Posted on: January 2, 2010 10:38 am
The NFLPA has always voiced strong opposition to the salary cap system, and has always insisted that the final year under each CBA be uncapped. The purpose of this is that if no new agreement is reached and a stoppage occurs, the status quo will be without a cap.
The wisdom or absurdity of the union's position is fodder for another time. For now, the key point is that when the owners brought in the cap system, the concession they offered as a trade-off was early free agency. Before the cap system, players had to have six years of service to become true (unrestricted) free agents. Until they reached six years of tenure, they could only be restricted free agents. But with the salary cap in place, unrestricted free agency began after four years of service.
The catch is that since we don't have a new CBA in place for 2011, 2010 stands to be an uncapped year. And when the cap goes, so does the early free agency. So all over the league, guys with four or five years in the league who would become free agents will find themselves RFAs (restricted free agents) rather than UFAs.
Their current teams will be able to tender (offer) them standard one year contracts. There are several levels of tenders. If the tender offer is a higher level, the team will get draft picks as compensation if another team signs that player away. At the highest tender level, the price tag is a first round AND a third round pick.
Also, the current team has the right to match any offer made to a tendered RFA to keep the player. It becomes that team's choice - match the offer and keep the player, or let the other team sign the player away and take the draft picks.
According to several reports, there are currently a total of 212 potential free agents that will be affected. These are players who would become true (unrestricted) free agents if we get a new CBA to restore the cap before March but will drop back to RFAs without a new deal.
Here's the list:
Atlanta Falcons - T/G Tyson Clabo, G/T Harvey Dahl, T/G Quinn Ojinnaka, RB Jerious Norwood, P Michael Koenen, S Charlie Peprah, S Jamaal Fudge.
Arizona Cardinals – SS Hamza Abdullah, FB Justin Green, G Duece Lutui, K Mike Nugent, WR Jerheme Urban and NT Gabe Watson.
Baltimore Ravens – G Chris Chester, WR Mark Clayton, K Billy Cundiff, P Sam Koch, SS Dawan Landry, T Tony Moll, TE Quinn Sypnieski, T Terry Adam, CB Favian Washington and WR Demetrius Williams.
Buffalo Bills – OLB Keith Ellison, QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein, SS George Wilson and CB Ashton Youboty.
Carolina Panthers – OLB James Anderson, OLB Thomas Davis, TE Jeff King, CB Richard Marshall and T Rob Petitti.
Chicago Bears – DE Mark Anderson, FS Josh Bullocks, NT Dusty Dvoracek, FS Danieal Manning and OLB Jamar Williams.
Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Abdul Hodge, OLB Rashad Jeanty, LB Brandon Johnson, G Evan Mathis, and DE Frostee Rucker.
Cleveland Browns – SS Abram Elam, LB Arnold Harrison, RB James Harrison, LB D’Qwell Jackson, FS Brodney Pool, LB Matt Roth and FB Lawrence Vickers.
Dallas Cowboys – WR Miles Austin, DE Stephen Bowen, CB Cletis Gordon, DE Jason Hatcher, WR Sam Hurd, T Pat McQuistan, C Duke Preston, G Cory Procter, SS Gerald Sensabaugh, DE Marcus Spears, SS Pat Watkins and K Shaun Suisham.
Denver Broncos – LB Elvis Dumervil, G Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler and DE Le Kevin Smith.
Detroit Lions – SS Daniel Bullocks, C Dylan Gandy, DE Jason Hunter, WR Adam Jennings, G Daniel Loper, FS Ko Simpson and LB Cody Spencer.
Green Bay Packers – SS Atari Bigby, CB Will Blackmon, G Daryn Colledge, FS Nick Collins, DE Johnny Jolly, FB John Kuhn, FS Derrick Martin and C Jason Spitz.
Houston Texans – FS John Busing, T Rashad Butler, TE Owen Daniels, RB Ryan Moats, SS Bernard Pollard, LB DeMeco Ryans and C Chris White.
Indianapolis Colts – WR Hank Baskett, FS Antoine Bethea, FS Aaron Francisco, LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson, CB Tim Jennings, T Charlie Johnson, LB Freddy Keiaho and CB T.J. Rushing.
Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Clint Ingram, DT Montavious Stanley and WR Troy Williamson.
Kansas City Chiefs – OB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, C Rudy Niswanger, T Ryan O’Callaghan and FS Jarrad Page.
Miami Dolphins – RB Ronnie Brown and TE Anthony Fasano.
Minnesota Vikings – T Ryan Cooke, DE Ray Edwards, NG Red Evans, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Karl Paymah and FB Naufahu Tahi.
New England Patriots – K Stephen Gostkowski, G Logan Mankins and LB Pierre Woods.
New Orleans Saints – RB Mike Bell, T Jammal Brown, G Jahri Evans, DT Tony Hargrove, SS Roman Harper, FS, Hernandez Jones, WR Lance Moore, WR Courtney Roby, T Zach Strief, TE David Thomas and CB Leigh Torrence.
New York Giants – LB Chase Blackburn, G Kevin Boothe, FS C.C. Brown, NT Barry Cofield, CB Kevin Dockery, WR Derek Hagan, WR Sinorice Moss, T Guy Whimper and LB Gerris Wilkinson.
New York Jets – QB Kellen Clemens, CB Drew Coleman, WR Braylon Edwards, NT Howard Green, G Wayne Hunter, WR Brad Smith, SS Eric Smith, RB Leon Washington.
Oakland Raiders – LB Jon Alston, T Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, QB Charlie Frye, LB Thomas Howard, LB Kirk Morrison and CB Stanford Routt.
Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jason Avant, C Nick Cole, LB Omar Gaither, LB Chris Gocong, CB Ellis Hobbs, G Max Jean-Gilles, TE Alex Smith and RB Leonard Weaver.
Pittsburgh Steelers – T Willie Colon.
San Diego Chargers – LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, C Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DE Travis Johnson, T Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles and QB Charlie Whitehurst.
Seattle Seahawks – LB Lance Laury, P Jon Ryan, G Rob Sims, C Chris Spencer and DE Darryl Tapp.
San Francisco 49ers – G David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks and CB Marcus Hudson.
St. Louis Rams – DE Victor Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin and G Mark Setterstrom.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – WR Mark Bradley, WR Brian Clark, LB Matt McCoy, T Donald Penn, LB Barrett Ruud, WR Maurice Stovall, T Jeremy Trueblood, RB Carnell Williams and LB Rod Wilson.
Tennessee Titans - DE Dave Ball, DT Tony Brown, TE Bo Scaife, LB Stephen Tulloch, DT Kevin Vickerson and RB LenDale White.
Washington Redskins – QB Jason Campbell, SS Reed Doughty, DT Kedric Golston, LB Rocky McIntosh, DT Anthony Montgomery, C Will Montgomery and CB Carlos Rogers.
Tags: Ashton Youboty, Atlanta, Bears, Bills, Braylon Edwards, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Carlos Rogers, Carnell Williams, Chargers, Charlie Peprah, Chiefs, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Danieal Manning, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Gerald Sensabaugh, Giants, Harvey Dahl, Jamaal Fudge, Jerious Norwood, Jets, Kevin Dockery, LenDale White, Lions, Michael Kownwn, Miles Austin, Packers, Panthers, Quinn Ojinnaka, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Ronnie Brown, Saints, Seahawks, Shawne Merriman, Texans, Titans, Tyson Clabo, Vikings
Posted on: October 19, 2009 2:30 pm
The Falcons come off an 11-5 season under their new coach and new GM, and they start the year with a scorching hot 6-2 record.
Yes, I know they've only played five games and are now 4-1. That was a flashback to 2005. The problem then was that injuries were building up throughout that early run. And by midseason, a whole lot of backups (and in some cases, backups to the backups) were getting a whole lot of playing time.
The result... the Falcons won only two games in the second half of the season and finished 8-8, missing the playoffs.
This year's initial roster had much better depth. But you can only go two or three deep at any position when you're limited to a 53-man total and a 45-man game day active roster. So regardless of how deep you are coming out of the gate, if you get multiple injuries at one position, it's a problem.
This year, the Falcons had their bye in week four. Atlanta is now two weeks into a stretch of thirteen straight games without a rest. And the injuries are starting to pile up.
It didn't get as much attention as when Brian Williams or Jerious Norwood went out, but Atlanta also lost backup safety William Moore... again. Moore left the game with another hamstring problem. It's turning into the same situation the team had with Laurent Robinson last year. Robinson played well in 2008 - for a grand total of five quarters at WR. But he missed a lot of preseason and early season action with an injury, then tweaked his hamstring, and then re-injured it the moment he returned to practice. Now it's happening with Moore. Hopefully the Falcons won't give up on their second round DB and give him away in a bad trade the way they did their third round WR.
The catch - Antoine Harris is still out with his knee injury, not practicing at all last week. So the Falcons don't have a healthy backup safety on the roster at all. And the main guy who would sub at safety in an emergency... Brian Williams. Uh oh.
The usual practice is for the team to wait until Wednesday to talk about the extent of injuries, since that's when the first official injury report of the week gets released. It also fits the team's regular schedule, since the injured players would normally spend most of the day with medical staff. Smitty wouldn't have the latest info until after he meets with the media. (That's by design - it's simple to deflect questions when you really don't have any info.) And Tuesday is the team's day off, so the Wednesday afternoon Q&A after practice is the first time the word gets out.
But this week may be treated a little differently since the trade deadline is tomorrow. The team's own front office absolutely HAS to know ASAP if Norwood and Williams will be out for the year or an extended time so that they can have a day to work the phones and make a deal if needed. And if Smitty has that info (or if Daryl Ledbetter or another writer thinks about it and manages to corner Dimitroff), the team is usually pretty good about at least summarizing it.
So there's a chance we'll hear something after this afternoon's press time - especially if it's really bad news.
Now for a little what-if...
(a) suppose Norwood's hip flexor thing is major and he's headed to IR. The option that would probably be the fan favorite is that Thomas Brown is still available. While Mughelli is out, that would leave the team with a four-back group similar to last year. Verron Haynes would be the principal fullback with Jason Snelling doing double-duty as backup RB and backup FB. Brown would take Norwood's spot as a backup RB.
(b) if Brian Williams is gone, the CB situation isn't that much of a problem. The team is already carrying six CBs on the roster anyway. We'd be back to Brent Grimes, Chris Houston, and Chevis Jackson as the main three. That's what the team was planning to do all along anyway. And if those three struggle, it's still only a matter of time before Tye Hill is ready for action. Domonique Foxworth became a starter in week eight last year.
The real question is what to do at safety without Williams being available. Moore is banged up. Harris is banged up. William Middleton cross-trained at safety, but he's now with the Jaguars. Lawyer Milloy is now with the Seahawks.
At this point, it might be for the best if Moore's hamstring problem is serious enough for the team to put him on the shelf for the year. It's clear he won't be playing in the secondary anytime soon. If he's healthy, he can work special teams. But considering he missed all but one week of training camp, all of preseason, has had only three weeks of full participation in practice, and is out from practice again for the forseeable future, it's hard to imagine the team would give him the responsibility of being the last line of defense in the backfield anytime in 2009.
If he's on the shelf (by that I mean if the team puts him on IR), that would free up the roster spot for someone else who really could play the defensive backfield if necessary.
The three names that come to mind right away are the three Falcons who didn't make the final roster cut. That's intentional - it's not that I'm playing favorites, but that if you need a guy who could step in immediately, the obvious choice is someone who spent all training camp and preseason in your system. The good news is that they're all available.
Jamaal Fudge also knows Smitty's defenses after playing for Smith and DB coach Alvin Reynolds in Jacksonville. And he was the guy Smitty turned to last year when Lawyer Milloy was too banged up to play the final regular season game. He'd be the most likely candidate.
Von Hutchins is still available too. He wasn't healthy enough for full duty in the secondary during preseason, but he was getting really close. He's had two more months to recover, while everyone else in the league has had two months of contact to get banged up. If he's now back to about 90%, that would put him roughly on par with everyone else. He'd be capable of being a backup. Keep in mind that half his career starts were at safety rather than CB, and that he got more playing time at safety in camp this year than at CB anyway. He's had the reps. He'd be a strong choice - if he's physically up to playing condition.
The other issue was that he signed a pretty big free agent contract here before the 2008 season. It would have been tough for the team to carry his base salary purely as a backup role - especially if he couldn't beat out Grimes or Jackson for the nickel corner job. But that's out of the way now. The team is free to re-sign him to a smaller contract that will fit within the salary cap.
And I said there were three ex-Falcons... the third is Eric Brock, the camp walk-on who made the practice squad and ended the season on the roster last year. Even if the team re-signed Fudge or Hutchins or made a trade for another safety, they should still consider bringing Brock back to the practice squad ASAP. They need the depth.
Posted on: August 26, 2009 12:04 am
Smitty referred to the Lions game as "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". The second preseason game had more of the same.
The TV graphics and announcers all said that Todd McClure started but noted later that Brett Romberg had come in at center. Actually, Romberg was there from the beginning. The rest of the starting offensive lineup was the regular cast - Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo on the front line.
The Falcons completely owned the Rams for the first two offensive series. The first drive had a heavy dose of Michael Turner, who then took the rest of the game off. The second was heavy on passes and used a lot of no-huddle offense.
The second defensive series had Peria Jerry come in to replace Lewis.
3:22 remaining Q1, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at STL 17 (first play of the drive) - this one got attention because Brent Grimes dropped an interception. He jumped too soon when he should have backpedaled a little more (he didn't recognize the pass was a total duck) and couldn't hold on to it in the air. Other details of the play: the Falcons only rushed the front four. Both DEs were collapsing the pocket, but Babs and Jerry were both beaten by single blockers. Side note - the intended receiver was a former prospect of ours, TE Daniel Fells.
2:44 Q1, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at STL 17 - Atlanta blitzes, but it isn't effective. The mechanics of the failed pass rush: Abraham drops back into coverage. Coy Wire and Chevis Jackson both rush the passer. The other linemen do a twist, with each moving to their right while Jackson and Wire rush on the left side. All three defensive linemen are beaten easily by single blockers. The twist leaves the RT free to block Wire, and the running back picks up Jackson.
1:25 Q1, Rams ball, 2nd and 10 at STL 36 - John Abraham does a stunt, faking outside but then swings to his left to rush from the inside of the line. Babineaux breaks off into short coverage. HE HAS CONTAIN RESPONSIBILITY. Grimes is in zone coverage, shadowing Laurent Robinson.
Kyle Boller has no one open, sees space to his left (since Abe was coming in the middle) and breaks from the pocket. Laurent Robinson sees him take off and runs to the middle to block Babineaux.
Let that sink in for a moment... the WR who didn't fit into Atlanta's plans because he wasn't physical enough and couldn't block took on the starting DT and took him completely out of the play.
Grimes initially continued shadowing Robinson (that was his responsibility - Boller could still pull up and throw the ball) but then ran after the QB. He couldn't prevent him from turning the corner, and Boller picked up the first down.
The announcers made Grimes look bad, saying he was the one who lost contain. Cut the kid some slack - it wasn't his responsibility.
14:56 Q2, Rams ball, 3rd and 10 at ATL 40. The Falcons got really lucky on this play, which SHOULD have gone for a Rams touchdown. It was a play designed to attack the cover two, and the Falcons had a mishap at the start.
The Rams were in a 3 WR set. The Falcons were in their cover two nickel package with Chevis Jackson on the slot receiver on the same side (defensive right side, offensive left side) as Grimes, who was lined up on (him again) Laurent Robinson. Chris Owens (starting in place of Chris Houston) was on the receiver on the opposite side.
I have no idea what Jackson was trying to do, but he initially broke inside as if trying to jump a slant route. His receiver ran right past him, and Jackson chased after him all the way down the middle of the field - from five yards behind him.
On the other side, Owens released his man (also running deep) to the safety in the deep zone (Thomas DeCoud). When Robinson entered the deep zone, Grimes started to release him as well. But the safety on his side (Erik Coleman) wasn't there. Instead, he had run to the middle of the field to pick up Jackson's man.
Both safeties ended up on the defensive left side of the left hash mark, with no safety at all on the right half of the field. That's not supposed to happen.
Grimes chased after Robinson, but there's no way he was going to catch up. Fortunately the ball was badly overthrown. At the end of the play, Grimes looked back at his teammates as if asking what the heck happened.
The end result was good, but file that one under "The Ugly".
Baldinger pointed out the obvious fact that Booker should have caught the ball, but what we didn't see on the Atlanta broadcast was that Laurinaitis might not have made the pick cleanly. The ball definitely touched the ground as he came down with it, and it's questionable whether he had full control until after it touched. One shot looked like he momentarily didn't have it.
The guys in the St. Louis production truck showed it repeatedly on their broadcast, but Trent Green was busy rambling on about what a ball hawk Laurinaitis is and didn't get the hint that the play might be challenged. The Atlanta broadcast only showed the replay from the overhead camera, so Falcons fans had no idea the play was so close.
I mention it for two reasons. First, this was the longest completion for any Falcons QB so far this preseason - and it was wiped out by a silly penalty. Second, the coaching staff evaluates the film, not the box score. Shockley has had a bunch of passes that haven't counted as completions. The stats look horrible, but the film is much better.
The defensive line for the series had Sid and Jamaal Anderson at DE with Peria Jerry and Trey Lewis in the middle. Jamaal drops into coverage while Curtis Lofton rushes. (It's not a blitz since there were still only four pass rushers. Atlanta is mixing things up a bit so that the offense won't know who's coming and who's in coverage.)
Trey Lewis draws a double team. (He did that for most of the night.) Sidbury stunts, coming inside of Lewis while Lofton rushes around the end. Lofton gets there first but misses the sack. The QB steps up into the pocket and right into Sid Vicious, who beat his inside blocker with that spin move of his. (If you're not familiar with it, look up Sidbury on YouTube.)
2:12 Q2, Rams ball, 2nd and 9 at ATL 28. Follow that one up with one Grimes would rather forget. He didn't have his assignment and was out of position, leaving Burton wide open for a short catch. And then he too failed to make the tackle, allowing Burton to run for the first down.
Hey, at least our DBs were being consistent...
14:20 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 11 at STL 15. There had to be a mixup on the coverage assignments on this one. TE Daniel Fells was absurdly wide open. (None of the regulars were on the field for this entire series - Wire, Gilbert and James were the LBs with Owens and Middleton at corner and Harris and Brock at safety.)
10:13 Q3, Falcons ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 29. This was the sack/fumble.
Ben Hartsock was the TE on the right side. He went out for a short curl route. The Rams overloaded that side of the line, with two rushers coming free.
Shockley had to know he had to throw it to the hot receiver. The big question is WHO was supposed to be the hot read? If you check the replay, Shockley looked immediately to Jason Rader (TE on the left side) and started a throwing motion. But Rader didn't turn around in time. Shockley tucked it and instantly got hit and stripped.
(Hmmm.... could the "Tuck Rule" have applied here?)
9:30 Q3, Rams ball, 2nd and 8 at ATL 20. Brock Berlin hits the 20 yard TD pass. chris Owens actually had decent coverage, but he had no safety help. Eric Brock was up short (probably by design, playing run support) and not in position to help on the play.
Shockley drops back to pass and no one is open. He sees daylight in the middle - and for the first time this preseason, he decides to run for it.
Unfortunately, he's playing behind the backup offensive line. The DT (Scott) sheds his block and tackles Shockley just as he hits the hole.
It didn't work out, but it was a pretty good decision. The opportunity was there, and it was safer than risking an interception.
This one is Fudge's play he'd like to forget. He's beaten by Bajema for a short completion and then can't make the tackle, allowing Bajema to run for the first down and keep the drive alive. (Hmmm... sound familiar? Same play, different corner, cheap movie...) William Middleton comes over to make the tackle, but only after a 16 yard gain on 3rd and 15.
14:55 Q4, Falcons ball, 3rd and 8 at ATL 25. John Parker Wilson is now in at QB. His first pass was off target, overthrowing Chandler Williams. This one was slightly behind Eric Weems, but close enough for Weems to make the play. Weems got his hands on it but couldn't catch it, instead tipping it up for it to become an interception. Maybe these things don't ONLY happen to D.J. Shockley...
Zinger has only played TE with the mop-up unit, but keep him in mind as a contender for the #3 TE spot. He has done well with what little opportunity he's had on offense, and more importantly he plays on every single special teams unit (including forming the wedge with Brett Romberg on kickoff returns).
5:34 Q4, Falcons ball, 1st and 10 at STL 32. Jason Snelling breaks off a 23 yard run to take it inside the 10.
The four Rams RBs had a grand total of 60 yards rushing for the whole game. Snelling had 61 all by himself.
Give due credit all around - Atlanta's defensive line and linebackers got it done on run defense. Oh, and we have some pretty darn good running backs of our own. Snelling's a beast, and he's competing to be the freaking THIRD STRING running back.
For those of us old enough to remember the days of Haskel Stanback and Bubba Bean, that's enough to give us goosebumps.
1:54 Q4, Rams ball, 1st and 10 at ATL 38. This is the one exception to the excellent run defense. 4th string RB Kenneth Darby (a fine prospect who was plucked off of Atlanta's practice squad last season) charged straight up the middle for 21 yards.
The Rams were in a 3-WR formation, with the Falcons playing their nickel package. It was EXACTLY the same situation as last year, when Grady Jackson would leave the field on nickel situations and teams could plow right through the middle.
Here's the breakdown of the play:
DT Tywain Myles (who wasn't expected to play in this game) lined up on the left guard. Vance Walker lined up just outside the right guard. The defensive ends (Sidbury and Willie Evans) lined up on the TE and outside the left tackle.
At the snap, the right guard let Walker get penetration on the OUTSIDE (away from the play) and moved downfield to block one linebacker (Tony Gilbert). The left tackle and tight end blocked the defensive ends, with the idea of allowing them around the outsides (again, away from the play) but protecting the inside. The right tackle was free to move downfield and block the other linebacker (Robert James).
The center blocked to his left, completely bulldozing Tywain Myles. The left guard pulled and sealed off the right side, preventing Walker from getting back into the play before the runner got through the line.
With the WRs either blocking or running the CBs away from the play and both LBs blocked by offensive linemen, the first guys with a shot at Darby were the two safeties (Von Hutchins and Eric Brock) - who were both lined up in deep zones for pass protection against the 3-WR set. They both made the play at first contact, but that was 21 yards downfield.
What they didn't mention was the call by Brian VanGorder. He sent seven rushers after the QB.
Yep... with the game on the line, the Rams in a spread formation (3 WRs plus TE split off on the right side) and his mop-up defense on the field, VanGorder dialed up the Gritz Blitz. WOW...
It would otherwise seem insane to leave Jamaal Fudge, Glenn Sharpe, Tony Tiller and Eric Brock all in one-on-one matchups in the red zone. Von Hutchins, the only experienced DB on the field, was one of the blitzers. (I'm sure VanGorder did that on purpose, just to throw the kids into the deep end of the pool.) But considering the opponent was a fourth string rookie QB, it wasn't a bad idea.
The QB (Keith Null, from West Texas A&M) got spooked and threw a bad pass for the pick. Two receivers had separation (Fudge was well behind his man on a short crossing route), but Null threw the ball straight to Eric Brock. Game over.
Tags: Atlanta, Brent Grimes, Brett Romberg, Chauncey Davis, Chevis Jackson, Chris Owens, D.J. Shockley, Daniel Fells, Eric Brock, Falcons, Jamaal Fudge, James Laurinaitis, Jason Snelling, Jonathan Babineaux, Keith Null, Keith Zinger, Kenneth Darby, Laurent Robinson, Lawrence Sidbury, Marty Booker, Rams, Trey Lewis, Von Hutchins
Posted on: November 13, 2008 10:07 pm
The media has already jumped on the story of Jason Elam and Domonique Foxworth facing their former teams. (Tyson Clabo also started his career with the Broncos, signing with them as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Jamaal Fudge is likely to remain on the inactive list, but he's also a former Bronco.)
But the best story of a player coming back to face a former team goes the other direction... A Falcons staffer told me in preseason that our Birds would probably have won four more games last season if we only had a kicker. I always get a chuckle out of that idea, because we actually had several of them.
First we had Aaron Elling, but we cut him in camp to go with Billy Cundiff. Cundiff kicked extremely well in camp and was rock solid in the first three preseason games. Then, in the final week of preseason, Matt Prater became available. Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg had been watching the kid for a while and liked what he saw, and he had GM Rich McKay invite the young kicker in for a workout with the coaching staff.
Petrino never even had him practice with the team. He didn't even watch a complete workout. He simply had McKay sign the young kicker, had Prater kick the final exhibition game (when he had the entire first unit take the night off), and unexpectedly cut Cundiff the next morning in favor of the kid with the tribal armband tattoos on BOTH arms.
Falcon fans remember the rest of the story, though hardly any can even remember the kid's name. Prater was working through a brief period with some mechanical issues. He had pulled one of his three kicks in that final exhibition game. He also pulled one of his two attempts in the first regular season game against the Vikings - but hardly anyone cared, as the game wasn't particularly close, and the Falcons had many other problems to occupy everyone's minds.
But in the second game, against Smitty and the Jags no less, he shanked both of his attempts. Both were from short to middle range, and the Falcons ended up losing the game by... six points. The ever-so-patient hog caller released him immediately, and by that Wednesday Atlanta had once again dragged Morten Andersen back into action.
Meanwhile, the Broncos had a tendency of carrying a second kicker strictly for kickoffs in order to save Jason Elam's leg. (This was what I had hoped the Falcons would have done with Cundiff and Prater.) In midseason, they picked up Prater as their second kicker.
He worked out the mechanical problem he had during his whopping 17-day Falcon career and became their full time kicker after Elam's departure. Today, many Bronco fans claim he's better than Elam.
Mike Shanahan was asked if he's looking forward to seeing Jason Elam again. Shanahan joked of course not - he's kicking against us. I feel the same way about Prater. Rosburg was right. The kid has astounding potential, and Petrino cast him aside after just one bad game.
I'm glad things worked out well for him, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in action again. Considering that Petrino did more damage to Atlanta than General Sherman, Prater was probably lucky to have been set free so early. He missed the misery of the next 12 weeks that followed here in Atlanta (which many of the players compared to a form of purgatory - except worse), and he landed on his feet in a great situation for a young kicker.
Unfortunately for us, the kid has a cannon of a leg. If the Broncos choose to have him kick deep, expect to see the Falcons starting at the 20-yard line after any Denver kickoff. And if anyone in the league right now is capable of kicking a game-winning 60+ yard field goal, my money would be on Prater as the guy most likely to do it.