes the way Baker has played when healthy. Unfortunately for Baker, he was not healthy much of last season. He had back surgery during the season and an elbow ailment hindered his play much more than the team let on. So, if Baker does not return to good health, the Falcons will need to upgrade at this position. Will Svitek battled at the position after taking over for Baker.

Medical Watch:

No updates.

Franchise Player:

CB Brent Grimes (tendered at about $10.6 million).

Transition Player:

None.

Unrestricted Free Agents

DE John Abraham wants to return but his demands to be paid like one of the top defensive ends will not likely be met. He turns 34 and is likely a situational pass rusher going forward. He had 9.5 sacks last season, but two occurred in the season opener and 3.5 against Jacksonville's weak line in a meaningless late-season game.

OT Kirk Chambers will not likely return. He was added to provide depth, but never played last season.

WR Harry Douglas has been solid coming out of the slot, but wants to test the market. The team wants him back, but at their price.

CB Kelvin Hayden was a key reserve last season before suffering a nasty turf toe injury. He could return if healthy.

TE Reggie Kelly is not expected to return.

MLB Curtis Lofton is the team's leading tackler and has played strong against the run. He's been solid in pass coverage, but not spectacular. The team doesn't want to pay him like one of the top linebackers in the league and he could be lost in free agency.

C Todd McClure wants to return and the team would like to have him back. However, all of the offensive line positions are up for grabs and he could be challenged by Joe Hawley for the starting spot. The team was not happy with their inability to get a push in short-yardage situations and that starts with the undersized center.

LB Mike Peterson ended the season on injured reserve with a torn triceps. The team wants him to return if healthy.

QB Chris Redman wants to return and should be back at a modest price.

G/C Brett Romberg was added for depth after Todd McClure was injured in training camp. He's not expected to return.

S James Sanders played in 15 games and made three starts. He provided depth behind Thomas DeCoud and William Moore. He's expected to be re-signed.

WR Eric Weems is a valuable special teams player, who could replace Harry Douglas in the slot.

LS Joe Zelenka will get a shot to return, but will face a challenge from a couple of younger long snappers that were signed in the offseason.

Restricted Free Agents

DT Vance Walker is a key member of the defensive tackle rotation and short-yardage defense. A former seventh-round pick is expected to receive a higher tender than where he was drafted at.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:

None.

Players Re-signed

FS Thomas DeCoud: Potential UFA; $21M/5 yrs, $4M guaranteed.

DE Kroy Biermann: Potential UFA; $12M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

TE Tony Gonzalez: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

TE Michael Palmer: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.

RB Antone Smith: Potential ERFA; terms unknown.

RB Jason Snelling: Potential UFA; $4M/3yrs.

Players Acquired

OG Vince Manuwai: FA; terms unknown.

Players Lost:

None.

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