With free agency starting on March 12 and the NFL Draft beginning April 25, it’s time to take a look at the positions the Atlanta Falcons need to address.
Unsurprisingly, Michael Turner is likely to be cut. He had his worst season by far since the Falcons signed him in 2008, amassing just 800 yards on 222 carries. He lost both the explosiveness and power that made him such a force, and his subpar receiving ability make him a liability in the Falcons’ revamped passing offense. Cutting Turner would save the Falcons $6.9 million.
Jacquizz Rodgers is a nice change-of-pace back, and although head coach Mike Smith believes the running back can be on the field for all three downs, Atlanta needs to add another running back instead of going into the 2013 season with Rodgers as the starter.
Even if Tony Gonzalez decides to return for one more year (and the Falcons hope he does), the Falcons need to find his heir apparent; there’s no sense in putting it off for one more year. If Gonzalez chooses to go through with retirement, this position becomes a gaping hole with just Chase Coffman and restricted free agent Michael Palmer on the roster.
Second-year player Akeem Dent’s transition to the starting middle linebacker spot was largely unimpressive. Like his predecessor Curtis Lofton, Dent was a liability in coverage.
The Falcons re-signed outside linebacker Stephen Nicholas to a five-year deal two seasons ago. He had a strong start to 2012, but his play fell off as the season went on. Nicholas had trouble in coverage, and he looked particularly lost when called upon to cover the tight end (specifically Vernon Davis in the NFC Champion Game).
Atlanta needs at least one additional speedy linebacker who can cover to complement Sean Weatherspoon in nickel packages.
It’s no secret the Falcons had trouble rushing the passer. John Abraham, who will be 35 years old at the start of the season, was the only threat on the line since the Ray Edwards experiment failed miserably. Kroy Biermann is a versatile defensive end, but he doesn’t excel at anything. Since Abraham’s been in Atlanta, the Falcons have been searching for a defensive end to pair with him. So far, they’ve failed at doing so.
Atlanta couldn’t stop the run at all, and some of that blame falls on the play of the defensive tackles. The Falcons need a consistent defensive tackle to pair with Jonathan Babineaux. Corey Peters played poorly after missing the first six weeks of the season, and Peria Jerry is a bust.
Because I think the Falcons will move Peter Konz to his natural position at center, they will need to find a replacement at the right guard position. Konz largely struggled at right guard; he was often simply overpowered despite his technique being sound.
If the Falcons fail to re-sign Sam Baker and William Moore, then left tackle and strong safety become needs, respectively.