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Falcons Off Season News

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Falcons owner Arthur Blank: I love Roddy White

 

Michael DiRocco

ESPN.com  


 

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank wants Roddy White to finish his career with the team but said the decision ultimately will come down to coach Dan Quinn.

The 34-year-old White just completed his 11th NFL season and has two years left on his contract. His salary cap number is $6,043,750 next season, a hefty figure based on White's limited role in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme. And White has no desire to take a paycut.

Although Blank is a White supporter, he won't force the issue regarding which players remain on the roster.

"I have nothing but respect for Roddy and I love Roddy," Blank said in a telephone interview from the Super Bowl's radio row. "I love what he's done for our franchise. And I love the type of leadership that he has. And I love his role as a father.

"When it comes to where Roddy is in the future, that's where the owner doesn't get involved. That's a decision that will be made by the coach, the coaching staff and personnel. When they're ready to do it, they'll do it. They're in the process of going through the roster evaluation now. They've had some discussions. They'll have more discussions."

White said he wants to be a Falcon for life and play in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will be the Falcons' new home for the 2017 season. Blank was asked if he wants White to be on the roster for the grand opening.

"The answer is, of course, yes," Blank said. "Age does take its toll on players. Whether or not Roddy is going to have the capability at that point in time, I really don't know. But he's certainly competitively, and culturally, and community-wise, he's performed at the highest level for us for a long period of time. And during this year, in some tough situations, he played well."

Quinn, who has the final say over the 53-man roster, said he values the leadership White brings to the equation. Plus the Falcons probably would benefit from White's wisdom with assistant coach Raheem Morris making the move from defensive pass game coordinator to wide receivers coach.

White, the franchise's all-time leading receiver with 808 receptions for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns, had just 43 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown this past season. He expressed his desire for more touches early in the season, which led to meetings with both Quinn and Shanahan regarding his role.

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Chad Reuter's four round mock draft has the Atlanta Falcons emphasizing defense early and often

 

By James Rael on Feb 3, 2016, 12:25a 34

The Falcoholic  


 

Fact: Kevin Dodd, when happy and aware of said happiness, claps his hands

Chad Reuter of NFL.com released an interesting four round mock draft a couple days ago. He's predicting that the Atlanta Falcons will prioritize defense early in the draft. Check it out, if you haven't already.

Reuter has the Falcons selecting DE Kevin Dodd out of Clemson in the first round. Dodd, at 6'5, 275 pounds, is a beast. His status as an NFL prospect is 100 percent attributable to a fantastic 2015 campaign. He amassed 46 QB pressures and 12 sacks. (He also had a sack in each of his last 5 games). If there's a knock on Dodd, it's that he lacks technique. But technique is teachable, and the Falcons would be lucky to have Dodd.

Reuter predicts another defensive pick in the second round for the Falcons: Missouri ILB Kentrell Brothers. As you know, the Falcons desperately need capable linebackers. Brothers is a tackling machine. He's durable (starting 40 straight games in college), physical, and built like dump truck (6'1, 250 pounds). I dig this pick.

In the third round Reuter mocks LSU S Jalen Mills to the Falcons. Mills broke his fibula prior to the 2015 season and struggles against the run. On the other hand, he's a respected coach-player type with high football IQ. Not a bad pick in the third round.

Finally, in the fourth round, Reuters mocks Arizona State OG Christian Westerman to the Falcons. Westerman thrived in a spread attack at Arizona State. Why? Because he's athletic and can get to the second level. Sounds like an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan's zone blocking scheme.

Now, if you've made it this far, then I'm sure you're just itching to tell me your thoughts. So what say you? Would this be a respectable haul for the Falcons?

Ben Day Hoe likes this

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Atlanta Falcons roster review: O'Brien Schofield is fired up

 

By Dave Choate@TheFalcoholic on Feb 6, 2016, 8:00a 1

The Falcoholic  


 

The versatile linebacker may be back, as he's a Dan Quinn favorite.

O'Brien Schofield came to Atlanta because he was a Dan Quinn guy, first and foremost. He may return to Atlanta because he proved himself to be a capable player and a vocal leader for a locker room in flux. Here's how he stacked up in 2015, and what that means for 2016.

Valued Contributor

Schofield wound up starting 10 games, playing in 16, and chipping in a pair of sacks and a couple of big plays, while also playing solid across the board. He's no one's idea of a dynamic starter and, if he re-signs, figures to be more of a capable reserve getting 20-plus snaps a game than the lineup fixture he was in 2015. We heard publicly—and through rumors—that he was a consistent presence in team meetings and during the players-only meetup that garnered so much publicity, chiefly as a positive presence. If you have a great locker room guy who can contribute on defense and special teams, that's a good use of a one year deal.

Contract Status

Schofield is an unrestricted free agent heading into March.

2016 Outlook

Schofield apparently endeared himself to teammates, clearly wants to return, and is a Dan Quinn favorite. If he'll sign for a year or two at a reasonable price tag, expect him to come back and contribute as a key reserve for what we're all hoping is a greatly improved Falcons defense.

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While doing media at Super Bowl 50, QB Matt Ryan said he's hopeful to wear the Falcons' all-black uniform again.

 

would definitely love to have those back!!:D

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William Moore, Justin Durant released by Falcons

4:13 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons released strong safety William Moore and linebacker Justin Durant on Monday.

Moore, the team's second-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft, had two years left on his deal. His salary-cap number would have been $6.525 million next season.

Durant, who signed a three-year deal with the Falcons before the 2015 season, had a cap number of $3,416,666 for 2016.

The release of Moore saves $3.35 million in cap space, while Durant's release equals a $2.58 million cap savings. By releasing Durant on Monday, the Falcons avoid having his $1.75 million base salary in 2016 becoming fully guaranteed.

Both Moore and Durant spent most of last season dealing with injuries. Moore, a one-time Pro Bowl selection, finished the season on injured reserve with an ankle injury after missing games earlier in the season with a groin injury. He played in 11 games this past season after playing in only seven the year before while dealing with multiple shoulder injuries and a foot injury.

"We want to thank both of these guys for their commitment and work ethic," coach Dan Quinn said. "They battled through injuries to give everything they had for their teammates this season, and I will always be appreciative of that."

Justin Durant has been released by the Falcons just one season after the linebacker signed with the team as a free agent. David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

Durant came to the Falcons with an injury history and missed three games this season due to various injuries. When healthy, he was arguably the team's best linebacker. He finished the season with 82 tackles, second on the team behindPaul Worrilow (95).

Moore admitted he had problems adjusting to the new style of defense implemented by Quinn in 2015. Kemal Ishmael, who replaced Moore at the end of last season, might get the first shot to earn the starting role going into next season.

As for Durant's spot at weakside linebacker, the Falcons are bound to address the void via free agency or the draft. The Falcons need a significant upgrade at linebacker, and Quinn knows what type of players he wants to target.

We certainly want to find ways to see our speed and tackling at linebacker [improve]," Quinn said. "I haven't dug in all the way with the group, but I have a real clear vision of what I'm looking for. It's the space tackling. In college football right now, there are so many spread offenses. So space and tackling, that's where so much of the game is.''

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Arthur Blank: Matt Ryan the QB to lead Falcons to Super Bowl

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank firmly believes Matt Ryan is the quarterback who can lead the franchise to the Super Bowl.

"Absolutely," Blank said last week. "No question about it. But it doesn't take one player to get there. It takes a lot of players around him and having a lot of talent around him. It's going to take a lot of players to do that; offensively, defensively, and special teams. And it's going to take coaches and the coaching staff that will help support that."

Ryan is coming off one of his worst showings in eight NFL seasons after committing 21 total turnovers, including several costly interceptions that swung the momentum in games. Ryan and Blank discussed those plays during a sitdown following the conclusion of the season.

QB Matt Ryan is coming off a disappointing season in which he committed 21 turnovers, but the Falcons have faith he can rebound. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

"I do that as a matter of course," Blank said of the meeting with Ryan. "Every season, I usually will have a dinner or a couple hours alone with the quarterback, always with the knowledge of the coach. And I spent some time with Matt. I think it went well. As Matt would say, 'Last year was probably the most difficult for me. I didn't have the kind of consistency, performance that I would like. Our offense didn't. We were sixth in the league in moving the ball [passing]. We were, unfortunately, 21st in scoring, and that's not the right kind of ratio that you want.'

"I think some of it was related to the new scheme. I think some of it was related to bad decisions that he made. He had more turnovers at that position than we would like to have -- not that we would like to have any. But we had more in bad places and bad times of the game. So, I would say all that was a part of the discussion.''

Blank is confident Ryan can rectify those issues, particularly with more help around him. The Falcons need another receiver capable of beating one-on-one coverage to alleviate pressure from top target Julio Jones. They need bigger bodies on the interior of the offensive line to help protect Ryan. And offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Ryan have to work in unison to ensure the scheme caters to Ryan's strengths as an accurate pocket passer.

"Obviously, we have a great faith in Matt Ryan," Blank said. "He's only 30 years old. He'll be our quarterback for many years to come. As Rich Gannon said to me the other morning -- and Gannon was a very competitive player in the league for many, many years and a high-level quarterback -- he said, 'You've got a quarterback that about 20 other teams would love to have.' And I think I would agree with him on that."

Now, Ryan has to go prove the owner right. The $100 million quarterback is 1-4 all-time in the playoffs and 0-1 in the NFC Championship Game, and the Falcons haven't made the playoffs the last three seasons.

 

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ESPN Insider: Big 2016 for Falcons' Vic Beasley

10:25 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons rookie Vic Beasley would be the first to say he was far from satisfied with his first NFL season despite setting a franchise rookie record with four sacks.

As he prepares for Year 2, one ESPN expert said he believes Beasley will have a strong sophomore campaign.

Former NFL player and ESPN Insider Matt Bowen named Beasley was one of five rookies "ready to pop in Year 2." Joining Beasley on the list are Dorial Green-Beckham of the Titans, Jeremy Langford of the Bears, Quinten Rollins of the Packers, and Clive Walford of the Raiders.

You can read the entire breakdown here (Insider). This is a snippet of what Bowen had to say about Beasley:

Beasley recorded only four sacks in 2015, which is low for a top-10 pick. But I caution against looking only at box scores to analyze his production: Beasley progressively improved over the course of the season, based on the tape I watched. That's a sign of development at a position in which rookies often struggle. It's hard to consistently win on the edge in the NFL.

Beasley said he played the entire season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, an injury he refused to use as an excuse. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Beasley will not have to undergo shoulder surgery.

The Falcons need Beasley to be dominant next season as they try to fix a broken pass rush. They finished last in the league with 19 sacks. Getting Beasley some pass-rush help up front will help the cause.

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Devonta Freeman wants Super Bowl LI to be his Valentine

11:44 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman hopes to have a late Valentine's Day date -- with the Super Bowl.

Just two days before Valentine's Day, a tweet showed up on Freeman's Twitter account expressing his desire to make next year's Super Bowl his Valentine. Freeman said Friday he didn't actually come up with the design, but he did tweet out the image for his fans to see.

http://twitter.com/devontafreeman/status/698179848221630464/photo/1

Of course, Freeman and the Falcons have a lot of ground to cover before they start talking Super Bowl. They haven't made the playoffs the past three seasons and have holes to fill on both offense and defense.

Team owner Arthur Blank said Matt Ryan is the right quarterback to lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Ryan has a couple of good sidekicks in Pro BowlerJulio Jones and Freeman, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and tied for the NFL lead with 14 touchdowns this past season.

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Falcons talking with Paul Soliai about restructuring contract

11:58 AM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons have approached nose tackle Paul Soliai’s agent, David Canter, about restructuring Soliai's contract.

Discussions are ongoing and a final decision has not been made regarding what type of pay cut Soliai might have to take or whether he’ll accept the pay cut. Canter is scheduled to speak with the Falcons again Friday night.

Paul Soliai has the third-highest salary-cap number on the Falcons' roster behind Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. AP Photo/Butch Dill

Soliai originally signed a five-year, $32 million contract in March of 2014. He received $14 million guaranteed, $7 million in a signing bonus. For 2016, he is due a base salary of $5 million with a $500,000 roster bonus maximum per game active. Soliai’s cap number would be $6,837,500, the third-highest on the team behind quarterback Matt Ryan ($23,750,000) and wide receiver Julio Jones (15,900,000).

According to overthecap.com, the most the Falcons could save against the cap by restructuring Soliai’s contract would be $3,076,667.

The 32-year-old Soliai was signed to be a run-stuffer and to take on double-teams to allow linebackers to make plays in the Falcons’ previous defensive scheme. His value decreased under new head coach Dan Quinn, who implemented more of an attacking, 4-3-under defense that relies on versatile defensive linemen capable of pressuring the passer as well. Soliai played 348 snaps and finished with 22 tackles, three tackles for losses, and five quarterbacks hits.

Soliai expressed a desire to return next season but realized it was out of his control.

"I don't know, we'll see, but all I'm going to do is just try to get back, get my calf right, and see whatever happens," Soliai said. "I want to be here no matter what, but whatever happens, happens. It's a business. I do love this organization, especially this year with how tight knit the defensive line and the whole defense got together. There's a great chemistry. So hopefully, I'll still be here."

Soliai was one of three free agents the Falcons committed high salaries to in 2014. They also signed defensive end Tyson Jackson to five-year, $25 million contract that included $11 million guaranteed along with offensive guard Jon Asamoah to a five-year, $22.5 million contract that included $8 million guaranteed. Asamoah reached an injury settlement and is no longer with the team, while Jackson’s status with the team remains unclear with him set to count $6.35 million against the cap in 2016.

If the Falcons decide to release Soliai, there would be a cap savings of $2,637,500.

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Falcons intend to part ways with NT Paul Soliai

10:13 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

The Atlanta Falcons plan to part ways with starting nose tackle Paul Soliai, their biggest free-agent acquisition from the 2014 offseason.

Soliai's agent, David Canter, said after "positive conversation" with the Falcons this weekend regarding a paycut, the two sides could not agree to terms. Canter said the team plans to release Soliai on March 9. It will be designated a post-June 1 cut, meaning the Falcons will save $5,437,500 against the 2016 cap as opposed to $2,637,500 by just releasing him now.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14815296/atlanta-falcons-part-nose-tackle-paul-soliai

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Who should be the top free agent target for the Atlanta Falcons?

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Feb 20, 2016, 12:00p 52 

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
 

Our roundtable of writers debate the logical choice for Atlanta.

The DW

Mario Williams (DE)

At 31 years old, Williams may not be one of the top pass rushers in the league anymore, but - as Denver showed with DeMarcus Ware - veteran pass rushers are still highly valuable, even if the stats don't light up the scoreboards like they used to. Super Mario has posted double-digit sacks in 5 of his 10 seasons in the NFL and has an impressive 96 total sacks over his career. At 6'6" and around 290 pounds, he's a beast of a man who can be a factor against the run as well. Just two years ago, Williams recorded 14.5 sacks with the Bills, so it's not as if he's completely washed up either. The bigger issue may be the money he'll be looking for, despite being over 30. The thought of him lining up opposite Beasley conjures images of a pass rush few Falcons fans would dare dream of. If the Bills do cut him, I pray that the Falcons are the first to pick up the phone.

Kendall Jackson

Danny Trevathan (LB)

The Falcons desperately need an upgrade at middle linebacker, and Danny Trevathan fits the bill perfectly. He can play the run and he can cover, so he's not coming off the field in passing situations. Trevathan will be just 26 by the time the season rolls around and he's going to land himself a nice contract with a team looking for a young stalwart in the middle of a defense. Bring him home, Falcons.

 

Dave Choate

Mario Williams (DE)

He's not technically a free agent yet, but it seems so inevitable that I'm going to go ahead and salivate over the possibility. Williams is on the wrong side of 30, but he's still one of the league's better pass rushers, his utter misuse in Rex Ryan's scheme in 2015 may have damaged his market value just enough that the Falcons would consider him, and he'd immediately become the team's best pass rusher and the ideal player to have oppositeVic Beasley on the defensive line. You may only get 2-3 quality years out of Williams at this point, but given how hard up for a pass rush Atlanta is, I have to think he'd be worth signing.

 

Caleb Rutherford

Von Miller (Hey, he hasn't signed anywhere yet)

...but seriously, Danny Trevathan (LB)


In an ideal world of free agency, you want players that are two things: 1) young and 2) good. The majority of the time, you either get a player that is one or the other, but Trevathan is not only both young AND good, it's highly likely he'll be leaving the team due to the amount of money Denver has to pay Von Miller and a quarterback. While Paul Worrilow is a fan favorite, it's clear he's not the answer at linebacker for the Falcons, and if they want to take the next step on defense, they need a guy who can come in and enforce the middle of the field. Trevathan should be able to do that.

 

Charles McDonald

Kelechi Osemele (G)

The interior of the Falcons offensive line is a mess right now. Bringing in Kelechi Osemele from Baltimore would shore up one of the guard spots. Osemele is a perfect fit for the Falcons current offensive personnel; he's athletic enough to run the outside zone concepts, but powerful enough to run the gap plays that better suit Tevin Coleman. He'll turn 27 in the summer so if the Falcons decide to throw big money his way, the contract will be justifiable. The Falcons need to get bigger, meaner, stronger, and more athletic up front. Osemele is the perfect man for the job.

Scott Carasik

Stefan Wisniewski (C)

The Falcons season in 2015 fell apart not because of the defense or because of the passing game dying, but because the offensive line fell apart with Mike Person failing to snap the ball consistently or block effectively at center. Ideally, the Falcons bring in someone to replace Person as the starting center, and Stefan Wisniewski has both experience in a zone blocking scheme and talent to succeed in it. He's not as quick as Person, but his experience at center and his ability as a blocker would make the offensive line as a whole improve. Person isn't a complete lost cause as he was a solid blocker at times and could be an answer as a stopgap at either left or right guard in 2016 for the Falcons.

 

Allen Strk

Danny Trevathan (LB)


When looking at most top-tier defenses, one element usually stands out. Explosive edge rushers used to be the main priority for every defense to emerge into an outstanding uint. It remains as a key component, but not a total necessity. Look no further than theCarolina Panthers, who had aging pass rushers in Jared Allen and Charles Johnsonplaying significant snaps. Stout linebacker play has become essential in today's game. With teams depending on underneath throws to move the chains more often, three-down linebackers will become more coveted.

 

Successful defenses will usually feature two versatile linebackers. Luke Kuechly andThomas Davis is a phenomenal duo. Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright have been excellent for years. The Super Bowl champions benefitted greatly from Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan flying around the field. Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower has emerged as one of the better duos. When people look at the emergence of Minnesota's defense, the speed of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks immediately stands out. All five teams have drafted extremely well in the linebacker department. Meanwhile in Atlanta, they've started overmatched undrafted free agents and injury prone veterans. With Justin Durant recently released, two linebacker holes need to be filled. The market for edge rushers isn't very appealing. Trevathan is entering his prime as one of the most complete linebackers in the league. He can cover, tackle in space, win at the point of attack, and play all three downs. There will be plenty of competition to sign him, which could scare Atlanta away. If they want to make a true statement though, this is the player that will help them do it.

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With Paul Soliai gone, is Tyson Jackson next?

 

 

By Matthew Chambers  @FalconsM5 on Feb 21, 2016, 10:12a 5 

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Tyson Jackson with some unimpressive foot speed. - Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
 

We try to find out where the team is headed.

The Falcons have gotten rid of three overpaid, underperforming veterans so far this season: William Moore, Justin Durant, and Paul Soliai. It sounds as if Moore and Durant were simply set free, while the team wanted Soliai to take a salary more fitting of his role.

Next on the list of bad acquisitions is the invisible man, DE Tyson Jackson. Jackson looked to be like a solid fit as a run-stopping end in a 3-4 defense. The Falcons, of course, only briefly played that scheme in 2014. Cut to now, and Jackson is competent against the run, and a huge liability when asked to rush the passer.  He is a stunningly average player, and can easily be replaced by any number of free agents and/or draft picks. Perhaps his only most memorable play was when he was unblocked on the way to Cam Newton, had a chance to make the first play the entire season, but instead sends his helmet into Cam Newton's face for a penalty.

 

Jackson is not a good fit for Quinn's defense, and the Falcons are widely expected to use one of their top draft picks for a starter at the LDE position. Jackson's base salary is $4.75 million this year, an unimaginably high number of a backup that is unable to effectively get to the quarterback.

Atlanta could save his $4.75 million base salary by cutting Jackson, but has to deal with accelerating $3.2 million in his signing bonus into this year. Atlanta could free up that $1.55 million by making the cut, but will probably pay a similar amount to Jackson's replacement. The move would be best used just to get rid of Jackson. If designated as a post-June 1st  cut, the Falcons would save over $3 million this season, but will be stuck paying that $3.2 million next season.

The Falcons need a "redo" button on the 2014 offseason.

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Roddy White: Would be a tragedy if I leave Atlanta

  • 0ap1000000236552.jpg
  • By Kevin Patra
  • Around the NFL writer
  • Published: Feb. 23, 2016 at 03:21 p.m.
  • Updated: Feb. 23, 2016 at 04:58 p.m.

Roddy White's future in Atlanta remains in question after compiling just 506 receiving yards and one touchdown in 2015.

For his part, the receiver doesn't want to be jettisoned by the Falcons after 11 seasons.

"It would be a tragedy if I had to leave," White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

White has averaged 713 yards over his past three seasons and is due $4.25 million in salary and bonuses in 2016. TheFalcons could save the $4.25 million on the cap by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation (spreading the cap hit over two years) with just $1.9 million in dead money.

The 34 year old said no one in the Falcons' organization has indicated to him whether or not he will return.

"No, I haven't spoken to anybody," White said. "I haven't been given clarity about anything."

But if he had a guess?

"I'd bet every dollar I had that I'm going to be a Falcon," White said.

White admitted his optimism could be for effect, but said it's a representation of how much he wants to remain in Atlanta.

There were several occasions during the 2015 season that White griped he wasn't part of the offense, but told the AJC he "didn't have any problem" with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on a personal level.

"Do I wish I could be a more significant part of the offense? Absolutely," White said. "But that's not what they wanted me to do and you have to enjoy and embrace the role you have."

Whether or not White will have any role to embrace in Atlanta in 2016 remains to be seen.

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Falcons, Dan Quinn noncommittal on Roddy White returning

 
4:50 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said the team continues to mull whether to keep veteran wide receiver Roddy White on the roster for next season.

"Not yet," Quinn said when asked whether the team has made a decision on White. "He’s somebody you certainly know we have such respect and admiration for as we’re building this team together. He, and some other players, go under that line. We’re not into that decision yet. And when we do regarding team-building processes, we’ll fill you guys in."

Quinn was pressed on whether the delay in the decision might be an indication that White will remain with the team, particularly with veterans such as William Moore, Justin Durant, and Paul Soliai already released or informed of an imminent release.

"We’re still in the process of everything that we’re going through, not just with Rod," Quinn said. "That every year, we’re going through this team and finding ways that we’re going to do it and build all together. I wouldn’t read into it one way or another, but we are going through the process together."

Roddy White wants to be back in Atlanta, but do the Falcons want him back? That is the question. John Bazemore/AP

White, 34, just completed his 11th NFL season and has two years remaining on his contract. His cap number for next season is $6,137,500 -- a lofty figure considering his limited role in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme -- and his salary is $4.25 million. Releasing him would provide a cap savings of $2,362,500.

On numerous occasions, White said he wants to be a "Falcon for life" and finish his career playing in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, set to open in 2017. But White also complained about his lack of touches and increased role as a blocker in Shanahan’s scheme five games into last season, and he finished the year fourth on the team in receiving with 43 catches for 506 yards and one touchdown.

Although Quinn previously said he values White’s leadership, the decision could come down to which wide receivers become available in free agency to complement top target Julio Jones. The Falcons are expected to have discussions regarding Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu if Sanu reaches free agency on March 9. Cleveland's Travis Benjamin, who made plays under Shanahan’s tutelage with the Browns, could emerge as an option as well after contract talks recently broke down.

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Falcons coach Dan Quinn wants to retain Adrian Clayborn, O'Brien Schofield

Adrian Clayborn (99) was second on the Atlanta Falcons with three sacks and O'Brien Schofield (50) emerged as a team leader last season. AP Photo/Mark Zaleski
6:23 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn expressed his desire to keep defensive end Adrian Clayborn and outside linebacker O'Brien Schofielddespite both being headed for free agency.

Clayborn and Schofield each signed one-year deals with the team last season. The Falcons need all the help they can get on defense, and both players showed flashes in their first season with the team.

"I do," Quinn responded when asked if he wants Clayborn and Schofield re-signed. "Here are some of the things that stand out for those two guys: relentless competitors, both of them. They embody the attitude that we like."

Clayborn was second on the team with three sacks to go with a team-leading 15 quarterback hits. His production stood out a little more considering the Falcons finished with a league-low 19 quarterback sacks.

"Now, for me, our continual push in terms of our pass rush, it's not going to be just one guy," Quinn said. "It comes from a group when we're rushing at our best together. So, I kind of think Clayborn, although he has flexibility to go inside ... if he's back with us, I'll feature him probably more outside to in than inside to out. But, we'll see where it goes as we get closer to free agency. But both guys, I just think the world of them."

Obviously, it will come down to how much the Falcons are willing to pay each player.

"It usually does," Quinn said with a laugh. "If that (wasn't) the case, I'd have a stock full of guys who I have a great connection with. Honestly for them, too, that's a choice for them and their families and career fits."

Clayborn made $3 million last season while Schofield made $1.7 million. The point can be made that Clayborn outperformed defensive linemen around him such as Tyson Jackson, who has a base salary of $4.25 million in 2016.

As for Schofield, he replaced Brooks Reed as the starting strong-side linebacker and Reed made $6.9 million last season. Schofield emerged as a team leader and has value as a strong voice in the locker room, but he knows he has to quiet any concerns about an arthritic condition in his left knee.

  • Quinn would not comment on nose tackle Paul Soliai not agreeing to terms on a restructured contract and, thus, setting up his release at the start of the new league year. Quinn said no other players have been approached yet about restructuring contracts.

  • Quinn said there will be competition at free safety between Ricardo Allen andRobenson Therezie as well as at strong safety as the Falcons find a replacement for William Moore, who was released. Kemal Ishmael would appear to have the first shot at replacing Moore, while Quinn didn't rule out the possible return of veteran Charles Godfrey.

  • On Matt Ryan's desire to get receivers together for unscheduled offseason workouts, Quinn said, "I know some other teams have done it, and I think, honestly, I think it's a really good idea when guys get together like that. To me, anytime a team can get together even outside of the building, that's kind of where the team chemistry takes places."

  • Quinn reiterated how the center position is at the front of the team's thinking, via free agency or the draft. He didn't rule out Mike Person, although Person struggled there. "I was really pleased with Mike in some areas and some, I wasn't. Same thing with Gino (Gradkowski). So, full competition is going to be on at the spot." Person has two years left on his deal while Gradkowski is bound for free agency.

  • Quinn said he has a ton of respect for linebacker Justin Durant, who was released due to injury concerns. Quinn likes the versatility of Philip Wheeler, who is set to become a free agent as well but could be re-signed for depth at a need position.

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Julio Jones' influence felt throughout NFL combine

Julio Jones led the league with 1,871 receiving yards in 2015. Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2016
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Ohio State wide receiver and NFL combine participant Braxton Miller, just like he did at the Senior Bowl last month, made sure to mention Julio Jones as the player he's trying to emulate as he embarks on his NFL journey.

In fact, Miller spent the days leading into the NFL combine studying film via YouTube of the Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl receiver. Specifically, Miller watched Jones' encounters with Carolina cornerback Josh Norman during the 2015 season.

"That's the best going against the best, so that's what you want to watch," Miller said. "I want to be in that same position. And that's why I watch Julio."

It's no surprise Jones' name continues to be mentioned at the combine. Tampa Bay coach and former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter brought up how Buccaneers rookie quarterback Jameis Winston learned about professionalism while observing Jones' demeanor at this year's Pro Bowl.

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Former Auburn wide receiver Duke Williams, a player who has a seventh-round grade based on his off-the-field character issues but believes he has first-round talent, knows some folks compared him to Jones in terms of body type before a fight outside a bar got him kicked out of Auburn.

"Julio is one of my favorite receivers, so I wouldn't mind playing with him," Williams said. "I wouldn't mind it at all. He's hungry. He wants it. Every play, he's going after it: blocking, running. No matter what, he finds a way to make a play and help his team."

Even tight end Hunter Henry from Arkansas, a diehard Falcons fan, had to give Jones his due respect.

"He's one of the best in the game, and why would you not want to be one of the best in the world?" Henry posed. "You've got to strive to be the best. And if you can be at the top like Julio Jones, you're doing something right."

Many teams would love to have a player the caliber of the 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Jones on their roster to make life easier on the offense and quarterback. Last season, Jones led the league with 1,871 receiving yards -- second most all-time behind Calvin Johnson's 1,964 in 2012 -- and tied Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown with 136 receptions. Jones might have surpassed 2,000 had Matt Ryangotten better protection at times, had Ryan not made some poor throwing decisions in some key situations and if the Falcons had another receiver to alleviate some of the added defensive attention Jones received.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera, even as an NFC South rival of the Falcons, isn't surprise so many prospects want to pattern their games after Jones.

"If you're a big, tall guy, yeah, you want to emulate a guy like that," Rivera said. "You want to be that kind of football player. We had some success against Julio, but I wouldn't say a lot of success because he was very successful against us thelast time we played (nine catches, 178 yards, 70-yard touchdown)."

Rivera can see Jones-like potential in one of his own players: Kelvin Benjamin, who missed last season with a torn ACL.

"Without a doubt, and he showed it his rookie year," Rivera said of Benjamin. "I think he can be that type of guy for us."

Again, every NFL team would love to have a player like Jones on the roster. We'll see who the next big-player receiver is from this year's draft class.

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Prospects Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd get combine scoop from Falcons' Clemson connection

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Clemson pass-rushers Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd both got plenty of advice from their former teammates, current Atlanta Falcons Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett, about the NFL draft process.

Specifically, Dodd talked to Jarrett -- a fifth-round draft pick in 2015 -- about the secret to interviewing with teams.

"Grady was just like, 'Just show who you are when you go up there and work, like you always have,'" Dodd said. "And he said, 'It's going to be long and stressful, but you just have to do what you've got to do to get the job done.' "

And what did Jarrett tell Dodd the toughest part of the process would be?

"Grady said, 'I know you're a shy guy, but going into those meetings, you're going to have to open up and show who you are because you have to tell them who you are, because I know you don't like to talk much,'" Dodd said. "It's just not something that I do all the time. But I'm not as shy as Vic."

Shaq Lawson, the NCAA tackles-for-loss leader last season at Clemson, could be an option for the Falcons, who need to boost their pass rush and have the No. 17 pick. Andrew Hancock for ESPN

So one can only imagine how the conversations between Dodd and Beasley went down.

"Vic's not that much of a vocal person," Dodd said with a laugh. "But he will let you know what needs to be done."

Both Dodd and Lawson said they would "love" to have a Clemson reunion with Beasley, Jarrett and defensive lineman Malliciah Goodman, provided Goodman remains with the Falcons. Lawson seems like a more realistic option as the Falcons narrow their choices for the 17th overall pick, although Dodd has a chance to boost his stock at the combine, as he did after a registering three sacks and five tackles for loss in the NCAA title game versus Alabama.

Lawson, who led the nation 25.5 tackles for losses with 12.5 sacks, had an enjoyable visit with Falcons defensive-line coach Bryan Cox, and had another formal meeting scheduled Friday with the Falcons. Dodd was a late arrival to the combine and hadn't met with any teams before addressing the media Friday afternoon.

Lawson shared a few details about what Cox talked about in the meeting.

"They talked about how I'm different than Vic Beasley, and I told them my game is different because I'm a lot heavier," the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Lawson said. "We both had the same kind of stats our junior year. It was just getting to know them better. It's great to get to know the Falcons."

The Falcons sorely need help with their pass rush after finishing last in the NFL with 19 sacks last season. Lawson said he feels more comfortable rushing from defensive end, though he is capable of playing inside, too. He talked about what he hoped to accomplish at the combine.

"A lot of people say they don't think I'm very athletic," Lawson said. "I'm here to show them [athleticism] this week and just work on getting better."

 

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Falcons won't filter out players who have overcome off-field issues

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com  


 

There is no doubt the Atlanta Falcons have bypassed some talented players as a result of their "Falcons filter" standards which squeeze out those with questionable characters or uncontrollable habits.

Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, a third-round pick, didn't meet the criteria in 2009 as a result of his marijuana use. Neither did pass-rusher Randy Gregory of the Dallas Cowboys last season, although the second-round pick's recent four-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy would say the Falcons made a wise decision.

But the Falcons have taken some risk in recent years. Linebacker Prince Shembo, a 2014 fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame, had some baggage a result of a college incident involving a female student. Shembo was released by the Falcons following another incident when he kicked and killed the dog of girl he was dating, although he was cleared of felony charges.

And just last season, the Falcons drafted cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round despite Collins' multiple failed drug tests at LSU. The move was backed by owner Arthur Blank, who was convinced after speaking with first-year coach Dan Quinn and Collins himself that Collins' drug habit was behind him.

"The filter is a filter: It's not designed to be a complete, solid shield," Blank said last summer. "You filter out players that you don't think are going to add and fit into the chemistry and the culture of our organization."

So what will happen this year if a talented prospect such as Eastern Kentucky pass-rusher Noah Spence, who was booted from Ohio State following two failed drug tests related to Ecstasy, is available when the Falcons select with the 17th overall pick? Or how do the Falcons view Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, a first-round talent with major off-the-field issues as well?

Or what happens in free agency if Seattle pass-rusher Bruce Irvin, whose drug-dealing and criminal past growing up in suburban Atlanta is well-documented, becomes available at a reasonable price?

Quinn talked, in general terms, how he mulls over such situations.

"With all players, you look at 'Did somebody have a setback that happened to them?' In those setbacks, you look at if it's something that's long-term or is it short-term," Quinn said. "Sometimes, those experiences also develop a lot of grit, and it shows the perseverance to come back through it. And I think you can actually gain some things from people like, 'Man, this dude had to overcome some things.' I think I'd rather take that approach to some circumstances.

"There are certain guys that have continual problems where this guy is really going to potentially really struggle in the NFL based on past history. And there are other guys where they might have had an issue, but you look where he's come from since then."

Quinn was the defensive coordinator in Seattle and had Irvin on his defense. He is a coach known for being able to relate to players, regardless of backgrounds. A player deemed a "risk" by some teams might be a guy Quinn applauds for having an edge to him.

"You want make sure if there's an issue, that it's in his past," Quinn said. "It's some of those times when guys have had tremendous growth like, 'Yeah, man, I was 21 and I made a mistake. You can be **** sure it's not going to happen again, and here's why.' In those experiences, you can find out a lot about a guy."

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Roddy White will be missed, could make Falcons regret decision

5:33 PM ET
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    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Obviously Roddy White isn’t the wide receiver he used to be.

The 100-reception, 1,000-yard seasons are well behind the 34-year-old. His body isn’t the same, as his troublesome left knee would indicate. And he’s no longer a No. 2 option, at least not in the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive scheme.

That being said, the Falcons’ decision to release their all-time leading receivercertainly won’t be received well. It’s a decision sure to draw a chorus of boos from die-hard fans. It’s a choice certain to leave superstar Julio Jones feeling somewhat dejected watching his close friend and mentor get ushered out the door.

Roddy White's value to the Falcons went beyond his statistics. AP Photo/John Bazemore

White was beloved in Atlanta for his 11 years with the organization, a tenure that included four Pro Bowl appearances, almost 11,000 receiving yards on 800-plus receptions and a franchise-record 63 touchdowns. He became a media darling for his tendency to speak his mind often.

Did the Falcons make the right move? From a statistical standpoint, maybe. White never fit in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and he never was going to have a cozy relationship with Shanahan after a contentious start. White was the team’s fourth-leading receiver this past season and became an afterthought in quarterback Matt Ryan’s progressions.

But White’s value extends beyond on-field production. There’s something to be said about intangibles when you’re talking about a team still trying to find its footing. Despite White voicing his displeasure about being primarily a blocker in the offense last season, head coach Dan Quinn on several occasions said he valued the leadership White brought to the team. Owner Arthur Blank expressed his "love" for White. And the chants of "Rod-dy, Rod-dy" echoed loudly through the Georgia Dome when White finally became more involved in the offense late in the season.

And don’t forget the Falcons are transitioning to a new wide receivers coach in Raheem Morris, a college defensive back who has coached defense all his career and worked as the team’s defensive pass-game coordinator last season. Certainly there would have been value in keeping White around to help groom the young receivers and make Morris’ adjustment to coaching an unfamiliar position that much easier.

If this was all about White’s $6-plus million cap number in 2016, then there probably needed to be some give and take on both sides. White, who was set to make $4.25 million this coming season, previously stated he had no desire to take a paycut. A restructuring of his contract, at most, would have saved the Falcons $1,632,500 against the cap according to overthecap.com. There had to be a middle ground if the contract was the biggest obstacle.

If White catches on with Tampa Bay, reunites with former Falcons offensive coordinator and current Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter, and enjoys a productive season alongside Jameis Winston, it might leave the Falcons second-guessing their decision. The same holds true if White joins forces with Marcus Mariota in Tennessee, where former Falcons wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie is now the offensive coordinator and former Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is now the head coach.

Whatever the case, White will be missed -- by his teammates, by at least some of the coaches, by the owner and by the city.

The chants of "Rod-dy, Rod-dy" might never totally fade away.

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Roddy White has no issues with text message from Dan Quinn

  • Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Veteran wide receiver Roddy White, who was released by the Atlanta FalconsThursday after 11 seasons, said he had no issue with coach Dan Quinn communicating with him via text message regarding the news.

White, who is out of the country, explained how it all transpired.

"My agent called me," White said in a text message to ESPN.com of how he found out about his release. "[Quinn] called me but I didn't answer because I was out of the country."

White didn't lash out about the team's decision to release him with two years remaining on his contract. He was, however, annoyed by the perception he failed to pick up offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense last season.

"I'm cool," White said. "They don't owe me anything, and I didn't expect this to be a magical ending. I'm a football player; [Quinn] is the coach. If he feels I couldn't help the team, then I'm cool with that. But what I didn't like is when somebody said I couldn't pick up the offense. Really, they taking shots at me."

White, 34, saw his role diminish in the first year of Shanahan's offense last season. Julio Jones was the primary target, while Leonard Hankerson was groomed to be the No. 2 option until injuries forced the Falcons to release Hankerson. White finished fourth on the team in receiving behind Jones, running back Devonta Freeman, and tight end Jacob Tamme with 43 catches for 506 yards and a touchdown. He complained about touches early in the season, saying he didn't want to just be out there blocking people. That prompted one-on-one meetings with both Quinn and Shanahan to clear the air. But the relationship between White and Shanahan never was repaired.

The decision to release White is sure to be unpopular among fans. Team owner Arthur Blank said White "will forever be a part of the Falcons family."

Although Quinn said he valued White's leadership, it wasn't enough to keep White on the roster. And Quinn said the team did not approach White about restructuring his contract, with White due to make $4.25 million in 2016 and his cap number more than $6 million. Quinn also said the timing of the release was to allow White a chance to find a new team before the start of free agency (March 9), which was Quinn's explanation for not waiting until White returned from his trip to sit down with him personally.

Quinn believes White still has enough to play in this league and said he wouldn't be surprised to see White end up with a team located down Interstate 75 South: Tampa Bay.

Dirk Koetter, the former Falcons offensive coordinator, is now the Buccaneers coach and said White is the toughest player he's ever coached. The Bucs have two solid receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, but White's experience and savvy play could be valuable to young players such as Evans and quarterback Jameis Winston.

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Falcons

 

Vaughn McClure

ESPN.com | 2015 Schedule


 

Vaughn McClure ESPN Staff Writer

Roddy White says he knew he was going to get released based on the Falcons not giving him clarity on his status immediately after the season. He said he's not upset. Wants to go somewhere else and win; play two or three more seasons. He admitted not having a good relationship with Kyle Shanahan and not agreeing with Shanahan's coaching decisions

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Potential Falcons target: Tamba Hali's contract voided

By Matthew Chambers and Dave Choate on Mar 5, 2016, 1:08p

The Falcons have another option at improving their atrocious pass rush.

We like to think that having a connection to Scott Pioli will put a player at the top of Atlanta's free agency list. Tyson Jackson, Jon Asamoah, andJavier Arenas prove that connection to be strong, but ineffective connection. Regardless, we have previously connected Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali to Atlanta this offseason.

Well, guess what? Hali's contract has been voided, and he immediately hits free agency. We should soon know if Atlanta's in on him.

 

The chief knock on Hali at this point in his career is his age, and his fit as more of a high-upside rotational pass rusher than an every down player. He has 86 career sacks and had 6.5 last year, and despite his advancing age he's a very durable player, having played in at least 15 games in every season of his distinguished career. In Atlanta, he'd immediately become one of the best pass rushers on the roster, likely seeing plenty of snaps opposite Vic Beasley. If the price is right, it's a signing we'd support.

Your thoughts on Hali?

I wouldn't mind if the falcons kicked the tires on him he would be an upgrade.

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Should the Falcons make a run at DE Olivier Vernon?

By Matthew Chambers  @FalconsM5 on Mar 5, 2016, 5:00p 2 

Atlanta needs to fill a few premium positions this offseason.

The Atlanta Falcons have a few tricky positions to fill: defensive end, wide receiver, middle linebacker, and strong safety. Other positions, like tight end and interior offensive line can be filled later in the draft and with cheaper free agents. With Atlanta's quickly expanding cap space, they should get a shot at 4 to 5 new immediate starters in free agency and the draft.

At those premium positions, the Falcons are probably hoping to coming away with any ofMario Williams, Danny Trevathan, Travis Benjamin, and George Iloka. Those are some very good players, but should the team make an aggressive move for a player with the perfect combination of youth and impact?

 

Miami Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon had the highest score of any 4-3 end, according to Pro Football Focus. And the competition was not even close. His pass rush grade was better than every player in the league, outside of J.J. Watt. His numbers are nuts. Vernon is averaging 8.5 sacks in his last 3 seasons, and does not turn 26 until October.

Pro Football Focus gave Vernon 30 quarterback hits, 41 quarterback hurries, and 50 stops last season. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound end has enough size to play on either side of the line, and simply put, would change this defense. If Atlanta wants to stand a chance against Cam Newton and Jameis Winston over the next decade, they need an explosive pass rusher like Vernon.

How can Atlanta pry away Vernon from the Dolphins? Thanks to Miami's cap problems, the team was forced to transition tag Vernon. This means Miami is on the hook to pay him $12.734 million this season, but if he signs a better deal with another team, Miami gets a chance to match but gets no compensation if they get outbid.

Currently, Miami is projected at $3.5 million over the cap. They will need to make some big moves just to retain their restricted free agents, sign their rookie class, and add a few veterans on minimum contracts. The team should need $10 to $15 million in clear cap space to make that happen, meaning they could have to clear nearly $20 million just to maintain their overall talent level.

If Atlanta is so inclined, they can offer Vernon a deal with a smaller signing bonus, but larger base salary in his first year, pushing his cap number up to a level where Miami can't possible match. They don't even have to get caught up in a bidding war, but may be stuck offering offering more than the $10 to $11 million dollar averages given to Vinny Curry, Cameron Hayward, and Cameron Jordan.

 

Ben Day Hoe likes this

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Debate: Who should the Falcons sign in free agency, now that it is days away?

By Dave Choate  @TheFalcoholic on Mar 5, 2016, 3:00p 8 

Time to dust off your free agent dreams and share them again.

Free agency begins in the middle of next week, and we've seen a number of players released over the last several days. That should help you update your free agent wishlist, which you should now share with us one last time before things kick off in earnest.

Knowing what's out there, I'm hoping for the following players:

 
  • DE Mario Williams
  • WR Travis Benjamin
  • SS George Iloka
  • G Brandon Brooks
  • DE Adrian Clayborn
  • DE/LB O'Brien Schofield
  • LB Nate Stupar
  • C Gino Gradkowski
  • T Jake Long
  • RT Ryan Schraeder
  • FS Ricardo Allen
  • LB Paul Worrilow

This would set up for the Falcons to focus on a linebacker like Alabama's Reggie Ragland or Ohio State's Darron Lee at pick #17, with the ability to select the best player available (within reason) in the second round and beyond. It's not causing you to openly salivate, I expect, but this would be a very solid group of signings for Atlanta, bringing back a few key players while upgrading the pass rush, secondary, offensive line and receiving corps. I'd love to add Trevathan to the list here, but I'm not sure he (or Bruce Irvin, for that matter) are going to fall in the team's price range.

Do us a favor and share your list.

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James Laurinaitis to visit Falcons

 

If James Laurinaitis is added to the Falcons' roster, he likely would step into a starting spot at middle linebacker. AP Photo/Billy Hurst

11:15 AM ET
  • mcclure_vaughn_m.jpg&w=80&h=80&scale=cro
    Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

Veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis, recently released by the Los Angeles Rams, is scheduled to visit the Atlanta Falcons on Monday, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter.

The Falcons need help at linebacker, and Laurinaitis' resume includes seven straight seasons of 100-plus tackles. The former second-round draft pick out of Ohio State started 112 consecutive games and has 852 career tackles, 16.5 sacks and 10 interceptions.

Laurinaitis has other suitors, including a recent visit to the New Orleans Saints. His consecutive-game streak would speak to his durability, but he also has a lot of mileage on him after averaging 99 percent of the defensive snaps during his time with the Rams.

If Laurinaitis is added to the Falcons' roster, he likely would step into a starting spot at middle linebacker, a spot currently occupied by Paul Worrilow. Although the Falcons like Worrilow and are expected to extend a restricted free agent tender to him on Monday, even Worrilow figured the team would add competition at the position. He was the team's leading tackler the last three seasons.

The question is, how much of an upgrade would the 29-year-old Laurinaitis be? Falcons coach Dan Quinn has talked all offseason about adding speed at linebacker. Laurinaitis isn't exactly a speed guy, and getting beat in coverage is something the Falcons have to shore up with their linebackers get matched in such situations.

Of course, Laurinaitis' production speaks volumes about his ability to be a defensive leader from the middle linebacker spot. But we'll see if he views Atlanta as the perfect fit -- and the right money -- to continue his playing career.

The Falcons have a hole at weakside linebacker as well after releasing starterJustin Durant as a result of injury concerns.

Denver's Danny Trevathan and Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman are other linebackers bound for free agency expected to be on the Falcons' radar.

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