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.
With a limited amount of cap space, the Atlanta Falcons are going to be forced to make several decisions in keeping their own.
Leading the list of free agents for the Falcons are tackle Sam Baker, tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Brent Grimes, and safety William Moore.
The Atlanta Falcons just needed to defeat the Detroit Lions in order to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they did just that.
Matt Ryan led the Falcons (13-2) to a 31-18 victory, tossing four touchdown passes – two to Roddy White and one each to Julio Jones and Michael Palmer – in the process.
The Atlanta Falcons Piedmont Healthcare Injury Report published on Friday lists four Falcons as out for Sunday’s versus the Carolina Panthers: cornerback Chris Owens, fullback Lousaka Polite, running back Antone Smith, and tight end Michael Palmer.
Both Owens (head) and Smith (hamstring) were ruled out for last week’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Palmer suffered his injury during the game and was declared out earlier this week.
Linebacker Mike Peterson (ribs) is listed as questionable. Jonathan Babineaux (groin), Tyson Clabo (hip), Julio Jones (hand), and Stephen Nicholas (thigh) are all listed as probable.
With Polite out, Jason Snelling will be inserted into the fullback role. Tommy Gallarda will take Palmer’s place.
The Atlanta Falcons have been extremely quiet this free agency period. They have signed guard Vince Manuwai and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks, respectively. In addition to these signings, they have brought back rotational defensive end Kroy Biermann, starting free safety Thomas DeCoud, slot receiver Harry Douglas, backup quarterback Chris Redman, backup running back Jason Snelling, and rotational defensive tackle Vance Walker.
Defensive End – The Falcons won’t give in to John Abraham’s demands to be paid as an elite defensive end. Abraham will be 34 years old at the start of the 2012 season. At this point in his career, he’s better suited as a pass rush specialist; the elite defensive ends in the league are capable of playing both the pass and the run well. Also working in Abraham’s favor is the fact he was on a snap count for the regular season.
Many analysts think the Falcons will pursue Mario Williams. Jason La Canfora expects the Falcons to make a “strong play” for Williams. Williams would certainly fit the bill well as the new right defensive end for the Falcons.
Ray Edwards is expected to be back at full health for this upcoming season. We’ll see how he performs.
Kroy Biermann was re-signed and will provide solid depth as usual.
Tight End – Tony Gonzalez has gone on record to say this will be his last year. It will be difficult to find a tight end who can come close to matching the Hall of Famer’s production. The Falcons re-signed Michael Palmer, and although they like him, he’s not the answer. Look for the Falcons to find a successor to Gonzalez in the Draft.
Left Tackle – Will Svitek was serviceable in taking over for Sam Baker, but the Falcons need an upper echelon left tackle to protect Matt Ryan. Also notable (veering on the side of disturbing, actually) is the vote of confidence Baker received from head coach Mike Smith. I can’t help but to think this is just Smith being classy. With the $2.6 million the Falcons can save by cutting Baker, there’s no way he’s on the team this upcoming season. Marcus McNeil is a speculated target for the Falcons.
Right Guard – Who knew losing their meanest, nastiest lineman would result in the protection issues the Falcons experienced throughout the season? Harvey Dahl’s departure was huge; the falcons thought the lineman they had drafted – Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley – would be able to step right in and be competent. Reynolds and Johnson were set for a training camp battle, but Johnson was injured and Reynolds was given the reigns. Reynolds struggled mightily, and the position proved to be a revolving door. Hawley was inserted in and struggled. Even Sam Baker was inserted in at one point. He immediately gave up a safety.
The Falcons did sign Vince Manuwai. If Manuwai can return to form, it would be a great signing. However, this has to be nothing more than a depth signing.