Smith’s visit to the Branch went “Great”

Things are starting to pick up at Flowery Branch.

Tight end L.J. Smith and center Brett Romberg visited the Falcons on Thursday. They were the first players to drive through the gates during free agency this offseason

Daniel Loper, a reserve guard/tackle with the Tennessee Titans, is slated to visit on Friday, according to our friend Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean.

Brian Mackler, Smith’s agent, has been a busy man in free agency. He worked out Domonique Foxworth’s great deal with the Baltimore Ravens. He also has Sean Jones, the Cleveland Browns safety from UGA and Westlake High. Surprisingly, Jones has been keeping a low profile in free agency. Reportedly he’s headed to Philadelphia for a visit on Friday.

“It went great,” Mackler said of Smith’s visit with the Falcons.

When asked if they were working out a deal, Mackler said, “Call me tomorrow and I’ll let you know what’s going on.”

That wasn’t a no!

So it looks like the Falcons may have zeroed in on Smith as their pass-catching tight end. The Falcons feel it’s important to the development of quarterback Matt Ryan to add that weapon to the offense.

Smith must convince the Falcons that he’s at least a decent blocker. He was a second rounder coming out of Rutgers in 2003.

His career got off to a fine start as he caught 27 passes and started five games as a rookie. In his second season, he started eight games, caught 34 passes and was a weapon in the redzone with five touchdowns.

He was a full-time starter in 2005 and 2006, starting 31 of 32 games. He caught 61 and 50 passes and appeared headed for the Pro Bowl. But he’s been plagued by injuries the last two seasons.

Over his career Smith has averaged 10.9 yards on 231 catches. He caught four passes and scored a touchdown in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl loss to New England. The Eagles beat the Falcons in the NFC Championship game to advance to the Super Bowl.

Like Smith, Loper is coming to Atlanta after a visit with the Detroit Lions.

Loper is massive at 6-foot-6, 320 pounds. He was a fifth round pick out of Texas Tech in 2005. He has played in 40 regular-season games with no starts. Coming out of Texas Tech, he is a good pass protector. The key will be if he’s a mean and nasty attacker in the run game.

Should the Falcons pull the trigger and sign Smith? If they get Smith, should they still pick up a tight end in the draft? What about Loper? (You can’t teach anybody to be 6-6 and 320! He certainly passes the eye-ball test.)

111 comments Add your comment

Joe

March 5th, 2009
11:28 pm

Good info d led! What are your opinions on smith? Do you think he is who we need at tight end? I mean if you could get any tight end available or through the draft who would it be?

Sly Ty

March 5th, 2009
11:33 pm

It appears that TD is being frugal. This is a good thing, as not being frugal landed us Peerless Price, and Ed Hartwell. If L.J. Smith is signed, that means we will be drafting USC Clay Matthews. He would eventually replace Coy Wire in the starting lineup. TD seems to be an evil Geniuse, which is good for us.

ShamusThacker

March 5th, 2009
11:36 pm

Wish we had a crystal ball; be nice to know in advance if L.J. would stay healthy…

Nice informative piece DOL. Thanks Bud

Joe

March 5th, 2009
11:45 pm

Good info D Led! What is your opinion of smith as our tight end? I mean If you could have any tight end that’s available or through the draft who would it be? I don’t know to much about smith so I don’t know if I like him or not. But that Tennessee guy roper does look like a beast so when ever you hear more on him I’d like to know. And how did things with Romberg go?

beavis

March 5th, 2009
11:45 pm

I like the possibility of signing L.J. Smith instead of drafting the Ok. State tight end w/ the 1st round pick. Defense should be addressed in the early rounds of the draft.

ShamusThacker

March 5th, 2009
11:47 pm

Football has become exciting here again. I feel like going out and roughing a tree.

Also a Dawg Fan

March 5th, 2009
11:54 pm

I LIKE BOTH OF THESE GUYS….SIGN EM…AND LETS GO AFTER THAT SAFETY FOR THE 1ST PICK (DELMAS)

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 6th, 2009
12:04 am

WOW!!! You folks don’t sleep either! Up playing Madden on the Wii (Stomping the Bengals with the Browns. It’s 42-0 in the third. Derek Anderson is a BEAST!!!)

I like Smith. Got to give me some effort in the blocking game. Can’t get pushed back and be sitting in Michael Turner’s lap before he gets the ball. I’m sure the doctors will check him out to make sure he’s medically sound.

I’m very intrigued by Loper. Paul Boudreau and Paul Dunn might be able to whip him into a ball player!

Dawg fan too

March 6th, 2009
12:04 am

With Roy Williams (the safety) being cut by Dallas, are the falcons looking at him?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 6th, 2009
12:13 am

DAWG FAN TOO: I don’t think Roy Williams fits here. He’s a big-hit, no cover guy. Falcons had that. They are looking for big-hit AND cover safeties. The so-called Hybrid Safety. But we’ve got some calls out Williams just in case.

(Williams use to date Kelly Rowland of Destiny Child’s fame. So if they are interested in him, I can put a picture of Beyonce in the blog. That’s her old group. I think we want Roy to make a visit to the ATL. Maybe he can play linebacker.)

Josh M

March 6th, 2009
12:16 am

Listen to the Philly fans – they’re ready to celebrate the second he signs somewhere else. Not a good sign. He has bad hands, can’t block and is recently injury-prone. What exactly is there to like about the guy?

ShamusThacker

March 6th, 2009
12:16 am

Loper is definitely ugly enough to be a top-flight OL. I like him, but he looks alot like my cousin Randy, unfortunately. Unfortunate for both btw…

SoCalD

March 6th, 2009
12:33 am

D Led, have you asked Brian Mackler if the Falcons have inquired about Sean Jones? It seems to fit. We have a need at safety. He played for Van Gorder at UGA. Since 2006 he’s had the 3rd most Interceptions of any safety in the NFL, with 14, only trailing Ed reed and Atogwe from the Rams. Plus, he’s only 26, with great size. It just seems to make sense.

Thanks

Mike S

March 6th, 2009
12:36 am

What’s wrong with Justin Peele as the pass catching TE? I thought he did a great job of that. He made some tough catches this season. His only problem seems to be blocking as well, but I don’t really see how Smith is much of an upgrade.

I’d rather pass on Smith, use the FA money elsewhere, draft a TE somewhere near the end of day ,1 and bring him along slowly behind Peele.

El Bravo

March 6th, 2009
12:44 am

Josh M, Philly fans, like any other fans are quick to forget the good things and remember the bad things a player does. In 05 and 06, when he was healthy, L.J. Smith was one of the top 7 receiving tight ends in this league. The guy is fast and runs crisp routes. He is also an adequate blocker (do remember that he’s been playing injured the last two years). If he is healthy he should have no problem adapting to our offensive scheme and being a big contributor. Besides, our offense is very capable right now as it is. We need help on defense. No point on wasting a 1st round pick on Pettigrew when we have more pressing needs on the other side of the ball…

Sly Ty

March 6th, 2009
12:48 am

Mike S, Defense is the priority within this draft for the birds. I am starting to believe that the falcons will select a Safety in the 1st Rd, and wait until the 2nd Rd for the Linebacker. The Safety Position actually has a higher overall value in that a Hybrid Safety would remain on the field in all situations, whereas 1 LB comes off the field in nickle situations, and 2 LBs in Dime Situations. We already know that MLB Lofton will be on the field at all times, and OLB Stephen Nichols will be in on the Nickle situations. As it stands, TD will use the first pick on Hybrid Safety, and FS Thomas Decoud will compete for Erik Colemans spot. Remember the entire Defense is being retooled.

Mike S

March 6th, 2009
12:56 am

I agree, defense will be the priority, as it should be. There are several good TE prospects out there that should still be available in rounds 3-5. I just don’t see LJ Smith as a big upgrade over Peele, so I’d rather save the $$ and draft a young TE in the mid-late rounds.

If they do sign Smith, hopefully I’m wrong and it’s just the injuries that were holding him back the last couple of years. He just doesn’t seem like a Dimitroff/Smith type guy to me…

Brandon

March 6th, 2009
1:08 am

I’m not a big fan of LJ Smith. He’s a good receiving TE. However, he seems soft. He’s a struggling blocker at best. He has trouble playing a full season due to numerous injuries. He’s also can be a loose cannon – the charcter issue flag flies above him. There are 5 very solid TEs available in this draft. I’d rather the Falcons try to nab one of them. The massive exodus of defensive starters and team vets recently makes it difficult to pick any offensive players early. They need some people on defense who can come in and immediately start and play well. I’d rather see them sign a vet defensive player or 2 and take a TE in the first 2 rounds.

This Gets Old

March 6th, 2009
1:31 am

“As it stands, TD will use the first pick on Hybrid Safety, and FS Thomas Decoud will compete for Erik Colemans spot.”

Says who?
———————————————————————————
I’m against any LJ signing. TE’s are more important in the WC offense than they are in MM’s offense. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are he just didn’t get it done in Philly. Granted now the team has to find SIX new starters on defense. I harped all year about the need for a TE particularly in the red zone but this guy just isn’t it. However it’s not my decision and I doubt they’d bring him in if they didn’t intend to sign him. It just seems as if he duplicates what Peele does. The next block I see Smith make will be the first one I’ve seen him make.

Reggie

March 6th, 2009
1:31 am

D-Led

If the falcons sign Smith, do you think they draft a TE in either the 2nd or 3rd round?

JakeJay

March 6th, 2009
1:37 am

WHY IS THOMAS DIMITROFF NOT PURSUING SEAN JONES?????I HAVENT QUESTIONED THE MAN ON ANY OF HIS MOVES YET,BUT SEAN JONES IS A BEAST THAT WE NEED AT THE SAFETY POSITION AND HES YOUNG SO WHY I DONT UNDERSTAND IT NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT..IM CONFUSED IT REALLY AGRIVATES ME THAT WE ARE NOT PURSUING A SAFETY AT HIS CALIBUR AND HIS PRICE IS CHEAP FOR THE TYPE OF PLAYER HE IS….IF THEY DO NOT SIGN SEAN JONES THATS A PROBLEM IT REALLY IS…Then on top of that van gorder is our defensive cordinator and everybody knows the deal with that situation…TD IF YOU READ THIS BLOG PLEASE SIGN SEAN JONES I MEAN SERIOUSLY……D-ledbetter please tell me if im wrong about s.jones im just hoping they are behind the scenes working with the kidd..

Mitun

March 6th, 2009
3:00 am

I would rather have TE Brandon Pettigrew over L.J. Smith cause Pettigrew can run, catch, and block. As for the safety positions goes, I would welcome Jermaine Phillips and thats if Jones is not signed by the Eagles soon.

KC

March 6th, 2009
4:47 am

Jermaine resigned with Tampa today. Sean is the guy ! … Young, fast, good coverman, smart, naturally gifted, Van Gorder guy, and head hunter ! TD … Draft Pettigrew, draft linebacker, sign Jones. Thanks for listening. P.S.- Draft Ellerbe late. He might be a steal if he can stay healthy ( That’s a Big if ) .

Roger Henslee

March 6th, 2009
4:57 am

The falcons have needs at LB,DL,Saftey, CB and TE and could use depth of the OL. If they can address ANY of these needs(with at least a c+ level player) with medium to low cost free agent, they should pull the trigger. Otherwise there are going to be too many holes to fill with the draft alone. I wouldnt hold off signing any of those positions with a free agent of value because who knows what we will have availible in the draft.
Hopefully TD can then add some quality draftees to man the positions that arent able to be addressed predraft and can then worry about upgrades next year if a few of the free agents dont excel.

WILLSTER

March 6th, 2009
7:18 am

LJ SMITH ,HE IS HEALTHY NOW, WHAT ABOUT GAME 8,ASK HIM THEN, NO WAY ISPEND MONEY,ON THAT PIECE OF PHILLY CRAP,WHEN THERE ARE SEVERAL YOUNG TIGHT ENDS,THAT WE CAN GET IN ROUND 2,GET JONES AT SAFETY.AS USUAL THIS TEAM CANNOT PICK THE RIGHT PEOPLE,UNBELIEVEABLE.

JG

March 6th, 2009
8:09 am

Sign LJ to a Two year contract, draft a young Tightend in the 4th round and let LJ mentor him for the next two years. A rookie Tightend needs some developmental time.
Draft Clay Matthews in the 1st Round, then you will have two staple Linebackers for 10 years with Lofton and Matthews, then trade your second 5th Round Pick to move up in the Second round to get Rashard Johnson from Alabama. The Scouts can’t get enough of him and say he is ready for the pro style defense we play. Then Use your Third Round Pick to Pick a back up Defensive Tackle maybe Vance Walker from Tech or Taylor from Michigan if he is still available. Get this Lineman Loper, sounds like a good backup that could push the competition for a starting job and back up Baker, since he was hurt so much last year.

marko

March 6th, 2009
8:19 am

A tight end that does’nt like to block, and medical issues to boot. From what I read I would’nt sign LJ. From the stuff I’d read about Matt Ryan last year, I would’nt have drafted him either. If Mr. D signs him, we can all assume he’s a healthy, willing, and able bodied blocker. If Thomas passes we can all believe the stuff we read in the funny papers. If TJ becomes Falcon, I might suggest we consider having him fumigated. No offense intended, but the kid has spent the last few years in Philadelphia.

HGN

March 6th, 2009
8:37 am

WITH THE LOSS OF FOUR(4) STARTERS ( BROOKING; BOLEY; MILLOY; AND JACKSON)I BELIEVE THE FALCONS WILL DRAFT HEAVY ON THE DEFENSIVE SIDE OF THE BALL. THEREFORE, THE SIGNING OF OL LOPER AND TE SMITH WOULD MAKE SENSE. SEAN JONES IS INTRIGUING , AND PROBABLY SHOULD BE SIGNED. HE COULD GIVE US A STARTER AT SAFETY, AND AT WORSE A QUALITY BACKUP. IT WOULD ALSO GIVE US SOME FLEXIBILITY IN THE DRAFT. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE NO FREE AGENTS OUT THERE, AT A REASONABLE PRICE, THAT CANNOT HELP THE FALCONS…..COME ON THOM D. , LETS NOT REST ON LAST SEASON’S LAURELS…. LETS GET MOVING.

Eston

March 6th, 2009
8:39 am

**Stay away from SMITH. I live in Philly (but grew up in Atl) and have watched him only perform when he wants…..he would be a cancer in the locker room**

Steven

March 6th, 2009
8:42 am

We need L.J. Smith. There’s no reason to draft a guy on the first day, and pay him $3-4 million/yr to catch 20-25 passes per season as they would at best in Mularkey’s offense. L.J. should be the right price range, though.

I’m a little confused by the offensive guards their bringing in. I thought the plan was to strengthen depth at RT or upgrade the position and then let Clabo and Dahl fight it out for RG. Then, separately draft a center to apprentice McClure. Bringing in Loper and Romberg calls all that into question. Maybe that’s all it’s supposed to do.

marko

March 6th, 2009
8:45 am

I nearly forgot? Does Loper have the mean nasty streak needed to be an effective run blocker? I have no idea, but if his picture any indication, I’m not gonna walk up to him and make any wise cracks about his momma.

Turd Ferguson

March 6th, 2009
8:50 am

I put my trust in TD to make the right choices for this organization…if Smith is the right fit then TD will sign em. More depth on the O line is a must with Weiner gone. I’m hoping TD uses the draft to fill the holes on the D. Forget about the big name free agents…they are way expensive and the risk is not worth it. It seems that TD may continue to search the FA market for some depth and rotational players. I like the Falcons attitude by letting guys compete for positions…that’s what make teams great!

Poor McKay

March 6th, 2009
8:59 am

Leigh Bodden & James Butler. Make it happen TD

Ken Strickland

March 6th, 2009
9:09 am

The Falcons seem to want to match QB MRyan with an experienced TE, so they’re persuing one through FA rather than the draft. I also think they intend to rotate TE Smith with our other TE’s, so his injury issues will be less of an issue.

JAKEJAY-why are you so certain he’s not persuing SS SJones? Jones might be interested enough in coming to Atlanta that he’s willing to lay low until certain other FA issues are taken care of by the Falcons. I’m not saying that’s the case, but it’s certainly possible. Then again, money demands might be a reason Jones doesn’t appear to be openly persued by Dimitroff. Remember, we still have to sign the right side of our OL, RG HDahl and RT TClabo.

After thinking about our OL situation, I realized our OL coach did an outstanding job last yr. He took a rookie LT(Baker), a 2nd yr LG(Blalock), a 3rd yr RG(Dahl) and RT(Clabo), along with a seasoned OC(McClure), and created an OL that led the way to one of the NFL’s best rushing OFF’s and also provided excellent protection for our rookie QB. With the exception of C TMcClure, this OL could be together for a long time.

Cameron

March 6th, 2009
9:13 am

I would love for us to sign Sean Jones or Jermaine Phillips. Problem is, Sean Jones is a FS and we need a SS. That, coupled with the price tage he would bring, is probably why we haven’t had him visit. Jermaine Phillips just re-signed with Tampa. It looks like we are targeting a safety for the draft. I wouldn’t mind signing LJ Smith, if it is for the right price. He isn’t the greatest blocker, but he isn’t so bad that you have to bring him off the field every time you want to run the ball. When he is healthy, he is one of the top ten TEs in the league as far as reeiving goes. That could be an upgrade as long as we don’t overpay. I really hope we do not draft Clay Matthews, and I feel that we won’t. I trust in TD and realize he is bringing these guys in for a reason. I wasn’t sold on Curtis Lofton ever, and look what he was able to do. TD knows what he is doing, we just need to be patient.

Mac

March 6th, 2009
9:15 am

Kelly Rowland is hot. Put her picture in, too. Smith might be a good get. Marcus Pollard should never, ever have another pass thrown his way. Good blog, Darryl, but I was serious the other day about your picture. It looks like you are wincing because you are about to get slapped by your woman.

Keith

March 6th, 2009
9:21 am

I think both of these guys are good ideas. The Falcons stick with the theme of getting younger by bringing guys in with single digit seasons in the league. I prefer the 3 to 5 year guys, but 7th season isn’t bad. Loper doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him which could be good. Can LJ stay healthy, and what’s about that safety spot? I do think that Defensive players can come in early and make an impact more so than offensive players (and I know there are always exceptions). The LJ move makes it clear that they go Linebacker with their first round pick, and I don’t think to unseat Wire, but rather to play the other side.

ndadome

March 6th, 2009
9:29 am

I would rather see the Falcons wait and draft a TE in the second or third round. .maybe Chase Coffman from Missou. And I’m somewhat surprised that LB Freddie Keiaho, released by Indy a week ago, hasn’t been mentioned as someone we’re interested in. Does anyone know if he’s signed with someone else already?

JWS

March 6th, 2009
9:39 am

DOL: “You can’t teach anybody to be 6-6 and 320!”

Give anyone a bottle of Jim Beam and that’s exactly how big they will feel.

Philly Dog

March 6th, 2009
9:49 am

L.J. Smith has a lot of potential. However, after six seasons with the Eagles, Smith still has potential. How long will it take for him to stay healthy, hang onto the ball, and become a true playmaker? As a Eagle fan, he just never got over the hump. You all saw Celek (the second tight end) get two touchdowns against the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game. When L.J. got hurt again this past season, Celek stepped in that week and had 10 catches. Bye, Bye, L.J. and good luck. We are moving on without you…………………………….

TNFalconFn

March 6th, 2009
9:49 am

b led
I don’t think Smith is what we need. The fans in Philli will celebrate when he leaves. On the other hand Loper will be a great addition to our line.

JT

March 6th, 2009
9:51 am

Most everyone is saying we should go after Jones because he played for VanGorder at UGA. Has anyone considered that the reason we are not pursuing is because VanGorder doesn’t want him?

FalconDawg

March 6th, 2009
9:56 am

Good stuff! I like the loper he’s got great size! The coaches can teach him the rest if he’s lacking skill. The tight end is tempting, I would hate to see him waste to getting hurt. Get the right guys in free agents and draft really well

TNFalconFn

March 6th, 2009
10:03 am

Another thought on LJ Smith. Maybe Mike Mularkey,being a former tight end,may know how to use him and help make him the player he should be.

ChicagoFalcon

March 6th, 2009
10:27 am

Sean Jones is the guy they should be going after. Draft a tight end. There are 4 tight ends that would be better than LJ Smith coming out this year and not one saftey better than Sean Jones!

Carroll

March 6th, 2009
10:55 am

I don’t know much abotu Smith, but I do recall watching him in the playoffs and dude seemed to ALWAYS come through in the clutch…I think he was an integral part of the almost-comeback against the cards.

Jaded Jacket

March 6th, 2009
11:00 am

The Titan’s have a good offensive line for severla years now, so it’s not surprising that Loper hasn’t started any games. He’s probably more talented than we think.

hawesg

March 6th, 2009
11:36 am

This is a deep draft at TE. There will be a contributor available in the 3rd round. Of all the needs of this team (DT, WLB, SLB, CB, S) TE is the least imperative. Sean Jones does look like a nice fit. Maybe Mackler can put together a package 2 for 1 deal. Also, not terribly impressed with Smith as a player anyway.

JerseyFalcon

March 6th, 2009
11:39 am

L.J smith..L.J Smith..? Nope sorry, doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe that’s the reason McNabb threw to Clesek 9 out of 10 times last season…

Tron5000

March 6th, 2009
11:46 am

Based on the hand-wringing I see here concerning the Falcons’ inability to sign either Jermaine Phillips or Sean Jones (yet), perhaps the Birds should just concentrate on drafting any UGA player on the board. Maybe they should trade up and get Knowshon, just in case this Michael Turner guy doesn’t really work out. Isn’t there a Stinchcomb brother floating around somewhere? And is Billy Bennett still available? Lord knows that pick the Falcons used on Shockley has paid dividends for years.