Posted on: January 11, 2010 2:36 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 3:15 pm
Recap from the initial piece: draft picks are important assets in themselves in addition to their potential to become players.
You get seven picks per year to help you increase the value of your roster. If you release a drafted player, the "life" of that draft pick ends. But if you can trade him or get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere, you've increased your team's resources and extended the legacy of that draft pick.
The example from the initial piece was that Dan Reeves scooped up DT Ellis Johnson after the Colts released him. Two years later, McKay traded him for the draft pick he used to select Michael Boley. In April, Dimitroff will have a compensatory pick from Boley signing with the Giants. So eight years and two GMs after the Falcons got something for nothing by signing Johnson, they still have a draft pick to show for him.
The Falcons have a few more cases of players who "became" other players.
Many fans still cringe at losing 1999's first rounder Patrick Kerney to free agency after the 2006 season. The Falcons were mired in salary cap woes for a few years and simply couldn't compete with the megabucks offers that rising young players like Kerney and Kevin Shaffer received from other teams.
And while Petrino made the horrid call of drafting Jamaal Anderson to be the cornerstone of his franchise, at least Kerney didn't completely go to waste. The Falcons received a third round compensatory pick in 2008 for the loss of Kerney in 2007. And by then, the hog sooey idiot was off in Arkansas, so he had no influence on how that pick would be used.
That compensatory pick became starting safety Thomas DeCoud. So while we've been hurting at DE since Kerney's departure, his legacy lives on in the secondary.
Coach Booby also decided he wanted his ex-Louisville player Antoine Harris for his #9 defensive back. He also made Adam Jennings the return man, which meant former Pro Bowl kick returner Allen Rossum was on the way out. Rather than having to release him outright, McKay managed to trade Rossum to the Steelers for a future seventh round draft pick. It wasn't much, but it still beats relasing the player and getting absolutely nothing.
Dimitroff used that draft pick (#232) to get TE Keith Zinger. Zinger spent the 2008 season on the practice squad and was only the #5 tight end heading into camp. But he showed tremendous improvement in both blocking and receiving, ultimately beating out Jason Rader and incumbent starter Ben Hartsock for a roster spot.
As the #3 TE, Zinger didn't get many receiving opportunities, mainly appearing on offense as an extra blocker. But he did that role well, and he was also a significant figure on special teams, playing on every special teams unit.
He'll get a little more time working with Matt Ryan and the #2 quarterback this summer. He might still be a year away from being a significant factor on offense, but he has already shown good potential. If you're already looking for another TE to replace Tony Gonzalez in a year or two, don't count Zinger out quite yet.
Linebacker Mark Simoneau was the team's third round pick back in 2000. In March of 2003, Dan Reeves traded Simoneau to the Eagles for a pair of draft picks - a sixth rounder in 2003 and a fourth rounder in 2004.
Reeves used the sixth rounder to draft Waine Bacon, just one of his many WR busts over the years. (Reeves may have been a decent coach, but as a personnel head he had ZERO talent for evaluating WR prospects. But that's a whole separate article in itself.)
McKay used the 2004 fourth rounder (#125 overall) as the throw-in to trigger his first draft trade as Falcons GM. That pick went to the Colts to move Atlanta's second rounder up to the back end of round one.
With that pick, the Falcons selected starting WR Michael Jenkins.
And of course there are two more well known players from the 2004 draft who were later traded for draft picks. I'll hit those next time...
Posted on: October 5, 2009 5:54 pm
Before the salary cap system began, players didn't become unrestricted free agents until after they had reached six years of league tenure. With the salary cap, that time dropped to four years.
Also, the maximum length of the rookie contract for all players drafted after the first round is four years. (For guys in the first half of the first round, it's six years. It's five years for the back half of the first round.)
Put it together, and it means that the initial contract is the maximum length of time you can count on keeping your drafted prospects. Dealing with that is an interesting aspect of personnel that teams approach in different ways.
One ramification is with the draft itself. Many teams passed on drafting Curtis Martin because the scouts at the time said he'd probably only last a few seasons before wearing out. That didn't stop Bill Parcells from selecting him in the third round for the Patriots. Parcells explained that it didn't matter, because four years was as long as you could count on keeping the guy anyway.
The flip side is that top draft prospects now receive contracts out of proportion with the rest of the league. If the kids need more than average development time, it's a disastrous use of a high draft pick.
The obvious example for the current Falcons roster is Jamaal Anderson, who is in his third season and has yet to show anything to prove he was worth a first round pick. An even better case is Brady Quinn, who is also in his third season. He was selected in the back half of round one (#22 overall), so the Browns only have him for two more years before he's a free agent.
Likewise, Tarvaris Jackson and Brodie Croyle were second and third round selections by the Vikings and Chiefs. Both are still works in progress - but they were both drafted in 2006, so this is year four for both of them. They're free agents at the end of the season, so those teams may end up with very little total return for their first day draft picks.
The other ramification is that since the specific players won't necessarily remain past the first contract, the draft pick should be treated as an asset unto itself. Whether the player ultimately makes it in the NFL is one thing, but if the team can get ongoing returns through trades or free agency, then the GM has done a fine job of asset management.
For now I'll just hit one example, but it's a pretty good one since it ties together the personnel moves of Dan Reeves, Rich McKay and Thomas Dimitroff:
Ellis Johnson was a first round selection by the Indianapolis Colts in 1995. He played with them for seven years but was released in the summer before the 2002 season.
Dan Reeves needed another DT to help rest Ed Jasper. He scooped up Johnson, who then racked up 7 sacks in 2002 and 8 in 2003. (By comparison, all Falcons defensive tackles combined had only 6 in 2007 and 6.5 last year.) Note that Reeves got him as an off the street free agent - picking him up did not cost the Falcons a draft pick or anything in trade.
But Johnson wasn't sure he wanted to play for a rebuilding team under Jim Mora in 2004 and talked about retirement rather than playing another season for Atlanta. New general manager Rich McKay traded him that summer to the Denver Broncos for the ever-popular "unspecified" draft pick, which turned out to be a fifth rounder the following year. (Johnson appeared in 13 games for Denver in 2004, making 16 total tackles with 3 sacks and an interception - and then retired at the end of the season.)
McKay used Denver's draft pick to select linebacker Michael Boley. Boley started 53 of the 64 games of his four year rookie contract and played in every game. He was a defensive star of the horrid 2007 team, racking up 109 total tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 passes defensed.
He fell out of favor with the new Falcons coaching staff last season and was allowed to leave via free agency. But the story doesn't end there. The Giants signed him to a big enough contract that the Falcons will receive a compensatory draft pick in the 2010 draft. That pick will likely come at the end of the fifth round. (It may end up at the end of the fourth round, but I'm not getting my hopes up too high on that one.) Compensatory draft picks can't be traded, but the team is allowed to trade its own fifth or sixth round picks while keeping the compensatory pick.
So for now, Atlanta has the extra firepower to trade for additional personnel if necessary, and Thomas Dimitroff will have an extra Falcons player in the draft next April. And it all goes back to Dan Reeves scooping up a guy released by the Colts plus Rich McKay talking the Broncos out of a fifth rounder for a guy who was ready to retire.
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: November 30, 2008 11:35 am
As the 2008 regular season winds down, more and more posts on the Falcons message board are looking ahead to free agency and the draft, sizing up the team's likely targets and areas of need.
One key thing to remember: this is one of the youngest teams in the NFL this decade, not just this season. The Falcons have 31 players - including 11 starters - that are age 26 or younger. This is important for two reasons. First, many of these young guys are still developing and will improve naturally with experience. A few areas that might be perceived as weak points for the team may not be liabilities next season. Those positions wouldn't necessarily be targets for the draft, because the newly drafted players would have to go through the same growing pains as our current players did last year and this year.
Second, every player coming in next season will have to replace someone currently on the roster. We don't have a whole lot of guys who are likely to retire, we really don't have that many free agents in key roles, and Dimitroff is working to sign our potential free agents early to avoid having them hit the open market. The team will have quite a few currently injured guys returning, plus we have more solid prospects on our practice squad than most teams. I'm expecting at least 10 players from those lists to be with the Falcons in minicamp next season and competing for roster spots.
So if you'd like to play GM and start designing your 2009 roster, keep those players in mind.
Here's a rundown by unit:
Quarterback: Ryan, Redman, Shockley. No issues there at all, and all three are under contract for 2009. Feels nice, doesn't it? One catch - both Redman and Shockley are free agents after next season. Expect the team to pick up a fourth guy for camp next year to compete with them and perhaps a developmental project for the practice squad.
Running back / fullback: Turner, Mughelli, Norwood, Snelling, Brown, Barclay. The team is likely to carry five players in this unit. Snelling was a hybrid RB/FB who dropped some weight this season to focus on the RB role - but ended up with the FB#2 duty as well as the RB#3 role. With Brown returning, he may bulk back up to focus on fullback.
Receiver / tight end: White, Jenkins, Hartsock, Robinson, Douglas, Peelle, Finneran, Zinger, Rader, Weems, Chandler Williams, Noriaki Kinoshita. The WR side of this unit is loaded with Jenkins already re-signed. The only question is whether the team will keep five or six on the roster next season.
Tight end will be a significant issue. The team doesn't have a true receiving tight end, and Mularkey will likely want an upgrade for a blocker. Note that Peelle is a free agent at the end of the season. Zinger, like all practice squad players, is a free agent even now. Rader is a stop-gap who is in his third stint with the team this season. Best guess: the team will aim for three TEs on the roster next season. Re-signing Peelle is likely but won't be considered a top priority. Likely scenario = Hartsock + drafted TE + Peelle.
Offensive line: Baker, Blalock, McClure, Dahl, Clabo, Ojinnaka, Wilkerson, Stepanovich, Weiner, Batiste, Foster, McCoy. Wilkerson (center/guard) is a free agent, while Dahl and Clabo are restricted free agents. Gandy will also be available if needed but isn't likely to return.
This unit has a lot of what-ifs. Let's simplify it with a kind of worst-case scenario. Suppose that Clabo, Dahl, and Wilkerson all sign elsewhere. In that case, the Falcons still have Baker, Blalock, and McClure starting on the left side and at center, with Stepanovich holding down the backup center role.
Weiner has played fairly well in spite of being far from 100% back from his rehab. He'll be better next season after another winter of rest and rehab. Ojinnaka can play either guard spot or either tackle spot and is ready to step up as a starter. Batiste, Foster, and McCoy would all challenge for the first-unit jobs.
That's nine solid prospects already in house. The team would be in pretty good shape even without anyone else. If we could hang on to at least one of Clabo or Dahl, it would be a sweet bonus. The coaching staff may elect to bring in someone new via free agency or the draft to add competition, but it certainly shouldn't be considered a weakness or a top priority.
Defensive end: Abraham, Anderson, Davis, Biermann, Fraser, Evans. Abraham, Anderson, and Biermann appear to be locks. Chauncey Davis is a free agent. He'll get attention from other teams, and keeping him may be difficult if he isn't signed before he hits the open market on March 1. Evans is a practice squad prospect hoping to break through and win a regular roster spot as a backup.
A late rounder here for competition is a strong possibility, but the spot might also be handled on the cheap in free agency. In particular, if Brandon Miller becomes available again at the end of the season, there's a strong chance Atlanta will bring him back.
Defensive tackle: Babineaux, Moorehead, Lewis, Jefferson, Parker, Grady Jackson. The nose tackle will be a high priority position for this offseason. The team is well stocked at UT with Babineaux and Moorehead. But with Grady likely to retire (and not capable of playing every down even if he returns), the team needs answers in the form of run-stuffing big men. Lewis may become the starter, but that still leaves an opening as his backup.
The only in-house candidate is practice squad signing J'Vonne Parker. It's possible that they may be the guys for the job, but Vital and Dimitroff are almost certain to bring in some new blood. I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating. For Smitty's defensive scheme to work here, we have to have the big men in place. We don't necessarily have to have a 350-pound Jabba The Lineman, but a pair of guys in the 320 ballpark would help the entire defense.
At the moment, when Grady is off the field we have nobody on the line that even tops 300. In run situations, the opposing offense can match up one on one on our linemen, leaving one offensive lineman plus a tight end and a lead blocker free to block the linebackers. That's a big part of why our safeties lead the team in tackles. It puts extra pressure on the safeties to make plays against the run, which leaves them vulnerable to play fakes. That in turn leaves the corners vulnerable. We've had a lot of big play passes against us where the young corners appeared to have been burned but were actually playing their double coverage assignments - expecting help from safeties who weren't there. It may seem odd, but a key to getting improved play from Brooking, Boley, Coleman, Grimes, Houston, and Chevis Jackson is to get the nose tackle resolved so that everybody else can focus on their own jobs rather than having to cover for our lack of size in the middle of the front line.
Linebacker: Boley, Lofton, Brooking, Nicholas, Wire, Gilbert, James. The only four bodies locked in for 2009 are Brooking, Lofton, Nicholas, and James. The team has not kept a linebacker on the practice squad at all this season. James returns from IR next season, but he's a prospect that hasn't played a single snap. He'll be the equivalent of a newly drafted player.
Suffice to say this unit will need extra depth even if Boley re-signs. Wire has played well and can also play safety in an emergency. Look for the team to try to retain him.
Secondary: Houston, Foxworth, Hutchins, Jackson, Grimes, Irons, Coleman, Milloy, Decoud, Harris, Fudge, Brock, Sharpe. This will be an interesting unit to watch. It is overloaded with bodies already, but there are still depth issues. Milloy and Foxworth are free agents while Fudge is a restricted free agent. Hutchins will return from IR, making the CB side very crowded. The wild card is Foxworth. He was acquired mainly as an insurance policy but has quickly developed into our best defender. If the team can re-sign him, the primary CB spots will be held by Houston, Foxworth, and Hutchins at the start of minicamp, with Jackson, Grimes and Irons competing to take those jobs away and also to hang on to what will probably be two roster spots. Someone will have to go even if the team doesn't pick up anyone new in free agency.
Safety will be the greater concern. The team drafted Decoud to groom as the heir apparent to Milloy, and they already released Daren Stone and Deke Cooper to save a roster spot for the third rounder. The whisper in the wind is that he probably won't be ready to step in as a starter next season. That makes it more likely the team will give Milloy an extension or bring in another safety, probably via free agency rather than the draft. And just like at cornerback, the wild card is Foxworth. The coaches may try to solve several problems at once by moving him to safety.
Specialists: Elam, Koenen, Schneck. Koenen will be a free agent. He is one of the more precise and reliable punters out there, and since he also kicks off, the team is very likely to re-sign him rather than try to replace him.
Posted on: October 19, 2008 11:35 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2008 11:52 pm
It's the bye week, so conversation on the Falcon message board has been general rather than focused on specific opponents. I have mostly taken the week off from posting on the board or the blog, and I certainly enjoyed taking a break from the Member Mayhem writing contest. But now it's time to get back at it ...
I've been asked several times recently about how active Atlanta may be in free agency in the coming offseason. I thought it would be a good idea to post that info here, so that others won't have to search through various threads on the message board to find the list of free agent Falcons.
The Falcons have a fairly large number of their own players that will become eligible for free agency after the 2008 season. That will have a big impact on the team's offseason activity - they'll have to scramble to keep many of their own players, which will affect the amount of cap space available to try to sign other free agents.
The current Falcons that will be up for grabs include starters Michael Boley, Lawyer Milloy, Jonathan Babineaux, Grady Jackson, Michael Jenkins, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, plus punter Michael Koenen. (Clabo and Dahl will be restricted free agents, but both will be potential targets for other teams, so the Falcons will have to make at least some effort to keep them.) Backups who will become free agents include DE Chauncey Davis, TE Justin Peelle, LB Coy Wire, DT Jason Jefferson, CB Domonique Foxworth, C/G Ben Wilkerson, LB Tony Gilbert, and (restricted free agent) S Jamaal Fudge.
I do not know if any of the other players have clauses that would void their contracts after 2008 if certain goals are reached. DeAngelo Hall had one that would have made him a free agent at the end of 2008, but obviously the team traded him rather than have him play one more season and then watch him walk away with nothing in return. The key players who might become free agents if they do have void clauses are Keith Brooking, Roddy White, and Jerious Norwood. Their contracts will otherwise expire after the 2009 season.