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Tdwii's Observations: One Week Into Free Agency...


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Brent Grimes: My initial thought is that with the signings of Rogers, Finnegan, Carr and Wright…that the market for Grimes had been sent and additional progress could be made toward securing him on a long term contract. But the more I think about it, the more I belive the Falcons have the leverage here to wait Grimes out. Now certainly Grimes earning $10M+ on a guaranteed payday is more money than he’s ever made before. But if Grimes has a weakness IMO, it’s durability. His knee came up and bit him last year and in 2008, he also struggled to stay healthy. And while his skills would still be in demand in the 2013 off-season, taking a 50/50 shot at playing a full 16 is probably something that wouldn’t play well if say he missed more time in 2012.

I think with hindsight being 20/20, the Falcons never felt an urgency to lock up Grimes long term…just 2012. And just like the Falcons did with Lofton, CB seems like a logical target for the Falcons to spend either their 2nd or 3rd round selection on. Watching the market for Lofton not materialize may in fact wind up helping the Falcons on the Grimes front. CB is a position that is valued more highly than MLB, so I think Grimes would have suitors next off-season if he played well and stayed healthy. But Grimes is the one exposed now under the franchise tag and taking a deal at 85-90% of market value may sound attractive enough to him at some point this off-season versus chancing it. And if 85-90% represents a total contract savings of $5M-7.5M over the life of a 5 year deal…kudos to the Falcons for not panicking.

Tatupu/Manuwai: With the NFL being a year-to-year league, it’s not surprising that these signings were met with skepticism. And the NFL is justifiably a year-to-year league because of the punishment doled out annually and by simply how fragile ones status as an NFL player is. What I will say about the signings of these two players is this: We are coming off the most unusual of NFL off-seasons. One where players who were injured had no access to team medical staffs. NFL players reply on those medical staff implicitly as it relates to their health, well-being, and rehabilitations. Remember how worried Peyton Manning was about not having access to Colts team doctors during his rehab from neck surgery last year? And so Tatupu and Manuwai both involved situations where coming off injuries and surgeries, their progression back from them was slowed by their lack of team medical personnel access.

Is this to say we should expect players back at their peak levels of performance? Obviously, that is a best case scenario, but in reality this past season (and off-season) represented the first one where perhaps someones ability to hang in the NFL was not related solely to ability. With a year off also to ‘lick ones wounds, both Tatupu and Manuwai could turn out to be major value investments. Neither is at an age where it’s unreasonable to think they could still contribute at an NFL level if they’ve done so before. Manuwai is 32 in July (by comparison, Tyson Clabo is 31 come October) and Tatupu is 30 in November (Stephen Nicholas is 29 in May).

To date, I haven’t seen other GM’s really mine this market. That said, I don’t know who this market represents and to be fair, other teams were sniffing around Tatupu. But it does represent outside the box thinking and particularly in the case of Lofton, perhaps prevented a pricey re-signing that wasn’t commiserate with market value.

John Abraham: The question you have to ask is simply this. Mario Williams for $16M/year or John Abraham for $7M? Abraham has risen from the dead before (remember the hand-wringing about his 2009 5.5 sack performance?). And quite frankly, I’d expect the Falcons to be even more judicious about his usage. Mike Nolan needs to find a way for the Falcons to create sacks based on Abraham’s pressure. Too often in the past, Abraham would create pressure which would squeeze the QB into an open space either inside or outside the pocket. Either way, the horseshoes and hand grenades approach to pass rushing needs to be shored up that doesn’t necessarily funnel sacks to Abraham but rather have Abraham funnel sacks to others. Either way…the cost effective contract Abe signed was a pleasant surprise. I was not originally on board with signing him, but at that price – there appears to be little downside.

The Bucs: I liked Carl Nicks. I wanted him for the Falcons and I would have been willing to pay him as the highest OG in the NFL. With that said, I was a little puzzled that the Bucs used one of their FA bullets on him. I get that talent is talent and if you have $50M in cap room, you acquire the best you can. But IMO, now the Bucs have Davin Joseph (who just last year signed a 7 year $53M deal) and Nicks. So the Saints said no to paying Nicks and keeping the best guard tandem in the league together even though their offense is a juggernaut, but the Bucs now have two high priced players at that position with question marks littered all over the roster. I think move only starts to make sense if they go RB in Round 1 or 2.

As to Vincent Jackson…let me show you his career highs in the following categories; receptions/yards/TD’s. 68/1169/9. This was all done in 2009. Consider that he also had Philip Rovers throwing him the ball. And the Bucs just made him the 3rd highest paid WR in the NFL. He’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s ever been a bellcow WR and that offense needs a bellcow WR.

Eric Wright will help shield them from any effects related to Aqib Talib’s fate. But it would appear that Morris Claiborne is going to fall to them at #5 (Luck, Griffin, Kalil will be picks 1-3 and I don’t see CLE going CB). So why pay $7.5M/year for a solid guy when they could draft a guy at #5 who might be a better player already for a cheaper price?

Personnel wise, they are better by virtue of the fact that a week ago, they didn’t have these players. I would have to research how much more cap flexibility they have in future years. I believe they still have room to spend if need be. But these signings don’t really faze me.

Dimitroff: Which brings me to our erstwhile GM. He’s been criticized for his apparent lack of action coming off another lackluster (to put it kindly) playoff performance. The blockbuster move side of me would have certainly loved to see the Falcons sign Carl Nicks. I see protecting Matt Ryan as the key driver behind any big personnel move. Too often, I thought the time he had to survey the field and push the ball down field was compromised. And when he was pressured, it seemed to come from up the middle. Is Pat Hill the answer…? Perhaps. One thing to look at as it related to Paul Boudreau, his tenures with his respective employers often topped out at about 3 years. 4 years tops. Maybe the Falcons needed a different coaching outlook/philosophy along this unit and that’s all there is to it. Boudreau’s record would seem to suggest his time was up. So in reality, maybe this move patches up that problem.

Dimitroff has pointed out that the changes the Falcons have made have been significant and I’m inclined to agree with him, even though they haven’t centered around personnel. The fact is, the Falcons have won more games in the last 4 seasons than any other NFC franchise outside the Saints. Such a record simply doesn’t point to significant personnel issues.

When I think about the cooridnators that were hired in 2008, Mularkey made sense because he was a run-based OC who would be able to implement a ground-first attack thereby taking the pressure off his young QB. Van Gorder made sense because on a unit devoid of much of a veteran presence outside John Abraham, his familiarity in working with college kids provided him insight on how to work with young players and get them acclimated to the pro game. Contrast that to the new coordinators that were brought in and you can see the differences. Dirk Koetter fancies himself a passing game specialist, an OC whose mandate will be to put the offense squarely on the shoulders of the Falcons franchise QB (something Mularkey never did despite a playcalling ratio that could argue the point). In Mike Nolan, the Falcons brought on board an extremely experienced NFL hand…one to maximize the talents of a defensive unit that no longer slants so young.

For Dimitroff, the stakes have never been higher. Four years ago, this level of success would have been to die for. But even if the Falcons progression from worst team/situation in the NFL in 2008 to playoff team was gradual, the next step would have been January victories. If in 2008, we were ahead of schedule, in 2012 the best we are is on schedule and a lack of January success will bring heat to the Falcons braintrust. And with that in mind, Dimitroff has decided to largely stand pat personnel wise. It’s a gutsy move, more gutsy than overpaying a top tier FA IMO. The 2012 Falcons can’t resemble any of the previous 4 versions of the Falcons under Dimitroff. Even from a style perspective this team needs to look and feel different and Dimitroff is leaving that burden to a new coaching staff, but with existing personnel. It will be an interesting dynamic…one that could energize the Falcons or leave them reeling. As such, it’s perhaps the first time, Dimitroff has had to go all-in on his off-season tinkering. Should be an interesting ride.

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I agree mostly, I don't think we should spend one of our draft picks on ANOTHER corner though, I honestly though our secondary played well, especially toward the end of the season. I think the best move was getting Nolan as our DC, if we can generate a pass rush consistently our defense will be top 10 if not top 5 easily. Tatupu will thrive in our defense if our D-Line can generate pressure.

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I agree mostly, I don't think we should spend one of our draft picks on ANOTHER corner though, I honestly though our secondary played well, especially toward the end of the season. I think the best move was getting Nolan as our DC, if we can generate a pass rush consistently our defense will be top 10 if not top 5 easily. Tatupu will thrive in our defense if our D-Line can generate pressure.

We need a nickel corner. Say what you want, but Franks and Owens did not get the job done.

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I'll add this we replaced OC DC and O-line coach who do you think is next if they fall over next year.

It has to be MS.I love what Smitty has done in 4 years here but I think if they collapse like they did last year he's a goner for sure.

Also if we are saying talent isn't the issue here there is a H*ll of alot of pressure back on the coaches to get it done.

I have a personal belief that the defense doesn't have the needed help to get us over the top I hope I'm wrong but I gotta funny feeling I'm not.

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Great read, but I disagree w/ you in one area. I don't think TD went "all in." A GM feeling the need to win now or lose his job would've gone after the high priced FA and set us up for cap **** in the near future. I believe TD has his eye on the now and the future.

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Actually, I'll take Abe for $4.4MM (his cap hit). But I see what you are saying with Grimes. Next year's CB class is shaping up to be a really good class. Why not tag Grimes? He gets his money and then next year, let him face the harsh reality of FA as a 30 year old corner. Now, you can hardball and let him walk and take a corner in the first, or you can resign him.

The Bucs aren't much better. Nicks is a good pick up, yes. But like you pointed out, Jackson is very overrated, especially playing in that offense where every pass is at least 20 yards. And Eric Wright was a horrible signing. That's what happens when you have to use cap space, you have to overspend to get under the minimum cap.

When I think about the cooridnators that were hired in 2008, Mularkey made sense because he was a run-based OC who would be able to implement a ground-first attack thereby taking the pressure off his young QB. Van Gorder made sense because on a unit devoid of much of a veteran presence outside John Abraham, his familiarity in working with college kids provided him insight on how to work with young players and get them acclimated to the pro game. Contrast that to the new coordinators that were brought in and you can see the differences. Dirk Koetter fancies himself a passing game specialist, an OC whose mandate will be to put the offense squarely on the shoulders of the Falcons franchise QB (something Mularkey never did despite a playcalling ratio that could argue the point). In Mike Nolan, the Falcons brought on board an extremely experienced NFL hand…one to maximize the talents of a defensive unit that no longer slants so young.

Couldn't have explained that part any better. We had elementary coordinators with players that were more developed than they could handle. Hence BVG going back to college and MM going to another undeveloped offensive roster. He can baby Gabbert into just giving MJD the ball and not rely on a QB because his offense doesn't rely on the QB.

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nice read as always TDWIII - agree with almost all of it.

i would have thought you would have had a paragraph in there about left tackle though. Its the biggest void on this team right now.

I tried to keep my thoughts limited to actual developments that occurred during Week 1. I don't disagree that LT is a position that I'm waiting to see how the Falcons look to solve. It's quite possible that solution comes in late April.

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Great read, but I disagree w/ you in one area. I don't think TD went "all in." A GM feeling the need to win now or lose his job would've gone after the high priced FA and set us up for cap **** in the near future. I believe TD has his eye on the now and the future.

I actually disagree with this sentiment. I think a GM that's desparate looks to do this. I remember when Jerry Angelo had his big FA haul during the 2010 off-season when he bagged Peppers. He also signed Chester Taylor and Brandon Manu...(the big TE). And that year, the Bears made the NFC title game. But a year later, he was shown the door. And so for TD, I see his willingness to stand pat as a move of confidence. Whether that confidence is warranted is something the 2012 season will bear out. But from an all-in standpoint, you better feel you have the strongest hand possible before you put all your chips in. And that's why I equate TD's relative passivity in terms of making big, new name personnel in to feeling confident in his hand.

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Good work. You make some great points. Not anything to disagree with. I definitely agree that LT is a position that needs to be addressed, but I don't see a draft day solution with no 1st rounder. I'd be happy with McNeil, Bell, or Collins. I'd feel better with an established pass protector than counting on a last minute FA signing, and definitely better than a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

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Good work. You make some great points. Not anything to disagree with. I definitely agree that LT is a position that needs to be addressed, but I don't see a draft day solution with no 1st rounder. I'd be happy with McNeil, Bell, or Collins. I'd feel better with an established pass protector than counting on a last minute FA signing, and definitely better than a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

D-Led is talking in circles - he says Falcons are interested in McNeill and McNeill interested in Falcons but there is no meeting set up. Maybe he's right - I dunno......seems to me with that much mutual interest, it would not be that hard to set up a meeting.

D-Led also really thinks Baker's poor performance - in minds of Falcons brass - was result of him playing injured and that is why Falcons are not down on Baker. I disagree but just being a messenger here.

If healthy enough to play, I think McNeill is a signing that needs to be made.

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