Posted on: September 12, 2009 6:43 pm
The Atlanta Falcons gave up their 2010 seventh round draft pick to the Rams for Tye Hill. They had earlier given up their second round pick to the Chiefs for Tony Gonzalez.
But in addition to the regular seven draft picks per team, the league also awards 32 compensatory draft picks to offset player losses due to free agency. The league has a proprietary (translation: secret) formula it uses to determine which free agents count and in what rounds the resulting compensatory draft picks will fall.
Some keys: not every player counts. The secret formula includes factors such as salary, playing time, postseason results and other awards/honors - with both the old and new teams. Reverse engineering of the formula has found that by far the biggest factor is the salary received with the new team.
Also, only players that are true unrestricted free agents and who sign with their new team during the unrestricted free agency period count. The signing period typically starts March 1 and runs through July, subject to minor calendar-related adjustments. (This year's period opened on Feb 27 and ended July 27.)
Players who were released by their former clubs do not count. Players who sign after June 1 that were not tendered offers by their former clubs also do not count.
Compensatory picks are based on NET loss of free agents. If you lose four players that count to other teams but sign three, you have a net loss of one compensatory free agent. You would typically expect to receive one compensatory pick.
No matter how many players you lose, you can receive at most four compensatory picks.
The formula places values on the players as well as counting them. It's possible to get an extra pick if you sign the same number of guys as you lose - if the value of the guys you lose is much greater than the value of the ones you sign. But the picks awarded this way will only be late seventh rounders.
Also note that there are always 32 and only 32 picks awarded. If the formula determines that more than 32 are deserved, only the highest ranking 32 will be awarded. If the formula comes up short, the remaining picks will be given to the teams that would be selecting first if there were an eighth round of the draft. (That happened this year - and the Raiders and Chiefs got the final two picks of the draft as a result.)
It can get a little fuzzy as to which free agents count and which don't, and in what rounds the resulting picks will fall. The key factor appears to be the salary with the new team. Best guess = guys with salaries below $800k will not count at all. Guys above $900k probably will. For the ones right in that $800-900k territory, playing time will decide it.
Here are the Falcons players, both coming and going, and how they might affect the Falcons draft in 2010:
Mike Peterson - reportedly signed for 2 years, $6.6 million. He counts as a player signed by Atlanta and will have a value around the 6th round.
Grady Jackson - reportedly signed a 3 year deal with the Lions for $8 million. (Congratulations to the big man. Falcons fans wanted him back, but we can understand our team not competing with that kind of offer.) Best guess is he'll count as a seventh rounder, but he may be on the borderline of the 6th round..
Lawyer Milloy - will not count. He signed with the Seahawks far too late. (The idea is that these extra picks offset your losses in free agency. If you don't even bother to tender him an offer, you didn't really lose him. You threw him away.)
Brett Romberg - apparently signed a two year deal at an average of $800k per year. The salary should be too low to count, and even if it's close, he's not a starter. Unless someone gets hurt, he won't play enough snaps to count at all.
Verron Haynes - was out of the league last year. Does not count.
Will Svitek - was released by the Chiefs last year. Does not count.
Domonique Foxworth - signed a 4 year, $27 million deal with the Ravens. My best guess is that he'll count as a 4th rounder, but there's a possibility he'll end up counting for a 3rd round pick.
Keith Brooking - signed a 3 year, $6 million deal with the Cowboys. I think the borderline between 6th and 7th round picks will be around $2.5 million per year, so I suspect Brooking will count as a 7th rounder.
Michael Boley - signed a 5 year, 25 million deal with the Giants. He'll be right around the borderline between a 4th and 5th. I'll be optimistic and say a 4th, but playing time could drop him to the 5th - so root for him to start every game after this week and play nearly every snap.
Jeremy Newberry - signed June 15, then retired. I'm 99% certain he doesn't count.
Marty Booker - signed in August. Does not count. (Ditto for Robert Ferguson and Jamie Winborn.)
I see four players who left Atlanta that will count and only one incoming player. The Mike Peterson signing will offset the Grady Jackson loss, leaving Atlanta three compensatory picks: a fourth rounder, a second fourth rounder or fifth rounder, and a seventh rounder.
We'll still feel the impact of losing the 2nd rounder in the Tony Gonzalez trade, but with potentially two extra picks coming at the end of round four, the Falcons still have the freedom to trade their own 5th and/or 6th round picks for extra help if needed.
Posted on: April 22, 2009 1:13 am
Obviously things didn't go well for the Falcons in 2007, and (even more obviously) 2008 was a much better year in Flowery Branch.
There are many things going back many, many years that the team has done that made me cringe, knowing deep inside that once again the Falcons had shot themselves in the foot. (Hiring Marion Campbell a second time. Drafting an unknown punter who wasn't even Div 1-A in the third round. Drafting a small school WR who was awaiting sentencing on his manslaughter conviction, etc...)
The full list would be WAY too long to post. And some of the things I would have done differently might not have turned out any better than the things the team actually did. But I still wouldn't have made many of the same moves the team made even in the last couple of years.
So here's another list of tens, this time covering some things that I would have done differently if I had been the one in charge of the team, from January 1, 2007 to right now.
Some of them may be improvements, others not so great. But these are the main things that jump to my mind over the last two years and four months where I heard the news and immediately thought "I wouldn't have done that". In chronological order:
1) I wouldn't have fired Jim Mora.
Yes, the team had a second straight late season collapse, and he made a few mistakes. But the decision to fire him on January 1, 2007 hit me as a bit rash. In spite of a talent-thin lineup, he had the team in the postseason one year and in the wild card chase right through to the final week in his other two seasons.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp had to go. But for better or for worse I would have given Mora one more year.
In hindsight, I find it absolutely hilarious that that the last straw was Mora joking that he'd leave the Falcons to take on the college job.
2) I would have named Chauncey Davis the starter at DE even before the 2007 draft.
Forget about how things have turned out so far with Jamaal Anderson. I know everyone hates that draft pick and wants to run the kid out of town. That's irrelevant since it all came later. This has NOTHING to do with Jamaal, because he wasn't even on the team at the time.
Focus strictly on Chauncey Davis instead.
He had put in fine efforts as a backup and truly had earned the right to step up as Patrick Kerney's replacement. If Mora had been the coach, Davis would have been the starter. We also had out-of-nowhere guys Paul Carrington and Josh Mallard as potential backups. They may not be the world's greatest DE trio, but for the defensive schemes we had been running, they were capable of doing those jobs.
By ignoring their contributions, the team gets the message right away that the new coach is a my-way-or-the-highway guy who intends to replace established players with HIS own guys. If you're a proven winner as a head coach, that's acceptable. If you're about to coach your very first game, it's a big red flag. (Ground control to Major Booby: work with what you have. You can't replace a whole team in one offseason.)
Cundiff had been out of the league while recovering from injury. But he kicked well in camp and was reliable in preseason. The downside was that he didn't have a great leg for kickoffs. At the time, kickoff coverage was a glaring weakness for our Birds. (And that continued throughout the season - we later allowed Tampa their first kick return touchdown in franchise history.)
When prospect Matt Prater became available only days before the final roster cuts, Bobby Petrino saw part of a workout and signed the kid immediately - having him kick the final preseason game and releasing Cundiff the next morning. Prater was the obvious solution to the kickoff return problem. He can put it in the end zone for a touchback every time.
The catch is that he was an unproven rookie who had just one workout before suiting up for one preseason game - and he shanked one of his three field goal attempts during the game. Giving Cundiff the pink slip was, to say the least, a major risk.
I was in favor of keeping Prater, but I would NOT have released Cundiff.
4) I would have kept Frank Omiyale as the backup left tackle for 2007.
This one is probably a bit obscure for most fans, who might not even know who Frank Omiyale is or that he was orignally with the Falcons.
Petrino shoved aside some of our backups to make room for "his" guys. Allen Rossum was ditched to make room for Antoine Harris. Tommy Jackson was let go in favor of Montavious Stanley. (To a lesser degree, our new coaching staff has done the same thing. It's pretty common when you have a change at coach.)
But the one that bothered me most was the way Petrino handled Mora's two draft picks on the o-line, Quinn Ojinnaka and Frank Omiyale. To make room for Renardo Foster, Petrino moved Omiyale over to the right side and put him in direct competition with Ojinnaka for one backup spot at RT. Meanwhile, he had undrafted free agent Foster compete with journeyman Leander Jordan (who wasn't really even a tackle) for the backup job on the left side. That guaranteed that one of our more experienced backup tackles would be shown the door in favor of keeping Petrino's undrafted kid from Louisville in a crucial role.
Instead, I would have started Renardo Foster on the practice squad and kept Omiyale and Ojinnaka as the two backup tackles. When Wayne Gandy struggled and then got hurt in week five, Omiyale would have been his replacement.
I don't know how well it would have worked out or if Omiyale would have been injured like Gandy, Foster, Todd Weiner and Terrance Pennington (yes, we put FOUR left tackles on IR in one season!). But I certainly wouldn't have just thrown away a fine up and coming left tackle prospect like that. (The Panthers scooped him up from waivers in a heartbeat. He was their backup LT for the last two seasons, and this year he signed a free agent deal with the Bears, hoping to win a starting job.)
After the week five fiasco against the Titans (perhaps the worst coaching I have ever seen at the NFL level), I was silently hoping that Arthur Blank would come to his senses, realize he made a horrible mistake in hiring Petrino, and fire him right after the last game before the bye week. That would allow a new coach to evaluate the players on hand over the rest of the season and get a great headstart for 2008.
I also remember being glad it was the bye, thinking that at least Petrino couldn't screw up and cost the Falcons a win that week as he did in at least three of the team's losses to that point.
Wow, was I ever dead wrong about that one!
Petrino decided to name rookie Trey Lewis as the starting NT ahead of Grady Jackson. No problem there. But once again Petrino gave favoritism to one of his Louisville guys at the expense of the team as a whole. Instead of releasing #5 DT Montavious Stanley, who really wasn't a good fit for the NT spot anyway, he cut Grady.
And neither Petrino nor defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer ever gave Grady any explanation as to why. They didn't even give him the news in person, instead leaving it to an assistant in the personnel office to call in Jackson on one of those days off to clear out his locker.
That was what made it such a joy to see Grady return during training camp in 2008. It was a great big one-finger salute to Coach Booby. The guy he cast aside like trash is still around, while Petrino is the laughing stock of the NFL. Take THAT, you great big steaming pile of hog-sooey!
That's five from Petrino's reign of terror. Now for five more from our new regime...
Right before the late February roster cuts, the AJC ran an article listing 11 players that might be on the bubble.
I posted a piece on the team message board going through that article and making my own guesses on whether each of those players would stay or go. I was right about 10 out of the 11. The only one that surprised me was Crumpler.
His contract had a $4.9 million base salary for 2008, but he had a little over $4.8 million in bonus money that had yet to count against the salary cap. The bottom line was that we got no benefit from casting aside the guy who might have been a young quarterback's best friend.
At the very least, we should have waited and let him work with Ryan in camp.
I also wanted to see the team start stockpiling future draft picks to use as trade ammo.
This one is the ultimate alternate-universe scenario for the Falcons. Instead of Matt Ryan, we would have ended up with Joe Flacco. We might also have ended up with Jeff Otah instead of Sam Baker, and we probably would have had more picks in round two than just Curtis Lofton.
The story is that the Ravens were interested in Matt Ryan. They tried to swing a last minute trade with the Rams (who had the #2 pick) to get ahead of Atlanta and draft him. The offer was a sweet package of picks, but St. Louis asked for more. And the Rams apparently also tried to squeeze Atlanta for an extra pick, wanting us to trade up from #3 to #2 in order to block the Baltimore trade.
The moment the story broke (or the moment St. Louis called wanting us to make the #3 for #2 trade) I would have asked the Ravens if they would offer the same package to us for the #3 pick instead of to the Rams for the #2. And once I had moved to Baltimore's #7 spot, I would have traded down one more time (as did the Ravens) to land in the mid teens.
Obviously things have worked out quite well with Matt Ryan. We might not even have to fear the salary cap consequences of his huge contract, as it now seems possible that the next CBA might ditch the salary cap system entirely. My choice might not have gone so well for the 2008 season.
But at the time, the team was in rebuilding mode and the main thing that had held us down for years was an ongoing problem with the cap. I would have made the trades to get out of #3 and into cheaper territory in order to get us out of those cap woes once and for all.
As it stands, we might be right back in the soup by 2011 if the new CBA restores the cap.
On the Falcons team board, we were all quite pleased with the first day of the draft. There was a moment of fear when the Sam Baker trade was first announced, as ESPN reported it as a three pick for one pick deal. (They didn't go out of their way to make the correction known, as the other picks Atlanta received were not in the draft's first day. Dimitroff made it quite clear that night, however, that the network was mistaken. It was a three for three deal. The Falcons moved down with two picks in order to move up with one and take Baker.)
The elation of the first day disappeared throughout day two. With the QB, LT, and LB addressed by the end of the second round, most of us KNEW that help at DT was on the way.
The Falcons didn't have Grady, had cut Rod Coleman, and had heard Trey Lewis would be out for at least the first month of the season after falling on the stairs. All we had on the roster were Petrino's man Montavious Stanley, Buffalo's castoff Tim Anderson, and some bargain rack free agents in Rashad Moore and Kindal Moorehead. You didn't have to be psychic to know that one of the three third round picks would be a solid DT prospect.
They took a cornerback... okay, no problem, we can use another one of those. Wide receiver... not sure why, but he's also a return man, so it could work. Safety... ummm, didn't think that was an immediate need...
Ouch. Well, maybe they're targeting someone like Frank Okam, who projects as a fifth rounder. We have two picks in that round. It's gotta happen then...
Linebacker... he's a good prospect, but fear is starting to creep in. Small school linebacker / defensive end... ouch. This is getting serious. We're into the late rounds now. Well, Trey Lewis was a sixth rounder, so maybe we'll get a decent one.
Running back... 5'9" cornerback... tight end. And no DTs among the announced UFAs the next day.
We knew even then that Dimitroff had let us down on the defensive line. No DTs, and the only DE drafted was really a linebacker who didn't even play 1-A ball.
Even if it was just a guy who would otherwise be a practice squad prospect from another team, I would have had at least one more big man on the main roster at all times.
It's not that Ryan wasn't ready or wasn't our best QB option. He certainly was. The problem was that our offensive line hadn't had much time working together as a unit. Many of the starting jobs had been up for grabs right until the end of preseason, and the communications and teamwork was a bit shaky.
The line gave up seven sacks in those first four games, compared to only 10 total sacks in the remaining twelve games. The Falcons went 2-2 in that first month, with the two wins coming against hapless Detroit and Kansas City, who played Tyler Thigpen as their starting quarterback that week.
Even in retrospect, while it may have helped to get Ryan in there ASAP to shake off any rookie jitters, I still feel we would have been just as well off letting Redman take the snaps that month instead of risking our $70 million babyface against the likes of the Tampa and Carolina pass rushes.
10) I would not have traded Laurent Robinson.
The only way this deal makes sense to me is if the coaches had already decided Robinson was going to be cut this summer. Otherwise, the value they got in return for him is a joke.
The team moved up about 20 spots in rounds five and six. If you look at the point chart (you DID read those blog entries, right?) you'll see that the combined value of moving up both picks is a mere 18 points. That's the equivalent of the 183rd overall pick of the draft.
Robinson has health questions, but he has good hands and made quite a few impressive catches in clutch situations over the last two seasons. We essentially traded our up and coming #4 WR for a sixth round draft pick.
We'll have to see what our coaching staff does with the upgraded draft picks this weekend, but I'll go ahead and say it: No thanks. I'd rather keep the wideout.
Posted on: December 12, 2008 2:50 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2008 3:33 pm
I'm sure everyone is sick by now of hearing me preach that we're badly undersized in the middle of the defensive line. But it is an Achilles Heel type of weakness - if exploited properly, it can bring down our entire defense.
The first team to take advantage of it was... Tampa, in week two. And this weekend, we get the Bucs again - and with major postseason implications for both teams.
Everybody knows about the interception that Matt Ryan threw in the first quarter last week, which killed a likely scoring drive for Atlanta and led to a touchdown for New Orleans instead. And everyone knows all about how the kickoff coverage unit suddenly forgot how to tackle, giving up an 88-yard return to set up the winning score for New Orleans.
But if you have the video handy - either from the original broadcast, the NFL Replay version on NFL Network, or streaming video, it's time for a little more video review. Let's take a good, hard look at exactly WHY this whole undersized DT thing is so important...
The TE sets up in the backfield but then shifts to the end of the line, leaving a single back set. At the snap, one WR runs across the backfield (faking the reverse) but the handoff goes to the single back, who runs straight up the middle.
The important part is the blocking scheme. TE and RT block the DE and one of the two LBs. There's no need to double team either DT, so the guards and center have an extra man free to move downfield and block the other LB. (For most of the game, the guards will block the DTs with the center moving downfield on the LB.)
On this particular play, the TE takes the DE, the OT takes Boley, and the interior lineman moves out to block Brooking. Chevis Jackson runs right into Brooking and falls down, taking himself out of the play. Brooking somehow beats both his blocker and Jackson and makes the tackle, but the play results in a seven yard gain.
That's not a killer, but it shows that New Orleans came into this one already knowing that the way to open up the run is to get bodies downfield on the LBs.
First Saints play after the INT: same personnel packages as before. The Saints play a 3 WR plus TE package, this time with Reggie Bush as the single back. The Falcons again go to their nickel package with Moorehead and Babineaux as the DTs.
This time, instead of shifting the formation, faking the reverse, etc, the Saints call a simple draw. Using Bush as the single back may have helped with the illusion of a pass play.
(A well-executed draw is the opposite of the play-action fake handoff. Instead of faking the run to hold the safeties and linebackers, it fakes the pass to lure the defensive line into pass rush mode. The offensive tackles allow themselves to get "beaten" around the outsides, letting the defensive ends simply run themselves away from the play, which goes up the middle.)
The TE (Shockey) goes out for the pass, is covered by one of the two linebackers (Boley), and then blocks that LB. Again, the interior linemen have no need to double up on the undersized DTs, leaving a free man to slide downfield and block the other LB (Brooking).
The announcers pointed out that Milloy missed a tackle. Actually, so did Coleman. But what the announcers didn't mention is that it didn't really matter, because that was already a full 20 yards downfield.
And that's the essence of the Falcon predicament. There's always an extra defender somewhere to match up with the ball carrier. The goal of the offense is to try to man up so that the extra defender is as far away from the ball as possible. The Saints showed pass, the safeties set up in their deep zones, the offense managed to get bodies on both linebackers, and the result was that nobody could even TOUCH the running back until he was 20 yards downfield and running at full speed. (And since both safeties whiffed, the play went for 43 yards, setting up first and goal.)
In other words, they didn't even bother double-teaming Grady. The implications of that are really, really bad for Falcons fans.
This particular play was another draw. The TE (Shockey) went out and drew pass coverage from a linebacker (Brooking), basically taking him out of the play. The center slipped downfield and blocked Lofton. The play ran away from Boley. It went for 18 yards.
Smitty wasn't happy about this one. But if he and VanGorder don't dial up something fast, we'll just see a re-run this weekend.
9:49 remaining, second quarter. Saints have 1-10 at their own 23: this time they fake the draw (basic play-action). By now the team has been burned on so many runs that the LBs can't help but bite on any fake handoff.
The catch is that the LBs have the underneath zone responsibility in pass coverage. So when they step up on the fake handoff, they're leaving a huge gap in the middle of the field, between themselves and the deep safeties. Shockey went right into this gap and was wide open.
Fans tend to fume if the cornerbacks get beaten by a WR and give up a 21 yard reception. But think carefully - this is much worse. Every Falcon on the field was doing his best, all of them were essentially doing the appropriate thing, and yet nobody could stop the offense from executing a childishly simple pitch and catch for 21 yards in the dead center of the field.
Two plays later, the Saints hit us with another draw. We're in the basic 4-3, but Grady is off the field (with Jason Jefferson as his replacement).
Once again, no double team is necessary on the DTs. Once again, the center slips out to block Lofton downfield. The Saints shifted the WRs before the snap, and Brooking was pushed into coverage duty away from the play. The fullback blocked Boley.
So yet again, the offense is able to get a body on every defender in the same ZIP code as the ball, leaving a deep safety as the extra man. Lofton was able to recover and make the play downfield, but it was yet another 18 yard gain.
There's just one catch. If it doesn't get there, plays like this are the result. Brees gets the ball away, it's caught, and the WR is off to the races for 36 yards.
The announcers raved about the WR's quick hitch route, but somehow they were completely oblivious to the fact that Atlanta sent SEVEN pass rushers.
I don't mind that one so much though. At least it showed that our coaches were aware of the problem and were trying to dial up some answers. In this same game last year, the only thing our alleged coach dialed up was an airline reservation...
I'm not going to claim that getting bigger at DT will solve all of the Falcons problems and make the defense invincible. But I do claim that UNTIL we fix the middle of our D-line, whatever other problems might pop up on defense don't even matter. If we give up that kind of yardage on simple draw plays throughout the game, other teams won't even need to throw the bomb or attack us in any other way.
We have to solve this problem FAST, or we won't go anywhere even if we do make the playoffs. And unfortunately, our current 53-man roster doesn't appear to have the personnel to fix things within our current scheme.
We'll either have some personnel changes (maybe even this week), lean on some interesting gimmicks (and hope they work), or wait until next year...
Posted on: November 21, 2008 5:18 pm
The whisper in the wind has been that Grady's appeal is coming very soon. Apparently it didn't happen today, but the expectation is that it will be sometime next week.
Grady had his knee scoped on Monday. He missed practice Wednesday, was back Thursday, but rested today. He's officially listed as questionable. He's likely to play a limited number of snaps, but the final decision will come a few hours before game time.
Carolina is at full strength for this game (allegedly - more later) while Atlanta is more banged up than they have been in any other week. Baker, Moorehead, and Laurent Robinson are all definitely out. Abraham is still limited by that neck injury late in the game two weeks ago. Roddy White practiced today after missing the rest of the week with his back.
Grimes still isn't 100%, but he's close enough that he fully participated in practice this week. Expect him to be available, though Foxworth is likely to remain the starter. Chris Houston is nursing some tender ribs at the other corner. He's officially listed as questionable but is likely to play.
Norwood also got banged in the ribs late last week. He's still a little sore but hasn't missed any practice time. He's also officially listed as questionable, but expect to see him in action on Sunday.
Todd Weiner is still having flare-ups with his knee. He will probably be available, but even if he's listed as active, he won't be able to play every snap. We might be looking at Ojinnaka and Gandy for most of the day at LT.
As mentioned in an earlier entry, Renardo Foster and Trey Lewis are both out for the year. Both were close enough in their rehab to make the decisions interesting, but in both cases the verdict was that rushing them back would probably do more harm than good. (But for everyone who is already thinking about next year's draft, keep in mind that these two heavyweights will be back in camp next season.)
The big issue for Carolina will be the health of starting QB Jake Delhomme. His struggles over the last two weeks aren't just in the stats. Reports are that his throws haven't had the velocity of his throws earlier in the season. He's coming back from major surgery. The question is whether he was simply in a slump against Oakland and Detroit or whether his arm is tiring out.
Something else also mentioned in the previous entry: if you still have the video from our final preseason game, you might want to take another look at it. J'Vonne Parker was added to the Falcon practice squad when the team first got word of Grady's pending suspension.
He hasn't had a whole lot of playing time in his career, so there isn't all that much film on him available. But he started the third preseason game for Baltimore and got some good playing time in their final preseason game - which was against us. And he played pretty well. He's credited with four tackles in that game.
The coaches are working fast and furious to get him up to speed on our defensive schemes. If Grady is suspended, he may get promoted to the main roster. At 325 pounds, he'd be 25 pounds larger than anyone else we have on the D-line. For better or worse, he'd likely be thrown into the fire as the instant anchor of the run defense.
If all else fails, Rashad Moore and Tim Anderson are both still available as free agents.