Everybody is having a little fun spending Arthur Blank’s money.
You all want to keep punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen, too.
Today, we have a major issue to consider in starting right tackle Tyson Clabo in “Sign” or “Don’t Sign.” He’s the No. 1 rated tackle in free agency, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
A deal to keep Clabo should in the $35 to $45 million range. Clabo would like to return to the Falcons.
“I’m excited (about free agency),” Clabo said via telephone Thursday evening. “It’s something that I felt that I’d earned last year and didn’t get. So the prospect of actually getting there is exciting. But, I don’t really know if I will get there because, hopefully, Atlanta will do what they need to do to keep me. Obviously, I want to be in Atlanta. But the thing about that, only time will tell.”
Here’s the Falcons list of free agents:
Justin Blalock, left guard, 4 years — Sign
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 – Sign
Stephen Nicholas, linebacker, 4 years
Jerious Norwood, running back, 5 years – Don’t sign
Michael Peterson, linebacker, 12 years
Jason Snelling, running back, 4 years — Sign
Eric Weems, wide receiver, 3 years — Sign
After graduating from Wake Forest and going undrafted, Clabo bounced around the league before landing a starting sport and achieving Pro Bowl status last season.
He was originally signed by Denver as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004. He was waived by the Broncos and signed with the New York Giants and was on their practice squad.
The Giants released Clabo and he was signed by the San Diego Chargers.
He was released by the Chargers and signed by the Broncos, where he was inactive for the final two games of the season.
Clabo then went to NFL Europa and played for the Hamburg Sea Devils. He made the all-NFL Europa team, but was again waived by the Broncos.
The Falcons signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 21, 2005.
In 2006, he made the team and took over at right guard when Matt Lehr was suspended for violating the league’s steroid policy. He started the final 10 games and held his own.
In 2007, he moved to right tackle and started 11 games. Over the last three seasons, he’s started 17, 16 and 17 games at right tackle.
Early in general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s regime, the Falcons made it a point of taking care of their own players. They signed defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and wide receiver Michael Jenkins to contract extensions during the 2008 season.
They signed wide receiver Roddy White to a contract extension, after a brief holdout, before the 2009 season.
But since the White signing, the Falcons have had a defacto freeze on contract extensions, signaling that they might be running out of cash.
Dimitroff likes to call it “fiscal responsibility.”
Tennessee’s David Stewart and Miami’s Vernon Carey are the two highest paid right tackles in the league.
Stewart signed a six-year $38.9 million contract in June of 2008. The last year with a $6.4 salary is voidable. So, really he has a five-year $32.5 million deal or a contract that averages $6.5 million per year.
Carey signed a six-year, $42 million contract in Feb. of 2009. His deal doesn’t have a voidable year, so the average is $7 million.
So, when the two sides exchange proposals, Clabo’s side is likely to submit some numbers similar to the Stewart-Carey deals.
Teams expected to bid for Clabo include Seattle, Denver and possibly the Chicago Bears. But since the Bears drafted Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi with the 29th pick in the draft, they might not enter the Clabo derby.
Clabo didn’t attend the seven-on-seven practices during May and June in Buford. He elected to workout four to five times a week with right guard Harvey Dahl.
“There is a place off of Old Peachtree called Georgia Sports Performance,” Clabo said. “We’ve been going in there. They have a really nice facility. A good inside. They have everything that we would need to do everything that we’d need to do.”
KIPER ON CLABO: “Coming of a Pro Bowl year, he’s developed into a very good right tackle over the last two seasons. The Falcons obviously would like to retain his services, but I’m told they will not get into a bidding war to make it happen. We shall see. One of the things that will factor into the equation is how they feel about ’09 fifth round pick, Garrett Reynolds, as his possible replacement.
POLL RESULTS: Should the Falcons re-sign punter and kickoff specialist Michael Koenen?
Total Voters: 696
So, sign or don’t sign, Clabo?
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog