By: John Wickham
The Falcons wanted to add some toughness and grittiness to their team. They were sick of getting pushed around. So what did they do? They showed that it was not all talk and actually went out and got a few guys that will not be pushed around. In comes NT Paul Soliai at 6’4” and 345 lbs, in comes DE/DT Tyson Jackson at 6’4’ 296 lbs and in comes OG Jon Asamoah at 6’4” 305 lbs. The Falcons also add OG/OT Gabe Carimi at 6’7” 316 lbs earlier in the offseason. The Falcons also resigned a couple of their own in Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, Joe Hawley and Mike Johnson. The Falcons show that they want to keep some continuity on their lines by keeping these guys but also understand that some new talent was needed to help them out. The Falcons have also shed some of their own players as well. Asante Samuel, Stephen Nicholas, Garrett Reynolds, Thomas Decoud and even Tony Gonzalez were shown the door. Tony Gonzalez was cut because he has not filed his retirement papers and some if his money would become guaranteed if he was still on the roster by a certain day of the new football year.
I think the Falcons have done a tremendous job in added toughness and talent to their lines. Maybe some of the players and contracts were different then what I expected but I am very satisfied in the Falcons actually identifying their problems and coming up with a solution for them. While I do think that the Falcons offseason is far from over. They still have several needs that must be filled but have 8 more weeks of free agency to fill them before the draft and then of course the draft and free agency after the draft. Also they could find a player when roster cuts happen in the pre-season but I really hope that is a last resort.
I feel the top needs of the Falcons are as follows:
1.Pass rusher (DE/OLB)
I think after need 1, the other needs can be somewhat interchangeable. I think if we have a good pass rush then our safety play does not need to be that great because if the QB is being harassed or on the ground then he can’t be throwing it deep. Also I think at TE if our QB has time he will be able to find the open man and if there are holes being created then the RB should be able to hit them. Matt Ryan did pretty well before Tony Gonzalez and he should be fine after him. I think the TE position goes from option 2 or 3 to option 4 or 5 and either the 3rd receiver or RB moves up the list.
What I would like to see happen is that Robert McClain does not get another offer and stays as our NB. I would like to see a vet CB brought in to play NB/DB/3rd safety and to help our young guys. I would also like us to sign a veteran FS. My top option would be Chris Clemons formerly of the Miami Dolphins. Mike Nolan has coached him before, so there would be familiarity. Chris Clemons is your classic FS; he is good in coverage but not very good in tackling. I think I can handle that. When Thomas Decoud was playing well in 2012 it was because he was a ball hawk in coverage but still taking bad angles and couldn’t tackle but in 2013 when he couldn’t do anything that is what I think led to his release. For TE I think 1-or 2- year deal for Owen Daniels would be perfect. He is a receiving TE that would fit in nicely without costing all that much. It would allow for Daniels to split out in the slot and Levine Toilolo would be able to be on the line and could work on his blocking.
Those would be my major signings. That would leave the needs at draft time to be the same but I would not have a problem trading up if need be. My top players would be:
1.DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2.OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
3.OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
4.OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
I feel that no matter what at least one of these guys will fall to the Falcons. This is list of course is subject to change. I probably could have Robinson and Mack listed as 2A and 2B. Clowney does scare me a little but I think he can turn out to be a very dominate pass rusher. He does not fit a true 3-4 but the Falcons are not supposed to run a true 3-4. They are going to be hybrid. They are going to run both a 3-4 and a 4-3. They will also probably be in a nickel 60% of the time anyway. If he can rush the passer then that is what he will do.
If the Falcons stand pat I could see them taking one of these guys and then getting either one of these positions in the 2nd round or possible later if they find better value in the 2nd round with a TE or FS or another position. If the Falcons did take one of the OTs with the 6th pick I could see them possibly trading back into the first round and taking a guy like OLB Dee Ford or DE Kony Ealy if the Falcons do not think they will last till their 2nd round pick. The Falcons could be willing to do this because they are expected to get some compensatory picks that should be announced later this month during the NFL Owner’s Meetings on the 23-26.
I believe the Falcons have had a pretty solid start to the offseason. If I had to give them a grade it would be a B+ but it is still very early so I will go with an Incomplete. I look forward to seeing what the Falcons do to right the ship and get back to being a winning team in 2014.