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Atlanta's needs are very narrow
April, 1, 2013
8:33 AM ET
By Pat Yasinskas | ESPN.com
While it seems like just about every NFL team will be using what’s left of free agency and the NFL draft to address multiple needs, the Atlanta Falcons are in a very unique position.
At least on paper, they only have one hole on their roster.
That’s at cornerback, where the Falcons suddenly became thin with Saturday’s news that Brent Grimes left for Miami as a free agent. The departure of Grimes comes after the Falcons released Dunta Robinson at the start of free agency.
The good news is the Falcons have no other glaring needs after signing defensive end Osi Umenyiora to upgrade the pass rush, signing running back Steven Jackson to improve the running game and coaxing tight end Tony Gonzalez to put off retirement.
The bad news is there might not be a lot of great options at cornerback. Coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan frequently talk about how they like to have three cornerbacks that are capable of starting.
Atlanta still has Asante Samuel and Robert McClain, but they’re No. 2 and 3 guys and I don’t think the Falcons view Dominique Franks as anything more than a No. 4 cornerback. That means the Falcons have to add a cornerback, preferably someone that can be a No. 1 guy, in free agency or the draft.
It’s more than likely the Falcons will have to find a cornerback in the draft. The remaining cast of free-agent cornerbacks is highlighted by DeAngelo Hall, Quentin Jammer, Nnamdi Asomugha, Antoine Winfield and Sheldon Brown. Hall, who began his career in Atlanta, probably is off any list off possibilities for the Falcons. Atlanta hasn’t seemed to have shown much interest in the other veterans, but that could change now that Grimes is officially gone.
The Falcons also are limited by a tight salary-cap situation. But there’s no guarantee the Falcons will be able to get a top cornerback at No. 30. Alabama’s Dee Milliner widely is considered a top-10 pick and Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes are the only two corners consistently projected to go in the first round.
If Trufant or Rhodes lasts until No. 30, the Falcons can fill their one remaining need. But both could be gone before No. 30 and that might prompt general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who has shown a willingness to trade up in the draft and is holding 11 draft picks, to try to jump up higher.
I don’t know that Dimitroff will try to pull off a Julio Jones type of deal to get Milliner. But he might be wise to trade up into the late teens or early 20s to get Trufant or Rhodes.
Get one of those guys and everything on Dimitroff’s offseason list will be crossed off.