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Tag:Michael Jenkins
Posted on: January 3, 2011 9:23 am
 

best years in franchise history

The regular season has just ended, with the Falcons finishing 13-3 to achieve the NFC's top seed for the postseason.  We're heading into a bye week, so I decided to sneak something onto the old blog (which I didn't really maintain this season, putting everything directly on the message board instead).  

Is there anybody out there?


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A few weeks ago (with several weeks remaining in the regular season), the AJC's Mark Bradley did a piece on his blog musing how this year's Falcons team might rank among the best ever.  Naturally, the article touched on the 1998 NFC Championship team and the 1980 team, and obviously the 2010 team could surpass them with a successful postseason.  Overall, it was a fairly lame article that lacked any detail whatsoever.  But as you might expect, such an entry touched off a long chain of comments.

I threw in my two cents.  Even without the postseason and with a few games remaining in the regular season, I feel this year's team has already earned the #3 spot on the all-time list behind those two years. 

Here's my (pending) top ten list of best years in franchise history:


# 1 = 1980.  They choked in the final five minutes and broke our hearts.  Whenever you hear a commentator saying the prevent defense only prevents a win, this team's playoff collapse is Exhibit A.   But they had a whole lot of talent, plus depth as good as any future Falcons team in spite of NFL rosters having only 45 players in those days.  I think that most of us who watched both teams would give the 1980 bunch the edge over the Superbowl-bound 1998 crew.  But it's admittedly very, very close.

# 2 = 1998.  Second best regular season record in the league that year.  It's really tough to put them # 2 instead of # 1, as they won Atlanta's only conference title. 

# 3 = 2010.  Of course, this team gets the "pending" caveat as a work still in progress.  Their postseason performance could put this year's group over the top.

# 4 = 2004.  Surprised?  Take another look at this bunch, as they certainly deserve the kudos.  They won the division title and were the # 2 seed in the conference.  And they lived up to it in the postseason, making it to the NFC Championship game. 

New coach Jim Mora and new GM Rich McKay completely rebuilt the secondary and overhauled the o-line on a shoestring budget. The result was a much improved pass defense and a lethal "D-V-D" rushing attack of Warrick Dunn, Michael Vick, and T.J. Duckett.

2004 also deserves a little extra attention for its draft.  While many (for example, the AJC's Jeff Schultz - who thought McKay was responsible for the 2003 draft and refused to include Jason Snelling as part of the 2007 draft class even after the omission was pointed out to him) will disagree, I'll contend that the 2004 draft was *THE*  key first step in the foundation of the current Falcons roster. 

It wasn't just Michael JenkinsDeAngelo Hall and Matt Schaub were traded for the draft picks that ultimately brought us Justin Blalock, Sam Baker, Garrett Reynolds, Vance Walker, and Harry Douglas. In other words, 2004 wasn't just a good team.  It was one whose legacy remains strong even six years down the road.

# 5 = 2008.  11-5 and a missed Saints field goal (in their season finale against the Panthers) from taking the division title and the NFC's # 2 seed.  This team obviously also had a serious impact going forward, so it deserves a top five berth.  But it still had holes (particularly at DT) and made a quick exit from the postseason against an arguably lesser Arizona team, so # 5 is as high as this season gets.

# 6 = 1973.   This forgotten team had the franchise on the verge of joining the league's elite.  They were the NFC's # 5 seed, falling one win short of making the postseason.  Alas, a disastrous trade and perhaps the worst draft of all time the following spring set the franchise back several years.  (The silver lining of that 1974 collapse:  Atlanta was able to draft Steve Bartkowski in the next draft.)

# 7 = 1991.  Jerry Glanville's bunch was fun, took the Falcons to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade with a 10-6 regular season record, and topped it off by beating the Saints in an outstanding wild card game. 

Alas, they were in the midst of the Ken Herock draft years, so sustaining any momentum was well nigh impossible.  Even if they hadn't traded that QB they drafted in the second round that year, they were probably doomed thanks to other picks that became spectacular flops - like Bruce Pickens, taken with the #3 overall pick that same year.

# 8 = 1978.  The original Gritz Blitz defense was MUCH more fun to watch in the late '70s than the Falcons offense, and this group gave Atlanta its first ever postseason appearance plus a playoff win against Philadelphia in the wild card game. 

They'd be higher up the list, but they had an utterly inept running game - featuring that almighty duo of Haskel Stanback and Bubba Bean.  (How's that for a frightening flashback!)  Eddie LeBaron quickly addressed this deficiency. The Falcons drafted all three of William Andrews, Lynn Cain and James Mayberry the following spring, setting the stage for 1980.

# 9 = 2002.  The youngsters might feel this bunch should be higher, thanks to the playoff win over the Packers in Green Bay.  But otherwise, this 9-6-1 team really wasn't all that special.  They didn't win the division, and they squeaked into the playoffs as the # 6 seed.  They ranked 14th in total offense and 19th in total defense. 

# 10 = 1995.  June Jones has his moment in the sun as an NFL coach.  The high-octane Red Gun offense had a 1000-yard rusher (Ironhead Heyward) and THREE different 1000-yard receivers (Eric Metcalf, Terrance Mathis and Bert Emanuel).  But they barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, edging out the Chicago Bears for the third and final wild card spot - where the Packers promptly stomped them by a 37-20 score.

It was, of course, too good to be true.  Ken Herock delivered a typical subpar Falcons draft that year and gave up the team's first two picks of 1996 in trades - the first rounder as the last component of the Jeff George trade, and the second rounder to acquire safety Patrick Bates. 

The team went 3-13 in 1996, and Jeff George and June Jones had their famous spat on national television.  George was waived, Jones was fired, Herock was ousted, and Bates was arrested - all before the 1997 draft. 



Honorable mention =  2009.  It's our only other winning season in franchise history.  Sad but true.


Posted on: August 8, 2010 11:44 pm
 

Jenks out 4-6 weeks; Glenn Sharpe arrest

Jenks came back for an underthrown ball in the Friday Night Lights scrimmage, landed badly on his shoulder and did not return.  The latest news is that he will be out for up to six weeks.  That means he'll miss the entire preseason and is already a question mark for the opener against the Steelers .

This is our first significant injury of the offseason, and it comes at one of the more shaky positions for the FalconsMichael Jenkins and Roddy White were already slated as the starters with Harry Douglas in the slot as the #3. 

It may be enough to prompt the team to begin the season with six wideouts.  It also makes both Brian Finneran and Kerry Meier important people to watch during the exhibition games as well as all the other prospects, who are *all* contenders for a potential sixth spot.



The scoop:  Thomas Dimitroff says the model for this team is to have two "talls" on the outsides with a smaller, quicker guy like Harry in the slot.  Finn is 6'5", has boatloads of experience and good hands, and has the trust of Matt Ryan to be a go-to guy in clutch third down situations.  Meier is 6'4" and has opened a lot of eyes this offseason.  He was already virtually assured of making the roster and likely even ahead of Finneran for playing time in the rotation.  Brandyn Harvey (6'4") has missed some time this week but has also shown good hands.  Ryan Wolfe is a solid body (lists at 210 pounds on his 6'2" frame) that would fit the bill as well.  He hasn't stood out as much as Meier, but he has certainly had his moments - including a touchdown reception in today's mock game.


How badly will the Falcons miss their #2 WR?   Probably not much. 

That's not a shot at Jenkins.  First off, even if he's out six weeks, four of them would be preseason games.  And if he only misses four weeks, he'll be back in time for the opener.  Second, we're still a run-first offense.  If Mularkey scripts the first twelve plays against the Steelers, the pattern is likely to be run, rollout pass, run, run, screen pass, run, rollout pass, run, run, quick out, rollout pass, run.  The main responsibilities of the wideouts will be to draw attention from the corners and safeties and then to block those same DBs downfield.  If he's the fill-in starter, Finn can handle that role as well as anyone.  

And keep an eye on how well Matt Ryan connects with any of his targets on passes 20 yards or more through the air.  He really struggled with those last year in preseason, and like many of the other Falcons preseason woes from 2009, it carried into the regular season.  (Some others that stood out in preseason:  the defense couldn't get off the field on third down - including giving up first downs vs the run, scrambles, and big yardage on screen plays, the corners frequently got torched, Jason Elam seemed to have a case of the yips, and our running game really didn't look particularly sharp.)

Ryan has said he wants to work on improving his long passing game in camp this season.  If he can't show more than he did this weekend in the scrimmage and mock game, the team might as well move someone like Keith Zinger or Dan Klecko to wideout.  If your WR is primarily a blocker, let it be someone who can knock an opposing DB flat on his back and still catch the occasional roll out pass.




Side note:  the TV and newspaper coverage on Glenn Sharpe's arrest identifies him as a former Falcon who played with the team in 2008 and 2009. 

That's overstating his significance.  Let's clear up the history:  the U of Miami DB was signed for camp as an undrafted free agent in 2008.  He didn't make the roster but was signed as a practice squad player. 

The Falcons had three of their better practice squad guys plucked by other teams during the season (running back Kenneth Darby to the Rams , defensive end Brandon Miller to the Seahawks , and offensive lineman D'Anthony Batiste to the Redskins ).   So at the end of the year, they protected some of their remaining prospects by calling them up to the regular roster to replace injured players. 

(For those who might not be familiar with that tactic...  Eight guys have to be listed as inactive each week.  So late in the season, teams will sometimes take players not seriously injured but too banged up to play the remaining games and put them on injured reserve.  They'll take the open roster spots and bring in practice squad players - either plucking them from other teams, or promoting their own practice squad guys to prevent other teams from signing them.  Practice squad players are always free agents, and the team that holds a guy's rights at the end of the season also holds the rights to him heading into the offseason.  So it's a cheap way for a struggling team to add additional prospects.

A few Falcons-related examples:  at the end of 2007, McKay and interim coach Emmitt Thomas signed lineman Pat McCoy from the Eagles practice squad and also promoted cornerback prospect Brent Grimes from our own squad.  Last season, the Packers had stashed QB prospect Brian Brohm on their practice squad.  In mid-November the Bills signed him to their active roster, and he got his first career start against us in the next to last week of the season.  Also last season, the Cleveland Browns promoted running back Thomas Brown to their active roster in the final week to prevent another team from signing him.  Possibly us, as Thomas Dimitroff still had interest in him.) 

Sharpe was one of three practice squad prospects that the Falcons protected by calliing up to the main roster.  So he was briefly on the main roster at the tail end of the 2008 season, but he did not see action. 

He returned for camp last year but didn't make the team.  He also wasn't a top choice for the practice squad. 

The Falcons wanted to stash fifth round draft pick William Middleton on the squad, but the Buccaneers claimed him off waivers.  So the Falcons re-signed Sharpe to the squad in his place.  A week later, the Bucs dropped Middleton.  The Falcons immediately signed him to the practice squad and dropped Sharpe.  And a week after that, the Jaguars plucked Middleton - and kept him.  Sharpe once again became the replacement on the practice squad.  He then got banged up in practice and was dropped on an injury waiver in late October, with undrafted safety prospect Eric Brock re-signed to the squad in his place.  That ended Sharpe's tenure with the Falcons.

The Saints signed him to their own practice squad during the postseason.  They re-signed him for minicamp, but dumped him before the end of OTAs.  He was not on the roster of any team at the time of his arrest last week.

It's always sad to see any part of the Falcons family in trouble.  But some of the news stories have implied that he played for the team for two seasons.  Just to set the record straight, that's not the case.  He was a practice squad hand for about a season and a half, but he never played other than preseason exhibition games.

Posted on: January 11, 2010 2:36 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2010 3:15 pm
 

Tracking the draft picks, part two

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: September 2, 2009 2:31 am
 

Tye Hill's plays from the Falcons-Rams game

Since we just acquired a CB from the team we played the week before, it seemed pretty obvious to double check and see how well the guy did against us.

Tye Hill started at RCB for the Rams in the preseason week 2 matchup against the Falcons and played the entire first half.

Executive summary: he did well in pass coverage, but he couldn't tackle a running back to save his life.

If by chance you still have a copy of the video (you DO record and save every single Falcons game, right?) here are the plays to review:

13:00 remaining Q1, 2nd and 3 at Rams 27 - Michael Turner runs around the right side for a 9 yard gain and a first down. Hill lined up on the defensive left/offensive right side, covering Roddy White. He attempted to tackle Turner but missed. (A CB attempting to bring down MT seems almost unfair, so it's hard to blame him too much for that one.)

7:20 Q1, 1st and 10 at ATL 30 - Hill has coverage on Roddy. The ball was thrown past them out of bounds. It's possible that Matt Ryan saw the coverage and threw it over their heads intentionally. Regardless, Hill was on Roddy like a suit. That one had almost zero chance of being caught.

4:14 Q1, 2nd and 10 at Rams 25 - Hill lines up on Michael Jenkins. The Rams did a lot of zone coverage, and it appears that Hill was on the outside zone on this play. When Jenkins broke to the middle, Hill let him go. Chris Long was the defender in coverage on him when Jenkins caught the short pass. (Or at least it appeared that way - if that play was supposed to be man coverage, Hill should have stayed with him. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn't his play.)

3:33 Q1, 1st and 10 at Rams 14 - Hill was the DB with the one-on-one coverage on Tony Gonzalez. TG gets the touchdown. Big surprise, huh? Hill was right there with Gonzalez, but the throw was positioned so that TG could fend him off. He did just that. Six points for Atlanta.

Trent Green said he loved to throw to TG in those situations, because NOBODY could beat Tony in single man coverage. The linebackers weren't quick/agile enough to keep up with him, and the DBs weren't big enough to avoid being screened out by him as Hill was on this play.

That was the ONLY pass that Atlanta completed against Hill. Ryan and Shockley only threw it his way twice, choosing to take on Bartell or Wade (the nickel corner) instead.

14:42 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 9 - Hill misses a tackle on Norwood. I can understand bouncing off of Michael Turner. But if you get your hands on Norwood, you ought to be able to get him down. Or at least hang on until help arrives.

13:57 Q2 - 2nd and 15 at ATL 19 - D.J. Shockley throws a pass to Marty Booker. Booker botches the catch, tipping the ball into the air. The refs say that James Laurinaitis made the interception. (Note - he didn't. The ball hit the ground, and Road Warrior Junior secured it on the short hop. I have no idea why Smitty didn't throw the red flag.)

Hill was NOT the one in coverage on Booker. He had the outside zone. But he was running in towards the ball and had as good a shot at it as Laurinaitis, who collided with him while making the "catch".

8:19 Q2 - 1st and 10 at ATL 16 - Hill AGAIN misses a tackle on Norwood. This time Jerious put a pretty lame move on Hill and ran right past him. Hill didn't even attempt to make the hit.

And that was the last play where Hill had any significant involvement. Quick take: he was considered good enough by the Rams to start. He was good enough that the Falcons QBs went elsewhere on all but two throws, and he didn't allow separation on either of those.

So he had a nice game in coverage. Or at least he was better against us than our CBs were against the Rams, and far better than our guys were against the Chargers. Perhaps he really is an upgrade - as long as we're not counting on him to play run defense. That part of his game was ugly with a capital Ugh.

Posted on: August 8, 2009 12:03 am
 

scrimmage at Brookwood H.S. - 8/07/09

First observation =   wow, the place was packed.  It was pretty obvious that there were more than 10,000 people there, and even at halftime there were more and more and more coming in the gates.  Later, the attendance was announced at over 12,300 !!

They did kickoff / returns and FG drills before the scrimmage part got underway.  Chandler Williams and Jerious Norwood had nice returns.  Interesting sight = Peria Jerry on the kickoff return unit, forming a wedge.

Early on, the defense got the better of the offense.  A series with the 1st team offense was stopped.  Chris Redman later had a pass to Justin Peelle where Brent Grimes single-handedly made the strip, recovery, and return for a defensive TD.

My vote for THE play of the entire scrimmage was by safety prospect Eric Brock.  He made a nice read to see (I think) Robert Ferguson breaking open.  He closed in a heartbeat and timed the hit perfectly to separate the receiver from the ball.  And then he plucked the ball out of the air for a pick.  Obviously no replay, but I think it would go down as an interception rather than a fumble.  (It would be his ball either way though, since he grabbed it before it hit the ground.)   It was SWEET.

You KNEW that sooner or later Matt Ryan would hit Michael Jenkins for a long TD.  They've been doing it in every single practice session.  It came in Ryan's second series, with a 20+ yard pass over the middle for a touchdown.  Chris Owens was the defender in coverage on that play.

The pass rush was disappointing -  not sure if the rule to avoid hitting the QB had something to do with it.  But the one nice pass rush was by everyone's favorite lineman, Jamaal Anderson.  Jamaal flushed Redman from the pocket and forced him to throw the ball away.

Not much happening early in the second "half".  The scrimmage was scheduled for ten series, with each QB getting at least two drives.  Pretty much everyone seems to be playing at least a little bit.  I didn't have a notepad with me, so I wasn't able to track the O-linemen and D-linemen as I would have wanted.  But I know that Fudge and Hutchins got snaps at safety, Owens and Glenn Sharpe got reps at corner, Vance Walker got time at DT, Kroy Biermann, Chauncey Davis, Spencer Adkins, Robert James, etc were all in rotations.  The goal of this thing was to get "game" film to evaluate players, so as many people as possible got as many reps as possible.

In his final series (9th of 10), Redman threw an interception that was caught by Tony Gilbert.  I missed who the intended receiver was.  (Gilbert has been practicing with the first unit offense this week in Curtis Lofton's place.  Lofton is expected back in practice early next week.)  

In the 10th and presumably final series, D.J. Shockley hit Hartsock for a first down.  The next play was a handoff that had a penalty on the defense.  Shockley later hit Chandler Williams to get inside the red zone.  Coy Wire had great penetration to stop Thomas Brown for a loss.  (The coaches had the Bulldog backfield for this drive - Shockley at QB, Brown at RB, and Verron Haynes at FB.  All are ex-UGA.)   After that, it was run, run, run (like I said - Bulldog backfield...) until Brown scored the TD.

BUT...  the show isn't over yet.  Smitty calls for more, with John Parker Wilson running every series of "overtime".  He hit Peelle for roughly 17 yards over the middle with a really nice throw.  I've seen him hit Keith Zinger several times on this exact route in practices this week, so he's obviously already comfortable with that play even though he has to thread the needle to make that throw.

The next snap looked like a busted play.  Not sure what was supposed to happen, but Wilson intentionally threw it away.  I noted this one because it was a good decision by a rookie QB in a clutch situation.  Otherwise it was a non-event.

A little later, Norwood broke loose and took it inside the 15.  Wilson hit Brown at about the 10, but the drive bogged down there.

Smitty kept them going.  The next series wasn't a good one for JPW.  He tried to throw into traffic on the run and was lucky it wasn't picked off -  I'm sure he heard about it immediately and will cringe when he sees it in the film room this week.

Verron Haynes had a nice run on a toss sweep, and then Wilson hit Zinger - just like in practice, except that this time Zinger was allowed to show his stuff.  He looked like Mike Alstott (insert Chris Berman "rumblin', stumblin" on the highlight reel) breaking tackles and taking it inside the 3.  Smitty ended the scrimmage then.

OFFICIALLY, the offense barely edged out the defense in the final score.  But the defense got the better of it for most of the night, and the offense ended up taking it during the unscheduled extra three series.  So take it with a grain of salt -  the defense held their own.

The linebackers looked really good.  I wasn't all that hot on the D-line, though I did note that there wasn't much success running up the middle.  The big runs were all to the outsides.  Now if they can improve the pass rush, they'll have something...

Aaron Kelly didn't have much action in terms of receiving, but he did have some blocking opportunities on run plays.  That (along with special teams during the preseason games) will go a long way towards helping him make the roster.   Chandler Williams had the nice reception from Shockley plus a great showing as a kick returner.  They're both making pretty good arguments for keeping six receivers on the roster. 

The safeties looked pretty good, but I'm not sure why Chris Owens didn't have deep help on the TD pass from Ryan to Jenkins. 

Ryan looked solid.  My favorite play from him was a quarterback keeper on the very first series.  Mixed grades on Redman -  one of the turnovers wasn't his fault, but the other was one he'd want back.  Shockley's first series wasn't much, but he did a fine job with that final "regular" series.  His passes were dead on the money.  And JPW didn't look anything special during the regular drives, but he did a fine job in the extra time at the end.  He hasn't had many reps in the 11 on 11 portions of practices, so it makes sense that he'd get into more of a rhythm with the extra snaps.  And he's helping turn Keith Zinger into one of the stars of training camp.

The simulation at Roam The Dome will reportedly be without pads, so this was the closest thing we'll see to a game until next weekend's action.  I'm looking forward to it...















Posted on: October 19, 2008 11:35 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2008 11:52 pm
 

Falcon free agents in 2009

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.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com