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.