Sometime before next month’s draft, the Falcons are likely to sign a player in free agency in hopes of filling one of their gaping holes on defense.
The question that needs to be answered: Is it better to sign a cornerback and then draft for help in the pass rush, or the other way around?
There are legitimate arguments both ways. Pass rushing is at such a premium in the NFL that some consider it better to get a veteran end in free agency. But in these days of pass-happy offenses, maybe it’s better to get have the veteran cornerback who can easier discern the complexities of today’s schemes.
Pure speculation here: I think the Falcons will opt for No. 2. There are several ways to create a pass rush beyond just having a standout end, but finding a strong cornerback is more difficult. The problem is that it's an unimpressive remaining group of free agents on the market, regardless of which way general manager Thomas Dimitroff goes.
The Falcons are believed to be about $5 million under the salary after the Steven Jackson signing. Here are five options for them at both cornerback and end:
1. Brent Grimes: For all the rumors of Grimes signing in Cleveland, Miami or elsewhere, no team has made a move yet. The market has been a rude awakening for a player whom the Falcons valued high enough in 2012 to franchise him (mandating a $10 million salary). The torn Achilles changed everything. The Falcons can’t be certain how effective Grimes will be this season but his re-signing seems the most likely scenario.
2. Nnamdi Asomugha: His best days are behind him. He can still be an effective corner if he’s motivated, but is he? NFL personnel chiefs are wondering. The other issue is what salary he's willing to take. He declined to restructure the last three years of his five-year, $60 million deal in Philadelphia and was released. He’s probably too expensive for the Falcons.
3. Antoine Winfield: He has been a solid cornerback for 14 years and is a three-time Pro Bowler (2008-2010). But he’ll turn 36 in June. Too old to start.
4. Michael Huff: He has been a solid player in Oakland but he has played safety more than corner. (Baltimore is looking at him as a possible replacement for Ed Reed.)
5. Mike Jenkins: He started for over three years in Dallas but lost his starting job last season. Why list him? Well, it was either him or DeAngelo Hall. (Not happening.)
1. Elvis Dumervil: I’m guessing that despite all of the drama in Denver, he still gets re-signed by the Broncos. At $8 million (his last negotiated salary before the contract was voided), the Falcons would have no way to fit him under the cap without taking a machete to the roster, which they won’t do.
2. Osi Umenyiora: If the Falcons just want somebody to go get the quarterback – and they should – this is their man. He has 74 sacks in the last eight seasons, but only six of those came last year. Like other defensive ends, Umenyiora appears to have a higher asking price than anybody is willing to give. But the fact the Falcons have never even been hinted at as having interest makes you believe they have other issues with him, like maybe his play against the run.
UPDATE: Mike Garafolo of USA Today reported on Twitter that Umenyiora visited the Falcons on Wednesday: "Osi Umenyiora has made his first visit. It was today with the Atlanta Falcons. No word on a signing yet." The Falcons haven't confirmed the visit.
3. Dwight Freeney: There are questions about what he has left, as his sack totals have declined over the last four seasons: 13.5, 10, 8.5, 5. The fact the Colts would not re-sign him makes you wonder.
4. John Abraham: He was the ONLY Falcons’ defender who managed to create a consistent pass rush last season and accounted for 10 of the team’s 29 sacks. The next highest sack total: 4 by Kroy Biermann. The Falcons appear determined to be a sack-by-committee team, which is fine if they have a worthy committee. Right now, they don't. Abraham had a cap figure of just over $6 million next season. He could be signed for a song (and will be by somebody).
5. Richard Seymour: He would be a great veteran presence in the locker room and Dimitroff knows him well from his days in New England. But the tank may be empty. Injuries limited Seymour to eight games last season in Oakland and he had only three sacks. I wouldn’t be stunned to see him signed by the Falcons after the draft if the price is right, after Dimitroff has had a chance to evaluate his roster.
So what are your thoughts on the above 10 players. Which was should the Falcons go in free agency?
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"