Posted on: February 6, 2010 12:18 am
Something that frequently comes up on the message board... should the Falcons fill a particular need by signing a free agent or drafting a top prospect. Well, why not do both?
As an example, that's what the Patriots did to fill their hole at DT in 2004. They traded to pick up Ted Washington from the Bears and drafted Vince Wilfork. Washington only played 10 games for New England, but that bought them enough time to get Wilfork up on the defense and ready to step into the starting role.
That same mentality could work well for Atlanta this offseason. If the team can sign its own free agents (particularly Brian Williams, Chris Redman and long snapper Mike Schneck) and RFAs (eight total, including seven that may become unrestricted free agents if a new CBA is reached in the next four weeks), there will be zero true holes on the roster and only a handful of positions in need of upgrades.
To show how the sign-one-and-draft-one approach COULD work, here's my own current pipe dream scenario (Pipe Dream v 1.0) for the offseason:
Over the next two weeks, the Falcons re-sign Chris Redman, Brian Williams, and Mike Schneck. They work out deals with RFAs Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Jerious Norwood and tender Quinn Ojinnaka, Jamaal Fudge and Charlie Peprah.
Rather than repeating the franchise tag on Michael Koenen, they save the cash and sign Anthony Rocca. (I *love* footy, so I have to throw a bone to the AFL guys - even though I usually rooted against Rocca's team for most of his career. Nothing against Koenen though. He might be the best punter in the NFL.)
They also re-sign Brian Finneran, Marty Booker, Von Hutchins and David Irons for competition in camp. (Note that Hutchins played safety with the Texans as well as CB and that Irons was a demon on special teams.)
In free agency, they sign Aaron Kampman (Packers) to a three-year deal including a large incentive bonus based on sacks in the 2010 season.
In the draft, they trade down in the first and land an extra third rounder. They draft DE Brandon Graham with the late first rounder, package their fifth and sixth rounders to trade up if needed to snag LB Daryl Williams and CB Donovan Warren in the third, take WRs Jacoby Ford (Clemson) and Freddie Barnes (Bowling Green) with the fourth round and first compensatory pick, and take FB Rashawn Jackson and injured LB O'Brien Schofield with the other two compensatory picks.
Sign two kickers - Brett Swenson (Michigan State) and Joshua Shene (Ole Miss) as undrafted free agents. Other undrafted free agents are DTs Travis Ivey (Maryland) and Kade Weston (UGA), offensive linemen Cord Howard (Ga Tech) and Sean Allen (East Carolina), and WR Kelton Tindal (the Newberry kid who will be playing in the Texas Vs The Nation game tomorrow).
Up to this point, everything listed is well within reason. Aaron Kampman is expected to hit the open market. Our own free agents are believed to want to return. Hutchins, Irons, and Rocca are already available. The draft picks are all within reach based on current CBS rankings. (The one exception is Schofield - he's still listed higher in the rankings, but he tore his ACL in Senior Bowl practice and won't play a single snap in 2010. He should fall off the draft board entirely by the start of April.)
Here's the final touch - which many here might not like, but it's *my* pipe dream scenario...
Offer the Jaguars a package of Jonathan Babineaux, Eric Weems, Chris Houston, Jamaal Anderson AND Chauncey Davis for John Henderson. What the heck - throw in Tye Hill and Antoine Harris if they like.
The Jags get a younger DT (Babs) for one near the end of his career (Henderson) who hasn't always been on the best terms with the coaching staff. They also get a return man, a potential starting CB and potential backup DEs as throw-ins. They might not want all of those players, but they can give them a look in OTAs and training camp and then trade or release the ones they don't want. Babineaux and Weems alone should be a decent return for Henderson. The rest is gravy.
Atlanta cleans house (ditching a pot smoker, a DUI, and several players who won't make the roster anyway) and gets a solid, front-line big man who already knows Smitty's defense to head our DT corps.
Projected 53-man roster: ( / = competition for roster spot)
QB = Matt Ryan, Chris Redman, John Parker Wilson / D.J. Shockley
RB = Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, Jason Snelling
FB = Ovie Mughelli, Rashawn Jackson
TE = Tony Gonzalez, Keith Zinger, Justin Peelle
WR = Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, Jacoby Ford, Freddie Barnes
OL = Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl
OL backups = Quinn Ojinnaka, Brett Romberg, Will Svitek, Garrett Reynolds (plus 2 or 3 more on practice squad)
DE = John Abraham, Aaron Kampman, Kroy Biermann, Brandon Graham, Lawrence Sidbury
DT = John Henderson, Peria Jerry, Vance Walker, Thomas Johnson, Trey Lewis
LB = Mike Peterson, Curtis Lofton, Stephen Nicholas, Daryl Washington, Coy Wire, Spencer Adkins / Robert James, (Schofield on IR)
CB = Brian Williams, Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Donovan Warren, Chevis Jackson
S = Thomas DeCoud, Erik Coleman, William Moore, Von Hutchins / Eric Brock / Jamaal Fudge
PK = open competition between all four candidates
P = Anthony Rocca
LS = Mike Schneck
(KR candidates = Jerious Norwood, Harry Douglas, Jacoby Ford, Brent Grimes)
(PR candidates = Harry Douglas, Jacoby Ford, Brent Grimes, Freddie Barnes)
Posted on: July 28, 2009 6:25 pm
Another player from the Petrino regime is now out of the Falcons organization. The Falcons parted ways with third year cornerback David Irons today. Irons was one of eleven draft picks of the 2007 draft class, the only draft under Coach Booby.
The action wasn't a surprise, but the timing is interesting.
Irons was a long shot to make the team, as he was behind Chevis Jackson, Brent Grimes, and Chris Houston on the depth chart even in 2008, and the return of Von Hutchins combined with the drafting of Chris Owens and William Middleton knocked him to the bad side of the bubble.
The noteworthy thing about the timing is that his release comes before the start of camp rather than at the first mandatory round of roster cuts. He's not even getting a chance to beat out Grimes, Middleton, Hutchins, and Owens for a roster spot.
At last count, Newberry's retirement already had the team down to the 80 player roster limit, so the move wasn't necessary. It means the team now has room to add one more player. Let the speculation begin...
Posted on: April 18, 2009 4:35 pm
Of course, everyone who sits on the hillside to watch the team during minicamp will be there to see the newly drafted players, new free agent Mike Peterson, and of course Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.
But like last year, there will be a lot of good stories unfolding with a whole lot of other players on the roster. The Falcons are one of the youngest teams in the league, and the 11-5 record last season is strong evidence that they're stepping up and breaking through.
Jamaal Fudge and Antoine Harris are also noteworthy as his incumbent competition, but right now Decoud is the one to watch most closely.
2) Trey Lewis. He was a diamond in the rough in the 2007 draft, coming from Washburn (ever heard of it?) in the sixth round. He won the starting NT job from Grady Jackson, which led to Petrino's controversial release of our beloved Jabba The Nose Tackle. And then he became one of four players to suffer season-ending injuries in week ten, ultimately missing the entire 2008 season as well.
Other than through game film, our coaching staff hasn't had a chance to evaluate him yet. If he makes the grade, he will be a huge part of our defense. (Even if we draft a new starting nose tackle, Lewis will be part of the rotation - and possibly at both the nose tackle and under tackle positions.)
3) D.J. Shockley. At this time last season, Shockley was still rehabbing from the serious knee injury that erased his 2007 season. But he was still able to work his way back and put up gutsy preseason performances to beat out Joey Harrington for the #3 QB position.
This season, he'll be focusing on football instead of physical rehab. Take note: he'll be competing to take the #2 spot away from Chris Redman, and he'll have a serious shot at doing it.
4) Stephen Nicholas. Nicholas was all set to replace Demorrio Williams as the starting weak side linebacker. But then the Falcons drafted Curtis Lofton in the second round last year. And when Lofton showed he was ready for part time duty as the starting middle linebacker, the coaching staff moved Keith Brooking to the weak side ahead of Nicholas.
The interesting aspect of the competition for starting linebacker jobs is that Nicholas will indirectly compete with Coy Wire. Mike Peterson will take one of the outside starting postions. Which one he plays depends on Nicholas and Wire.
If Nicholas shows he's ready to step up, he'll take the WLB spot and Peterson will play at SLB.
5) Von Hutchins. He was intended to be our experienced corner, bringing stability to that unit last season. But he suffered a broken foot in a freak accident on the first day of training camp and was lost for the season. The team tried Blue Adams but ultimately traded for Domonique Foxworth instead.
Foxworth has moved on to big bucks in free agency, but Hutchins will be back to reclaim the position that was to be his in 2008.
Many fans have expressed a lack of confidence, listing CB as their top desires for the draft. But Hutchins will be the most experienced corner on our roster and figures to hold down one of the three main corner spots.
6) Quinn Ojinnaka. Todd Weiner's retirement was a bit of a surprise, but it may not be a catastrophe. While Weiner was one of the better pass blockers in the league, his ongoing rehabilitation from his 2007 surgery left him as the #3 tackle instead of a starter. Replacing him simply means someone else will have to step up to the #3 OT spot.
Ojinnaka was being groomed by Jim Mora as the team's future right tackle. He played well as the starting left tackle at the end of the 2007 season and as the #4 tackle throughout 2008. He'll be competing with incoming free agent Will Svitek for that #3 tackle spot.
The twist is that Ojinnaka is versatile and can play any position along the line if needed. If Svitek impresses the coaches in camp, Ojinnaka might end up as the primary backup at guard.
7) Renardo Foster. He's another major wild card that the coaches will evaluate for the first time this spring. Smitty saw him first hand in one game in 2007, as Foster's NFL debut came against the Jaguars. (Foster replaced struggling Wayne Gandy in the second half, and the team immediately had success running to the left side behind Foster.)
But he hasn't suited up in a year and a half, and his roster spot was essentially handed to him by his former college coach. We've seen that he has potential, but we don't know if he'll be able to win a roster spot against the serious competition he'll face in camp this summer.
Something to keep in mind: he should be eligible for the practice squad if he doesn't make the roster.
8) Eric Brock. If you like the "out of nowhere" guys (Tommy Jackson, Tony Taylor, Harvey Dahl, Brent Grimes, etc), Brock is someone to watch closely. The Auburn defensive back wasn't drafted at all in 2008. He wasn't even signed by any team as an undrafted free agent.
Instead, the Falcons invited him to minicamp last May as one of eight participants who were just hoping to win an invitation to training camp. Brock passed the audition and was signed for camp - with no one expecting him to make it to September.
But he played well enough to win a practice squad job, and he continued to impress the coaches throughout the season. When Antoine Harris was banged up at the end of the year, Brock was promoted to the main roster.
He already figures to be #5 on the depth chart at safety (behind Erik Coleman, Decoud, Fudge, and Harris) even before the draft. But he's already proven that we should never count him out. He'll have a chance at taking a backup job away from one of the others.
9) Robert James. He was nicknamed "The Beast" in college and was a monster of a tackler. The Falcons drafted him in the early fifth round last year. Unfortunately, he suffered a major concussion, and the doctors would not clear him to participate in preseason. The team instantly put him on the shelf for the year.
The question now is whether he'll be the same after the concussion as the tackling machine he was in college. If so, he's a fine young prospect to develop for the future, and the team will be fairly well set in the linebacking corps.
10) David Irons. He's another one of the Petrino draft choices, which might make him an endangered species. From that draft class, fellow sixth rounders Doug Datish and Daren Stone are already gone, as are fourth rounder Martrez Milner and now third rounder Laurent Robinson, plus undrafted prospects Tony Taylor and Kurt Quarterman.
Irons has been a special teams demon for Atlanta, but he has yet to appear in real game action in the secondary. The return of Von Hutchins potentially drops him to #5 on the CB depth chart. This could be a make or break training camp for him.
Posted on: November 10, 2008 6:01 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2008 9:32 pm
Shortly after the combine, DeAngelo Hall demanded a trade. The Falcons consented. And right after his new team played against these very Falcons, Hall found himself unemployed. He didn't want to be a Falcon to start the season, and it turned out that the Falcons didn't want him back to finish the season.
We rip MeAngelo to shreds on a regular basis on the Falcon message board, but I do have to give him due credit. Going into that Oakland-Atlanta game, he had 3 interceptions (all of the Atlanta cornerbacks combined had only two) and was second in the league in passes defended.
In the meantime, Brent Grimes moved up from the practice squad and has played pretty well. Chris Houston is developing nicely. Chevis Jackson is still making rookie mistakes, but he's progressing well too. But the real treasure came out of a week 1 trade with Denver. It's our new top cornerback, Domonique Foxworth.
With 18 starts and 46 games played in the prior three seasons, Foxworth is by far the most experienced cornerback on Atlanta's active roster. Chris Houston started 11 games as a rookie last season, while Grimes appeared in (but did not start) the last two games of 2007 after interim coach Emmitt Thomas called him up from the practice squad. David Irons played special teams last season, and Chevis Jackson is a rookie this season.
Foxworth was strictly a backup and saw very little action until the bye week, as the coaches waited until he could learn the defense before they threw him in. But he's now listed on the team's depth chart as the starting left cornerback, ahead of Brent Grimes. Grimes hurt his knee late in the game against Chicago. Foxworth has started the three games since then.
In his first three starts as a Falcon, Foxworth has notched 5 passes defensed and has allowed very few completions, becoming Atlanta's most dependable defensive back.
He is a free agent after this season. Under the terms of the trade, the Falcons would have to send their sixth round draft pick to Denver if they re-sign him. There are also reports that the seventh round pick Atlanta traded to acquire him is a conditional pick that could escalate based on playing time.
It should also be noted that Foxworth can play safety. The team should get Von Hutchins back from IR next season. If they can retain Foxworth, the what-ifs for next season's secondary will be really interesting...