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 Post subject: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competitions
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:39 pm 
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By D. Orlando Ledbetter

After dealing with the heartbreak of falling 10 yards short of Super Bowl XLVII, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith joined most of the team’s scouts last week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

That was a fitting move because the offseason’s focus will be on re-shuffling the roster and trying to add some teeth to the defense in a salary cap-strapped environment.

“The fact that we won in the playoffs is important for the growth of this football team,” Dimitroff said. “It’s great for the fan base, Mr. (Arthur) Blank and everyone else involved. But, though sounding cliche, it’s not our goal to stop at just winning a playoff game.”

The Falcons, who have been to the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, believe they are close to winning a title.

“This is a competitive football team and a very competitive and intelligent coaching staff,” Dimitroff said.

After the 2011 season, the focus was on retooling the coaching staff. The Falcons, happy with the talent on hand, added new coordinators in Mike Nolan (defense) and Dirk Koetter (offense) to replace Brian VanGorder and Mike Mularkey.

In order to re-tool a roster with the expected retirement of Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and the need to improve the defense, the Falcons can’t rely on re-shuffling the coaching ranks again. An infusion of talent is needed.

“We need more playmakers across the board,” Smith said.

The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competitions at all defensive spots in order to improve from being ranked 24th overall in the NFL.

After a brief break around the Super Bowl, the Falcons must address their list of 21 free agents — left tackle Sam Baker, safety William Moore and cornerback Brent Grimes head the list — and then they must consider whether they need to sign any players when free agency commences March 12.

What happens in free agency will dictate which direction they’ll go in the draft, which is set for April 25-27. The first round will be held April 25, followed by the second and third rounds April 26 and rounds 4-7 on April 27.

The Falcons will have a first-round pick this year after sending their No. 1 in 2012 to Cleveland as part of the Julio Jones trade. As a matter of fact, they’ll have their full slate of seven picks and could add at least one compensatory pick, and possibly two. They lost linebacker Curtis Lofton, wide receiver Eric Weems, cornerback Kelvin Hayden and safety James Sanders as free agents last offseason.

Here’s a look at the five pressing questions that the Falcons face this offseason:

1. Who’s going to replace Gonzalez? The Falcons have to deal with the reality that the game’s greatest tight end is set to retire. The Falcons could elect to go with Chase Coffman as a pass-catching tight end. A prospective unrestricted free agent, Coffman had a spectacular 16-yard catch against Seattle and could possibly salvage his career.

“Chase is a very good receiving tight end, and he continues to grow and learn as he receives very good coaching under Chris Scelfo,” Dimitroff said. “If Chase can … stay healthy, I think Chase has a very nice chance of being a quality football player in this league.”

The Falcons could also draft Stanford tight end Zach Ertz or Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round.

Michael Palmer is a restricted free agent. Tommy Gallarda and Adam Nissley finished the season on injured reserve. Andrew Szczerba was on the practice squad and recently was re-signed to reserve/futures contract.

2. What to do with Michael Turner? He has served the franchise well over five seasons. Without him, the Falcons would not have been able to turnaround their fortunes so quickly.

He has been extremely durable in making 72 of 75 starts, rushing for 6,081 yards and 60 touchdowns, but he showed signs of slippage last season with a career-low 3.6 yards average per carry.

The Falcons must determine if there is anything left in the tank or if there just weren’t any holes for Turner to run through.

Either way, in the new offensive system, $5.5 million is a bit much for a 10-to-15 carry oer game back. Perhaps, they renegotiate and tell Turner he’s the red-zone, touchdown back or they select his replacement in the third round of the draft.

Super Bowl-bound Baltimore found someone to share some of the load by taking Ray Rice in the third round of the 2012 draft. They picked Temple running back Bernard Pierce (84th overall), and he averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a rookie.

Bruising Turner clones in the draft include Michigan State’s LeVeon Bell (6-foot-2, 238 pounds) and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball (5-11, 210). Both are projected to go in the second to fourth rounds, pre-combine.

3. Are the Falcons set at linebacker? Stephen Nicholas led the team with 116 tackles. Akeem Dent finished his first season as a starter in the team’s base defense.

Nicholas has $10 million in base salary left on a five-year contract he signed after the 2011 season.

Smith and cornerback Dunta Robinson were seen “consulting” with Nicholas during the NFC title game, when it was clear the Falcons had trouble covering tight end Vernon Davis.

Nicholas has been strong against the run, but a liability in coverage. In a passing league, that was one of the reasons why Lofton was not re-signed last season.

It’s not a matter of whether the Falcons will add a linebacker, but how many.

4. Does Grimes still fit in the secondary? Grimes was lost for the season with an Achilles injury, but the emergence of Robert McClain solidified the depth at the position.

The Falcons must determine Grimes’ health status and then his market value. The team has a lot of money tied up at the position and may not be able to match if Grimes gets a lucrative offer in free agency.

Both safeties — Thomas DeCoud and Moore — went to the Pro Bowl.

5. Is the Peter Konz era ready to start at center? The offensive line was the emphasis last season, as the Falcons shifted to adding some beef to the unit.

Konz will shift to center if Todd McClure retires or isn’t re-signed. Third-round draft Lamar Holmes (6-6, 323) was brought along slowly last season, and Phillipkeith Manley (6-5, 309) looks like a mauler.

The Falcons need to improve their short-yardage attack, continue to protect quarterback Matt Ryan and get outside on their screen assignments.

The heavy screen-and-draw attack can take a team only so far. There were times this season when they needed to dominate the line of scrimmage and were unsuccessful.


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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:55 pm 
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You hear the same thing about every spot being up for grabs, yet when the first game of the season gets there pretty much the same people are in the same roles. The thing that baffles me is they scream about open competition but they never really bring in anyone talented enough to actually to overtake someone at said position.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:07 pm 
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We'll see if the Falcons are really about that within the next 6 weeks when we see them start to cut a bunch of salary in order to free up cap space to sign these players that will bolster competition. The myth last year was that the team was cash-strapped and thus could not really go out and make any real splashes in free agency. Well the reason why they were cash-strapped because they made little to no effort to free up cap space. A couple of moves, and the Falcons could have easily doubled their 2012 cap space. The same holds true for this year.

BTW, D-Led, Nicholas signed his deal after the 2010 season.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:20 pm 
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Yeah last offseason we sat back and entered this year with the same team that lost 24-2 to the Giants plus Asante and Konz and minus Lofton. I really believe if we had added anyone on defense that was worth a damn either a nickel LB or pass rush specialist we would be playing this Sunday. Nolan can scheme all he wants but sooner or later good coaches and players will figure you out and after that if you dont have the talent you will come up short and that is what happened to us in the playoffs two weeks in a row and against the Broncos.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:44 pm 
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we came within 10 yards of the Superbowl with basically the same team as last year. So what was the difference maker? The lack of a pass rush on very mobile, strong quarterbacks in the playoffs.

Why were we missing that? Because Mike Smith thought it was a 'good idea' to keep his team 'focused'. I will go ahead and say it: with a healthy Abe were in New Orleans this week. This was our year to grab the brass ring.

Going into next season, we have a harder schedule, we will lose some to the salary cap, Tony G is gone. Plus, the next two superbowls are in cold outside weather. This was the absolute perfect year to do it: and to do it in New Orleans.

If we lost that first playoff game, I think there would have been an 'open competition' for head coach :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:56 pm 
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There was no difference maker. It's a perfect illustration that every season is different. A team that was wholly inadequate one year (2011) is very close to being the best in the league the next (2012).

If you sit there and say improving the pass rush is going to be the difference in 2013, then what happens if Matt Ryan busts his throwing shoulder in Week 2 and misses 6 games? It's not going to mean spit that the pass rush is improved.

There certainly are some positions that are priorities over the others (improving the ground game and getting better up front on D), but the Falcons have needs at EVERY POSITION.

If this article is to be believed, then that means the Falcons are aware of this and just aren't going to get complacent with having Luke McCown as the NO. 2 QB, and will make an effort to bring in another veteran player to compete for that spot.

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:31 pm 
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Yea I've given up on " open competition" .... If you make one big play in a skill position
they might give you a break, like D. Franks on a good punt return, but he was average and ordinary the whole season.....

The only way we've found good players is through injury, or a top rookie may get a longer look..... I would 100% blame Coach Smith for this, but it seems to be a trend in
the NFL is its decided before the season starts!!

I thought their were a bunch of players who played better this year, like Ryan, Julio,
Tony G. and our two safeties.... I really thought A. Samuels brought a brash attitude that a few of our players need more of!!

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 Post subject: Re: The Falcons will consider upgrades and/or open competiti
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 1:33 pm 
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I dont want him to go out and spend an ungodly amount of money in FA, I would just like complementary pieces added to the roster. If we signed a stop gap edge rusher (Osi anyone?), and a legitimate punt/kick returner (Josh Cribbs?) and a viable option at TE (M.Bennett?) and I will be satisfied. If they do stand pat in FA much like they did last year they have to draft a lot better this year.

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