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Where are Falcons headed in free agency?
January, 31, 2014
By Vaughn McClure | ESPN.com
After the Super Bowl, plenty of action should heat up in terms of teams releasing players and re-signing those with expiring contracts in preparation for free agency, which begins March 11.
The Atlanta Falcons already started the evaluation process and have an idea of which areas they want to address through the free-agent market.
"I honestly don't care about many positions in free agency," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told ESPN.com. "There's only a select few that I'm really that interested in. I haven't really tallied up the strength in some of those other areas. Suffice to say that they are some good football players out there that are going to help teams in need of increasing their toughness, strength and grittiness.
[+] EnlargeWillie Colon
AP Photo/Paul Spinelli
Jets guard Willie Colon could be a target for the Falcons once free agency begins on March 11.
"As we all know, certain positions are going to be a lot more expensive while other positions can be a much better value to go after in free agency. That's a team philosophical approach. We're always gauging that and discussing it from year to year: How we're going to set our philosophy going into free agency. And from year to year, that may be adjusted, depending on what our needs are."
The Falcons sorely need help along the offensive and defensive lines. There is a belief that they'll target an offensive guard in free agency while likely going after an offensive tackle or pass-rusher in the draft.
A name to keep in mind is veteran Willie Colon, a player Pro Football Focus rates just outside the top 10 in terms of free-agent guards. The team hasn't said anything publicly or privately about him or any other impending free agent. But Colon, who started all 16 games at right guard for the New York Jets, almost was signed by Chicago in 2011 when new Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice held the same title with the Bears. And Tice lobbied hard to bring Colon in as a tackle, but Colon reportedly turned down an extra $3 million to remain in Pittsburgh.
ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reported Colon was scheduled to undergo biceps surgery, which means the Falcons might have a chance to get Colon at a bargain price. He made $1.16 million with the Jets this past season.
Dimitroff was asked about the quality of free-agent guards likely to be available.
"I believe there are some good free-agent offensive linemen," Dimitroff said, keeping his response vague.
During last week's Senior Bowl, a handful of names came up during discussions about the Falcons and free agency. Again, keep in mind these names were not brought up by the team, so it wouldn't be fair to say they are players on the Falcons' wish list. But it made for interesting discussion.
We will talk about these players over the next few days, starting with a Pro Bowl offensive lineman.
Branden Albert, 6-5, 316, OT, Kansas City Chiefs
Draft history: 15th overall pick in 2008
Career games/starts: 85/83
The word: It was only natural for someone to link Albert and the Falcons immediately after Scott Pioli was hired as the assistant general manager under Dimitroff. Pioli was the general manager in Kansas City for four years with Albert, although he didn't draft the offensive tackle. Before Pioli and the Chiefs parted ways, he tried to work out a long-term deal with Albert. Instead, Albert played this past season under the franchise tag at $9.8 million after a potential trade to the Miami Dolphins fell through. Albert missed four games at end of the 2013 regular season with a hyperextended knee.
It seems unlikely that the Falcons will try to make a big-splash in free agency with an offensive tackle. If they're going to spend the money, they might as well spend it on a pass-rusher. But Albert would be a nice addition to any team.
Next up: A Super Bowl champion offensive lineman?