Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Moves Begin

First Dominoes Fall in Busy Off-Season

Bryant Back in the Fold!

 

The Atlanta Falcons look to have one of their busiest off-seasons in franchise history with a brand new coaching staff in place and in need of a pretty major restructuring. The Scouting Combine is over and now all eyes turn to free agency. This will include many facets that will likely differ from years past. Dan Quinn is now in charge and looking to bring his philosophy and style to the Atlanta Falcons. Fast and physical is not something the Falcons can say they have much of, so it portends to some pretty dramatic changes over the next 5-6 months. Look for the Falcons to be active players in keeping some of their own players, cutting those currently under contract, and signing unrestricted free agents. This is before draft season draws near.

Quinn and his staff got off to a later start than the rest of the staffs, new ones included. In fact, he was the latest hires of a brand new head coach in quite a long while. Luckily, the front office helped assemble most of his staff even before he could officially sign on as head coach. A look at the first of what’s likely to be a very busy off-season………….

Re-signed

Cliff Matthews

One of the things that fans are the most interested in is how Quinn will assess many of the players that were stuck in Mike Smith’s “Witness Protection Program.” Those that showed skill and promise either in preseason or rarely in games, only never to be heard from again. One of Quinn’s greatest strengths is developing players, particularly those on the defensive side of the ball, with defensive linemen being his specialty.

Matthews Back In

Matthews, a 2011 seventh round draft pick, has shown some promise and did everything Smith and his staff asked of him. He bulked up to be more versatile and play more inside at tackle if need be. His stats aren’t anything to write home about: 28 combined tackles, 1 pass defensed appearing in 33 total games, but most of those have been on special teams and a few defensive snaps mixed in. Details aren’t available yet, but a lot of fans likely feel hope that Quinn will be able to get a lot more out of the defensive players that Smith simply couldn’t do. It also shows that players who’ve middling in Smith’s WPP and on the bench will get every shot to prove their worth under Quinn.

Patrick DiMarco

While this surely isn’t the biggest signing at all, it shouldn’t really be that surprising to Falcons fans.  DiMarco is anything but spectacular, but he is very, very solid. In a league that’s moving more and more away from the fullback, DiMarco provides a low-cost option that’s been with the Birds for a few years. After being let go by the Chiefs in 2012, DiMarco is actually a decent option out of the backfield. You might be a bit shocked that DiMarco has pulled down 17 receptions for 111 yards, 1 touchdown, and a 6.5 yards per reception average. This makes sense for many reasons and should give an indication that a lot of the free agents could get a shot under Quinn if the price is right.

K Matt Bryant

You know it’s not a terribly tense off-season when your biggest name to keep in free agency is a kicker. A dang good one though. Bryant is set to become 40 years old in May, but has shown no sign of slowing down. He actually had his 2nd best year as a Falcon with a 90.6 FG percentage (29 out of 32) and one of those misses was blocked. He also kicked a 54 yarder as well, also his 2nd best as a Falcon. It seems like a no-brainer to bring him back and all signs point to that fact. However, the Falcons really do need to start preparing his replacement sooner than later. Fans will remember how quickly Jason Elam went south as a Falcon in 2009 after having a good 2008. ((Update: Falcons Re-sign Bryant — 2/25))

New Signings

LB Allen Bradford

DiMarco Back in the Fold

Not too much to see here other than Bradford was with the Seahawks some when Quinn was there. Bradford has bounced around the NFL a lot since being drafted out of USC in the 6th round in 2011. Initially drafted by the Bucs and was claimed off waivers in 2011, spending a little over 2 seasons with the Seahawks. He was picked up by the Giants in 2013 and actually saw action of some type (likely special teams) in 9 games. Bradford spent time with the Jaguars and Browns before making his way back to the Seahawks last season, the last two being practice squads. A camp body who Quinn knows and not too much more.

WR Nick Williams

Much like Bradford got a shot because of his familiarity with Quinn, Williams gets a shot because he was with Shanahan and the Redskins in 2013. The former UConn Huskie only pulled in 338 yards as a senior with no touchdowns. However, he was one of the better returners in college with a 28 yard kick return average and took two punts for touchdowns. Not a whole lot more than a camp body vying for a special teams spot at best. Like Bradford for Quinn, Williams may be asked to help teach the system to some of the players. Quinn and Shanahan are just getting some of “their guys,” even if they won’t stick around for the long haul.

Falcons Soon-to-be-Free Agents

The Matthews and DiMarco signings are solid but not very close to the bigger of names for the Falcons getting ready to hit free agency. Of the Falcons recent off-seasons, this class of FA’s set to hit the market isn’t a big name one in general. The Free Agent period unofficially begins on March 7th and officially begins 3 days later where teams can sign players. That’s less than two weeks for quite a few moves to be made.

LB Sean Weatherspoon

Spoon Expected Back

All signs point to the Falcons bringing back the former first round draft pick linebacker. Some feel he was an outright bust. Others feel he was an injury bust and still others think he has certainly underwhelmed, if not on bust level. The injury bust critics certainly have an argument. Weatherspoon has started 51% of all possible games since being a 1st round pick. The other problem is that he really hasn’t been that good even when on the field: in 4 seasons (missed all of ‘14 season) he’s accumulated 290 total tackles, 8 sacks, 15 pass defensed, and 2 interceptions. Hardly anything to write home about for a 1st round LB. All that being said, though, the Falcons surely would like to see what he can do under Coach Quinn since one of his best talents is player development. Also, the Falcons have the upper hand and can sign him to a cap-friendly “prove-it” contract. A pretty low risk-potentially high reward signing.

DT Corey Peters

The former Kentucky Wildcat is an interesting case. On one hand, he’s been really solid when he’s been on the field: 146 total tackles, 11 sacks, 7 passes defensed, and 1 interception in 45 games. He’s certainly been one of the Falcons more consistent defensive tackles when on the field. On the other hand, however, he’s been solid, but nowhere dominant. Peters was perhaps on the verge of making the jump in 2012 with his best year and career highs of 46 tackles and 5 sacks. Sadly, he injured his Achilles in the next to last game of the season in San Francisco. The Falcons did right by him and gave him a 1 year, $1.5 million contract even though he would be a long way off in terms of recovery. He had a modest year back from injury with 26 tackles and 2 sacks playing in 15 games. The big question now is whether or not Peters is a true starter or more of a backup and how much is he worth. Of course the Falcons want to see what Quinn can do with Peters, but how much will he command. If reports are true, the Falcons want to bring back Bryant, Weatherspoon, and Peters.

S Dwight Lowery

Lowery Good Year in ’14

This is yet another tough call. Lowery had a pretty good year, started 15 out of 16 games, and was brought in for less than Javier Arenas got paid.  The former Jaguar just turned 29 and showed plenty of gas left in the tank. He pulled down almost 79 tackles, 1 sack, 5 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions. And this was all done with the NFL’s worst pass rush. Normal logic would see the Falcons bring Lowery back for a friendly deal. And that seems likely, particularly with William Moore’s injury history. The only issue is what Quinn sees in Kemal Ishmael and Dezmond Southward. If the Falcons could get a cap-friendly deal, it would be a welcomed veteran presence to a defense headed for a major turnover.

DE Kroy Biermann

Most assume that Biermann has played his last games as a Falcon. As much as fans wanted him to turn the corner, he simply never did. Much of it wasn’t his fault, per se, with Smith’s inability to find a spot for him to excel. Biermann has proven that he’s not a full time starter. He’s tried DE in the 4-3 and OLB in 3-4 and he’s more of a backup at this point. He got starter level money the last three years @ 3 million per year and surely didn’t earn it. The fact the he’s never gotten more sacks than he did in his second year (5) with limited snaps should say it all. He’s been with the Falcons for seven years, two defensive coordinators and he turns 30 during the season. Unless he accepts the league minimum to return, the Falcons should absolutely move on. Time to get some new blood in.

RB Antone Smith

Some thought the speedy Smith was all but ready to cash in on his chance at a payday and the he got injured. After getting screwed by Mike Smith and buried on the depth chart despite amazing potential and production, who wouldn’t want to move on. The good news for Falcons fans is that he recently said, “Heck yeah I want to be a Falcon.” He intimated that he’d like to run in the new zone blocking system. The Falcons just may be able to hang onto him after all.

RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Quizz a Tough Call

This may be the toughest call of all. Rodgers has shown very solid and sturdy at times throughout his Falcons tenure and the new ZBS system may fit him much better. He’s a good blocker and does everything pretty well. Problem is that he’s not necessarily great at any one thing. He’s had over 2,000 yards rushing and receiving his four years as a Falcon. His best years were in 2012 and 2013 when he almost broke the 100 attempt mark (94 and 96, respectively) and caught 53 and 52 passes for 402 and 341 yards. Definite resigning, right? Well, then you look at his 2014 stats and the emergence of Devonta Freeman: rush attempts, catches, rush yards, and receiving yards were cut almost in half. Perhaps the assumed exit of Steven Jackson would get Rodgers back to his pre-Freeman touches, but rumors of the Falcons being interested in Justin Forsett might suggest otherwise. A pretty tough call all the way around.

DE Osi Umenyiora

At one point, most expected Umenyiora to hang up his cleats. A recent report suggests that he’s not ready to retire. Hard to imagine the Falcons having any interest in bringing him back at his age and the Falcons desperate needs for a pass rush. Thanks for your time here, but moving on.

CB Robert McClain

McClain Among Many UFA CB’s

Another tough call and it will come down to what Quinn, Raheem Morris, and Marquand Manuel think. McClain has shown bursts of great play and then turned around to be wildly inconsistent. It’s hard to imagine him drawing much interest in the open market and the Falcons would like the depth, but how much will he cost? The Falcons can’t and shouldn’t keep all or most of the UFA’s due. McClain has to be on the fence along with many, particularly with the suggestion from Quinn that Dez Southward could play cornerback.

CB Josh Wilson

Same as McClain. How much do they want to spend? How much will guys like this want? How much do they value depth over talent and new blood? How much potential do they see coming from talent-rich Seattle? Too many unknowns at this point. The Falcons would probably keep either McClain or Wilson, but doubtful to both.

CB Javier Arenas

Hard to imagine the Falcons bringing him back. He had minimal impact this year and was signed as a low-risk free agent last year for $795,000. Likely gone withe wind.

OL Mike Johnson, Gabe Carimi

At first glance, Falcons want to throw these guys out quickly, especially Mike Johnson. He’s started 1 game since being drafted way back in 2010 and played in a whopping 18 since 2010 (36% of total possible games). Pretty atrocious for a 3rd round pick. Carimi actually showed some potential in a year wrecked with injuries to the OL. They may decide to bring one or both back for a low price since the ZBS may favor their skills. Of the two, Carimi certainly has a better shot than chandelier Johnson.

WR Eric Weems

Weems Likely, but Not Definite

Weems did well in Atlanta, ventured out with a big contract to Chicago, and came back home after being let go by the Bears. In a relief role, Weems actually caught 10 passes for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even though he’s not a pure wide receiver, he did pretty well with limited targets. His special team prowess is the biggest reason he makes the roster, but will he be a luxury if they decide to keep Devin Hester and Harry Douglas? The Falcons must get younger at WR in a hurry with Roddy White, Douglas, Devin Hester well over 30 and Weems turning 30 before the season. How many 30-age vets can the Falcons keep?

TE Bear Pascoe, T Jonathan Scott, S Charles Godfrey

The assumption has to be that these gentlemen are on the way out barring a crazy turn of events. Rumor came today that Pascoe is not expected to return.

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1,017 thoughts on “Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Moves Begin

  1. Big Ray

    http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com/2015/03/10/report-falcons-expected-to-sign-linebackers-brooks-reed-justin-durant/

    Reed won’t excite a lot of folks because he doesn’t have a history of nice sack numbers. What he will do is give us a legit starting LB at any one of the positions he fits best at (in the grand scheme of things…let that part sink in), for the next couple/few years, instead of watching our UDFA linebackers take lumps.

    I didn’t realize how well Durant was doing (or that he was a Dallas team captain by his 2nd year) prior to injury. I’ll take a guy coming off a biceps injury/surgery over anybody with a lower body injury, or…ahem…*cough cough*…a pectoral tear. If this guy comes in healthy and is up to speed, he gives us credible depth.

    Bartu and Shembo may yet prove their worth, but at least they have guys they can actually compete with and learn from now.

    Not “blow your mind” signings, but solid. I hope we don’t let Derrick Morgan leave town. In other news, Orakpo’s camp has gone quiet.

    Reply
    1. Chop Buster

      BR, I don’t care if we don’t sign any “Big Name” players, as long as the ones we do sign are fundamentally sound, can tackle when sent on a blitz, and has the right “bust em in the mouth” attitude.

      Reply
  2. marko

    http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/12457030/lance-kendricks-agrees-4-year-185m-deal-st-louis-rams

    Tight end was a position I thought the Falcons would address in free agency. One of the few names that had been linked to them was Lance Kendricks. He just resigned with the Rams. Rumors are that the Graham-less Saints will now go after Jordan Cameron. I don’t like the looks of that.

    My personal favorite was Rob Housler, but no apparent interest from the Falcons. It will be interesting to see how this ends up.

    Reply
  3. Ken Strickland

    It looks like we’ve signed an OG/OT in Mike Person from the Rams. He’s not expected to be penciled in as a starter, but he’ll likely get a chance to earn a starting spot. I wonder why we haven’t heard any rumors about FA DT JBabineaux, OT/OG MJohnson, FS DLowrey, RB JRogers, & DE KBiermann?

    Reply
    1. Seminole Warrior

      Rogers, The Bier Truck and Johnson are done in Atlanta I think. Babs may be brought back for less money, depth, and leadership at the 3 technique in which he has been a solid player for so long. Lowery may be a late signing as depth at the safety position is suspect.

      Reply
      1. Big Ray

        Yeah, TD isn’t looking to spend much at all it seems. A lot of guys went out of our price range quickly. Lowery is likely to be back at FS, so not much changes in our secondary this year (except gained experience for Ishamel and Trufant).

        Reply
  4. Hamad Meander

    I’m not disappointed so far, we haven’t overspent and we got a guard to fill in at LG that’s from Montana (State). That’s in keeping with Dimitroff’s MO. Seriously, I like the two linebackers and am thrilled to have Antone Smith coming back. That guy can run.

    Now lets go get Derrick Morgan (if still available) and Orakpo and Jordan Cameron and go play some ball.

    Reply
  5. Seminole Warrior

    BR

    As we discussed, I personally like the idea of Reed taking over the left defensive end position.

    He has the size (6’3″ 265 – comparable to former Falcon John Abraham), his pass rush skills are not flashy but they are documented, and he is solid against the run. That should be a plus for him in Atlanta as, typically, the right tackle (whom he will most often be matched up against) is not the best pass protector on the OL of the opposition.

    This would allow Reed, given his skill set, to approach the threshold of my “75%” rule for defensive ends or 6 sacks. That would also compliment the number of sacks that Quinn has seen from the LDE position over the last two years he was in charge of the Seattle effort.

    Now the team should do the very same tonight and sign DE Derrick Morgan to a similar deal as what they just gave Reed. Morgan would then become the new starter at the critical RIGHT defensive end position as he is a FAR superior pass rusher than Reed.

    Add my guy Vic Beasley to the mix as the “LEO” and his versatility to play the WILL or the SAM, behind either Reed or Morgan, and all of a sudden, the Falcons have a legit threat of a consistent pass rush.

    Reply
  6. Seminole Warrior

    Person is EXACTLY the “poster child” that proponents of the ZBS like myself love. He is scheme versatile. He has experience at the right tackle and right guard positions as well as having played left guard since coming into the league. He is technically solid and provides great depth. His attitude and work ethic reminds me of former Falcon Todd McClure. He’s steady, solid, and reliable. This is a potential steal.

    Reply
  7. waynester

    My bud is a Cowboy fan and he was really disappointed that they let Durant walk. He’s seen a lot more of the guy than most of us probably have and had nothing but good to say (prior to last season’s injury) so maybe it’s better than I initially thought….He’s royally pi$$ed about Demarco Murray not being rewarded for his awesome work with the ‘Boys and I have to agree. If they think they can replace Murray with CJ Spiller, they’re nuts….
    ps
    I wanted us to draft Murray, so I’m biased…..

    Reply
  8. Big Ray

    Word is that Derrick Morgan just left town without a contract, headed for Tampa. Not sure how reliable this is, but it’s been posted.

    We shall see. If Morgan is money hunting, we are going to lose out on him. Tampa has more dollars to throw around. And that puts us right back where we started – wondering who will play RDE, because that person is not yet on the roster if you ask me.

    Reply
  9. Big Ray

    I TAKE THAT BACK.

    The idiot who posted this via twitter misunderstood the phone call and just posted that Morgan has NOT left Atlanta. There is hope yet.

    Reply
    1. Chop Buster

      LoL…I just saw that as well. I read TB has about the same salary cap as us. So it depends on who’s willing to give up the most cash to Morgan–I guess. Since he’s a GT guy he might be inclined to return to the A-T-L.

      Reply
      1. Big Ray

        One hopes. Also, hopefully he buys what Quinn is selling. TD isn’t going to be much of a seller at this point…

        Reply
  10. Mike-n-Charlotte

    One game from the SB…LB core was Spoon, Nicholas, and Dent. LB core today Reed, Worrilow, Durant. Best DB William Moore… Today best DB Trufant. Coach then Smitty…coach now Quinn. We did have 1 legit pass rusher… Pass rushers now…we will see after the draft. Which defense do you want?

    Reply
    1. Mike-n-Charlotte

      Hanker son can make a circus catch then drop two easy ones in a row?? Sound like someone already on the roster??

      Reply
  11. JB Falcon

    Another &%$#@!@#$%^&*()
    #Bengals guard Clint Boling is staying put. Team source says he has agreed to terms w/ Cincy, should sign tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. Big Ray

      Twitter. Which I hate. Call it 3rd part info, because I’m not actually ON twitter, I’m getting updates via friends of facebook who have it.

      Reply
  12. Mike-n-Charlotte

    Every starting caliber guard is committed now. Guess we look to the draft. Now we need to address ILB and/or CB. Assuming we land Derrick Morgan.

    Reply
  13. Flo-Ri-Duh

    John Waynesworld (3/10 @ 7:47 pm) Since they were forced to give up their All Pro TE, I expect they will have Maxx Williams (TE) on their radar at #31. At #13 it will be a pass rusher or DT.

    Reply
  14. gman

    Yeah I’ve never started “tweeting” either. Seems a bit ridiculous but then again I’m old. What ever happened to just talking?

    Reply
  15. Mike-n-Charlotte

    Saints grabbed another 1st round pick, but created a major hole. 2 years ago their whole offense revolved around the “inside/outside” threat of Sproles and Graham … Now they are both gone.

    Reply

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