For the next few days — while we’re waiting on news from the lockout talks — let’s play a little game: Sign or Don’t Sign. It’s my version of “Deal” or “No Deal” or “Buy” or “Sell.”
It’s a little free agency game to keep us busy while time is becoming of the essence in the labor talks.
Here’s what the list looks like:
Justin Blalock, left guard, 4 years
Matt Bryant, kicker, 9 years
Tyson Clabo, right tackle, 6 years
Harvey Dahl, right guard, 4 years
Brent Grimes, cornerback, 3 years
Michael Koenen, punter, 6 years
Stephen Nicholas, linebacker, 4 years
Jerious Norwood, running back, 5 years
Michael Peterson, linebacker, 12 years
Jason Snelling, running back, 4 years
Eric Weems, wide receiver, 3 years
First up is the case of running back Jerious Norwood (5-11, 209). He was drafted in the third round (79th overall) of the 2006 draft.
Norwood flashed his speed and appeared set to have a long career as a third-down back and kickoff return specialist. Former Falcons running backs coach Ollie Wilson said Norwood had the physical skills of Ronnie Harmon, who played 12 years from 1986 to 1997.
Harmon, who made one Pro Bowl, averaged 54.2 catches out of the backfield from 1987 to 1996. Harmon had to be accounted for and was too fast for linebackers to handle in pass coverage.
Over his five seasons with the Falcons, defenses had to respect Norwood’s speed, but after a durable collegiate career at Mississippi State, he’s had trouble staying on the field because of injuries. Out of a possible 80 regular-season games, he played in 57.
In 2006, Norwood rushed for 633 yards. In his second season, he rushed for 613. In 2008, the only season that he played in all 16 games, he rushed for 489 yards.
In 2009, he played in just 10 games (concussions and hip flexor) and rushed for 252 yards. Last season, he played in two games before
suffering a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
As a receiver, Norwood caught 12, 28, 36, 19 and one passes. (Not exactly Harmon-like numbers.)
Norwood’s major contribution came as a kickoff returner. He has a total of 2,987 kickoff return yards, which ranks third in team history. His 25.5-yard career kickoff return average currently ranks second in team history.
He was injured in September. The Falcons were set to look at his knee in May or June, seven to eight months after his surgery.
The Falcons drafted running back Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. They also have a decision to make on Jason Snelling, who’s been solid as a backup to Michael Turner at running back and Ovie Mughelli at fullback.
“With them drafting a back, they are going in a different direction, I would guess,” said Norwood’s agent Bus Cook by phone on Thursday. “Jerious is a good football player. Somebody is going to pick him up. He’s a great player. He has had some injuries, but he’s going to make somebody a good player.”
The easy-going Norwood recently held his summer football camp in Jackson, Miss.
“He does so well with kids and stuff,” Cook said. “All these camps are out there, but his camp is not designed to make money. He just wants to help kids.”
Norwood has recovered from the knee injury he suffered on the opening kickoff of the 41-7 pasting of the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 19, 2010.
“He’s ready to go play,” Cook said. “Somebody is going to get him real quick. I’m sure there are other teams that will want him on their team.”
So, Sign or Don’t Sign?
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog