But IMO, all it does is delay the process. We'll still need young talent at some point, and we need that young talent to play. We'll see growing pains and mistakes for sure, but we are no longer title contenders at this point. Experience for the young guys will serve us well in the long haul.
I understand that, but I think you're talking "in general" rather than specific to this team.
I agree, young guys getting increased reps is valuable, but with the caveat that they are in fact good to begin with. For example, Paul Worrilow has the potential to be a quality NFL starting MLB and thus getting him reps early and often is potentially valuable because it increases the chances he develops into a Paul Posluzny/Curtis Lofton-caliber of player. OTOH, Zeke Motta at best is basically a less athletic version of Tom Zbikowski, who is just an above average backup safety. So getting him reps isn't particularly valuable, because even if he hits his maximum potential it won't be that worthwhile.
Remember D-linemen rotate
. And this is an important distinction especially since we're talking about the DL rather than any other position on defense. Asante Samuel playing, limits the reps that worthwhile young CBs like McClain/Alford get because you don't typically rotate CBs and generally speaking unless this team is going to play more dime, you only have 3 spots available. So if you have 4 good CBs, someone is going to be left twisting in the wind.
Not the case with DL, where you're going to rotate 6 guys extensively, and have 2 others more than likely that will draw some reps (to keep the other 6 fresh). You need 8 guys, and a lot of NFL rosters will keep 9-10 guys with 1-2 guys stashed on the inactive list or IR or whatever just to bolster depth further.
And the issue the Falcons face is there is really only 4-5 DL on their roster that have proven they are worth keeping/playing a la Worrilow: Massaquoi, Goodman, Biermann, Peters, and Babineaux. But even Babs is just a 1-yr. stopgap. He can still add value as a rotational DT. In the ideal scenario in 2014, he'll be a situational 30-40 snap player rather than the full-time starter that got 50-60 snaps this past year.
But as for Massaquoi & Goodman, they are 2 players that might develop into viable starters, but might not. It's really a coin toss. And if we're judging by what limited things we've seen through their first and second years, it would likely indicate that both are ideally suited to be situational players rather than long-term starters.
The rest of the Falcons DL roster: Jerry, Osi, Matthews, Maponga, Robertson, and Replogle can essentially kick rocks. Not to say I'm writing off guys like Maponga/Matthews/Robertson, because they could still become capable role players. But they are essentially more like Zeke Motta, in that in all likelihood they won't amount to much. And there's no reason for the Falcons to move forward expecting them to.
Take for instance a team like Seattle, who arguably has the best DL in the entire league. Here was their 8 man rotation last year:
Red Bryant (starter, 2-down player)
Chris Clemons (starter)
Brandon Mebane (starter)
Tony McDaniel (starter)
Jordan Hill (rookie)
Also on the roster:
LB-DE Bruce Irvin
DT Jesse Williams (rookie/IR)
Long-term the goal is for the Falcons to have a similar rotation, where our backups (e.g. Avril, Bennett) could start on many teams.
You're the Falcons, and you have 2 players (Biermann & Peters) coming off Achilles tears. And while that is not as devastating an injury as it once was, you can't assume everything is going to be hunky dory. So therefore, you're now down from 5 viable DL to 3. And again that 3rd guy is Babineaux, who you're essentially "wringing the cloth" hoping to get the last few drops of production out of him next year and possibly the year after.
So now you're stuck with Massaquoi and Goodman that are all you have left. If they are your backups, why is that a problem? I bring up the Seahawks, because the analogue for them are basically Cliff Avril for Massaquoi (i.e. situational pass rusher) and Red Bryant for Goodman (i.e. situational run defender). If Biermann comes back and is your Bruce Irvin hybrid guy, then you still need to find a Chris Clemons and Michael Bennett. Now if I had my druthers, the Michael Bennett analogue would in fact be Michael Bennett. But let's say that instead, you peg your top pick to be that guy (e.g. Anthony Barr). That still leaves the door open for a Chris Clemons that can start and be a productive every down player. Is that Terrell Suggs? Maybe, maybe not but regardless the point is that if you think he (or any veteran) can be that guy for even 1 year, then why aren't you signing him? Because it's still 1 year of Chris Clemons when the alternative is nothing
And unless you think Maponga or another one of these young DL is going to be that Chris Clemons type, there is no downside to adding that veteran. And Maponga hasn't shown anything in the past 6 months to suggest he is that player, and given his draft status, the odds are less than 10% that he does become that player.
Now in the case of a player like Massaquoi, there is a much larger possibility he becomes that player because he's shown ability and is much more talented than your run of the mill 5th round DE. But it's still at best a 50/50 proposition (I'd honestly say it's close to 25/75). But at no point should the team be hinging their success on that still unlikelihood. And because he's a DE, it's not like Suggs presence is going to make him go from potentially getting 50 snaps in 2014 to getting 0 snaps. It's more likely that he'll go from 50 to 30. And if he's any good, he'll show it in those 30.
What I equate your stance to be is "No, we shouldn't sign 'Chris Clemons' because he's too old." And IMO that's just silly. Even if it's 1 year, if you can get the equivalent of Chris Clemons production then it's worthwhile, regardless of that players age. I agree that it should ideally be some young guy that takes that spot, but where is that young player coming? 2nd round? 3rd round? 4th round? Massaquoi? Maponga? Goodman? Essentially you can still get Suggs (your Clemons equivalent in this scenario), get whatever production and still keep guys like Massaquoi, Maponga, Goodman, and whatever rookies. And what is the downside of that? What is the downside of having what is now a very deep DL?