For the next few days — while we’re waiting on news from the lockout talks — we are playing a little game: Sign or Don’t Sign. It’s our 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 the Falcons list of free agents:
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
Weems had a breakthrough season in 2010 and was named to the Pro Bowl as the special teams player.
He averaged 27.5 yards on kickoff returns, which was second in the league for returners with 30 or more returns.
He averaged 12.8 yards on punt returns which was fifth in the league for returners with 15 or more returns.
Weems was named the NFC special teams player of the week after his franchise record 102 yard kickoff return against Tampa Bay on Dec. 5.
Weems had a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown in the regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers.
He was particularly dangerous down the stretch as he averaged 30.9 yards on his kickoff returns in December and was named the NFC special teams player of the month. In December, Weems led the coverage units with five tackles to help the Falcons hold opponents to a league-best average starting position of the 24.3-yard line.
In addition to being the team’s returner, Weems was the top special teams tackler on the coverage units with 16 tackles.
Weems was the only player in the NFC to record a punt return and a kickoff return touchdown last season and he was the first player in team history to accomplish that feat.
With the Falcons intent on improving their passing attack, there could be more opportunities for Weems from scrimmage. He could earn some playing time when the team goes to three- and four-wide receiver sets.
Coach Mike Smith said the team needs to make more explosive plays. Weems has made explosive plays on special teams with his open-field running ability, and he will likely get a chance to show if he can make some from scrimmage.
He’s has three accrued years and likely will not an unrestricted free agent if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
“A lot depends on how the new CBA looks,” said James Christopher Martin, Weems’ agent. “He’s made big plays and has been a game-changer. They want him. I don’t suspect there will be any arm wrestling to get a deal done. I don’t think they look at him as a one-trick pony.”
Weems, who started four games last season, caught six passes for 61 yards.
“When they have given him a chance to work in the slot, he’s showed up,” Martin said. “He’s solid.”
Weems, who made the team as a undrafted rookie free agent out of Bethune-Cookman, could provide additional depth to the receiving corps.
“They went to go vertical more and open things up a little bit,” Martin said. “They want to stretch the field more and have better spacing. I think he could work well inside against linebackers trying to cover him.”
POLL RESULTS: Should the Falcons re-sign running back Jerious Norwood?
Total Voters: 3,137
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog