FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line play

MOBILE — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff is gearing up for free agency.

With no lockout this offseason, there will be a return to normalcy in the NFL. Free agency will come first, followed by the draft.

After last year’s labor dispute was settled, a frenzied free-agency signing period began in late August.

The Falcons, who are projected to be about $28 million under the salary cap when it’s announced this week at the Super Bowl, are working on a few contract extensions that could keep some of their 17 unrestricted free agents off the market when it opens March 13.

“That’s going to be important for us to really analyze what’s in free agency and really dig into where we are with the draft,” Dimitroff said in an interview with the NFL Network. “It just allows us to be a little bit more creative; whether if we want to make moves and how we are going to approach things.”

Dimitroff’s main offseason focus is to improve the offensive and defensive lines. All of the positions on the offensive line will be open for competition, and the defense could lose the team’s top pass-rusher in John Abraham, who’s set to turn 34 in May.

“We need to continue to establish ourselves on both fronts,” Dimitroff said. “That’s very, very important for us going into this year. That’s not the only thing we’re focused on, believe me, we have a lot that we are looking into. We’ve talked very openly about looking at every aspect of our football operations.”

Here’s an analysis of where the Falcons’ prospective unrestricted free agents stand:

John Abraham, DE: After an early-season groin injury, the Falcons placed Abraham on a play-count for most of the season. They increased his number of plays late in the season and for the playoffs.

He had a base salary of $8 million and led the team with 9.5 sacks. He essentially was the team’s pass rush. If he returns, it likely will be at a reduced salary and as a designated pass-rush specialist.

Kroy Biermann, DE: He has been solid while playing in the rotation at defensive end. The Falcons will want to pay him as a rotational player. If he gets to the open market, some 3-4 teams may covet him as a stand-up linebacker because of his athleticism.

Kirk Chambers, OT: He likely will not be re-signed.

Thomas DeCoud, FS: He’s a strong candidate for an extension and may not hit the open market. The Falcons would like for him to take charge of the defense so that strong safety William Moore can be free to attack the ball and become a menacing force.

Harry Douglas, WR: This one could get tricky because some teams may view Douglas as a No. 2 receiver. With the Falcons, he’s the No. 3 and will remain that as long as Roddy White can keep rolling along and Julio Jones keeps developing.

If he gets a lucrative offer, Douglas could leave for another team. Eric Weems would then be elevated to the No. 3 position. A wide receiver-starved team such as Cleveland or Jacksonville could swoop in and sign Douglas.

Brent Grimes, CB: Grimes arguably has been the team’s best corner over the past two seasons.

He’ll point to the six-year, $57 million contract that the Falcons gave Dunta Robinson in March 2010. Robinson was 27 at the time. Grimes is set to turn 29 in July, so the team likely would want to do a four-year deal.

They could keep Grimes from the open market by using the franchise tag, which would guarantee him about $10.2 million for one season.

Kelvin Hayden, CB: A serious turf-toe injury ended his season. He could be brought back at a reasonable price if healthy.

Reggie Kelly, TE: He likely won’t be re-signed. The Falcons like their young tight ends Michael Palmer and Ryan Winterswyk and probably will draft a tight end.

Curtis Lofton, MLB: Lofton’s camp probably will point to the four-year, $36-million deal that inside linebacker David Harris signed with the New York Jets in August.

While Lofton has played on third downs, the Falcons may consider him a first- and second-down linebacker. The Falcons were tied for 29th in the NFL on third-down conversions (93-of-211) last season.

Since being selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, Lofton has made more than 100 tackles in each of his four seasons.

Todd McClure, C: The veteran wants to return for at least two more seasons. He’ll have to compete to retain his starting spot, and the Falcons will have to consider how he would handle a reserve role if he gets beat out. McClure has been a mainstay on the line since making the team as a seventh-round draft pick in 1999.

Mike Peterson, LB: He ended the season on injured reserve. Before that he provided some quality depth and could return.

Chris Redman, QB: He wants to return, and the team likely will work out a reasonable deal.

Brett Romberg, C/G: He likely will not be re-signed.

James Sanders, S: He was a solid backup and likely will return with a reasonable deal.

Jason Snelling, RB: He will look for a deal elsewhere as his opportunities were reduced last season, and the team wants to get Jacquizz Rodgers more involved in the offense.

Eric Weems, WR: He’s a valuable special-teams player who could step up as the third receiver.

Joe Zelenka, LS: He likely will be re-signed.

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

102 comments Add your comment

Truth Teller

January 29th, 2012
8:39 am

DON’T RE-SIGN DECOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brog59

January 29th, 2012
8:51 am

Yes let DeCoud walk. Was over-hyped in years past and a liability in coverage. Plus he drops a Tom of picks

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

rm

January 29th, 2012
8:57 am

It’s Unanimous here. Do not re-sign weak-a$$ Decoud please!

SirReal

January 29th, 2012
8:58 am

Thanks D LED! I think we should only bring Abe back if the price is right. Let Biermann walk too and become a 3 4 end. I seriously think we can get a better safety than DeCoud. Sanders was better to me. I would re sign both and let em compete. Either way, we need a safety that will allow Moore to rove. Both lines need help. I like Babe and Peters but we need heavier guys upfront. Cut Jerry. He hasn’t shown up. Either franchise Grimes ( I wouldn’t) or let him walk and go after cortland finnigan. Ofcourse I’m not the Gm but I think some of these moves will improve the team.

Sid

January 29th, 2012
9:20 am

Falcons Opponents

TOTAL FIRST DOWNS 349 292
FIRST DOWNS (Rushing-passing-by penalty) 100 – 215 – 34 87 – 186 – 19
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS 99/224 93/211
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS 4/13 6/11
TOTAL OFFENSIVE YARDS 6026 5338
OFFENSE (Plays-Average Yards) 1073 – 5.6 965 – 5.5
TOTAL RUSHING YARDS 1834 1552
RUSHING (Plays-Average Yards) 453 – 4.0 372 – 4.2
TOTAL PASSING YARDS 4192 3786
PASSING (Comp-Att-Int-Avg) 365 – 594 – 13 – 7.3 340 – 560 – 19 – 7.2
SACKS 33 26
FIELD GOALS 27/29 23/28
TOUCHDOWNS 46 40
(Rushing-Passing-Returns-Defensive) 14 – 29 – 0 – 3 10 – 25 – 0 – 5
TIME OF POSSESSION 32:18 28:06
TURNOVER RATIO +8

robertussen

January 29th, 2012
9:32 am

decoud is not a bad safety, i think he should be re-signed. i bet the falcons agree with me.

jay

January 29th, 2012
9:41 am

Resign abe if at a good price. Let grimes ggo & go after a bigger corner since we’ll have a defeensive scheme, try to resign harry (dont overpay) release weems & go ffind noel devine for kick return. Resign snelling & release turner (price to high.

D man

January 29th, 2012
10:02 am

Decoud had too many missed assignments. Is he really worth keeping?

savannahfalcon

January 29th, 2012
10:17 am

I dont see the practice or game films, but I did not see a drop off when Sanders was in for Decoud. I just cannot see keeping 28. I am good with Weems staying and Douglas going, and I can see Snellings being easily replaced from what I had saw this year. Grimes I just dont know, fan favorite and I love him but I just dont know if we should keep him.

Sid

January 29th, 2012
10:27 am

2012 Schedule @ Home

Dallas
NY Giants
Arizona
Denver
Oakland
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Carolina

2012 Schedule Away

Philadelphia
Washington
Detroit
Kansas City
San Diego
Tampa Bay
New Orleans
Carolina

Man, that’s a tough lookin’ away schedule. Not that the home schedule is a cakewalk but we know the Falcons up there game in the Dome.

I’m looking for articles on 2012 Strength of Schedule……………
http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2012/1/3/2676144/early-look-2012-nfl-strength-of-schedule-cowboys-giants-eagles

Guess who has the early lock on the easiest 2012 SOS……the New England Patriots

Sid

January 29th, 2012
10:32 am

2012 Strength Of Schedule

Team Winning Percentage Opp. Total Wins Opp. Total Losses
Giants 0.547 140 116
Broncos 0.543 139 117
Browns 0.527 135 121
Ravens 0.523 134 122
Rams 0.523 134 122
Eagles 0.516 132 124
Panthers 0.513 123 117
Cardinals 0.512 131 125
Vikings 0.512 131 125
Chargers 0.504 121 119
Saints 0.504 129 127
Seahawks 0.504 129 127
Cowboys 0.504 129 127
Bengals 0.500 128 128
Colts 0.500 128 128
Jaguars 0.500 128 128
Steelers 0.500 128 128
Raiders 0.496 127 129
Dolphins 0.496 127 129
Bears 0.492 126 130
Lions 0.492 126 130
Chiefs 0.492 126 130
Jets 0.492 126 130
Falcons 0.488 125 131
Redskins 0.488 125 131
49ers 0.488 125 131
Buccaneers 0.484 124 132
Titans 0.480 123 133
Texans 0.473 121 135
Bills 0.473 121 135
Packers 0.469 120 136
Patriots 0.453 116 140

Falcon Fan

January 29th, 2012
10:39 am

I think we should let Grimes go. We have too many holes to fill and will need the money. I actually think Robinson will be a much better corner in our new scheme. Just a hunch. I would probably try to keep Biermann. If we are going to switch back and forth from a 4/3 to a 3/4 I think he could be valuable.

Falcon Fan

January 29th, 2012
10:41 am

Sid, the Giants played the strongest schedule in the league? That’s pretty impressive!

The Real Falcon

January 29th, 2012
11:09 am

Why is the exact same article posted Sat afternoon being used as a post Sunday morning?

Ryan

January 29th, 2012
11:44 am

i think we should keep grimes because he is the best cornerback on our team, hands down. We should also resign Lofton, that is a no brainer. He is the best linebacker we have had since Tuggle. Lofton is a tackling machine. We should resign ABE at the right price.

Quedog13

January 29th, 2012
11:46 am

All of this speculation is great… but DLed please tell us again what Nolan has in mind… then I think that can help me figure out my choices.

falconsrelax

January 29th, 2012
12:32 pm

TD is going after Super Mario, I can feel it

Falcon228

January 29th, 2012
12:45 pm

The offensive and defensive coordinators and assistants have been overhauled. If we take a good look at our strategy since ’08 my feeling is we should refocus back to a strong running game on offense and a better pass rush on defense. I still believe the Jones deal will pay huge dividends. But we have to run the ball more effectively to keep opposing defenses off guard. We have the running backs. Beef up the OL. No one on the OL is sacred. Make them all compete. Too many times this past season our DL would miss a sack. Defensive backfields can’t play “keep everything in front of you” football in this league. The defensive backs must become more physical and learn how to play man on today’s receivers. How this team plays this coming season won’t matter how tough the schedule is. Look at the record of the Giants. That shows you what a tough schedule will do for you.

Preston Thompson

January 29th, 2012
1:46 pm

I think the only way the Falcons are ever going to get going is to bring Tommy Nobis out of retirement. We’ve not seen a tackler with the excitement since Tommy retired. But that’s just me. That was one Texas man that came to play.

bigdave

January 29th, 2012
2:06 pm

Lofton = overrated.

however, i seriously doubt the Falcons effort or ability to find an upgrade. im just not pleased w/ his ability to make plays in the backfield nor pass rushing prowess. tackles arent hard to come by when there made 4 yds down field. he also gets lost in coverage..

personally id explore other options.

bigdave

January 29th, 2012
2:08 pm

lol @ the league making us against Philly an damn near annual thing. just cant let it die huh..

Rev Blake

January 29th, 2012
2:09 pm

Dunta is not as bad as many fans assume. He is a man on man corner and not a college schemed zone corner. Nolan WILL make the best use of him. I think Grimes is in the more iffy position. He was better in zone coverage and usually got beat in one one one end zone situations. If I were to guess, I’d suspect they place a franchise tag on him in the hopes that they can get a first round pick for him.

Rev Blake

January 29th, 2012
2:10 pm

*one ON one* oops

keepinitreal

January 29th, 2012
2:14 pm

Grimes, Lofton and McClure are the only three guys I think we definitely need to re-sign. I love Abe, but at his age and with his injury history, he’s not an every-down pass rusher anymore. Unless he’s willing to take a significant pay cut, I’d let him walk.

DeCoud’s never impressed me. He’s OK, but replacable. Same with Douglas.

OPEN YOUR EYES

January 29th, 2012
2:29 pm

ALL OF YALL WHO IS SAYING FOR US TO KEEP DECCOUD IS RETARDED!!!! ARE YOU KIDDIN ME!!! DECCOUD IS THE WORST SAFETY IVE EVER SEEN!!! I REMEMBER I WENT TO THE NEW ORLEANS GAME AND HE GOT BURNT ON A VERTICAL ROUTE BY DREW BREES!!! ROBERT MEACHEM BURNT HIS ASS SO BAD!!!! GO ON YOUTUBE AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!! ALL I KNOW IS THAT JAMES SANDERS IS WAY BETTER THAN HIS OVERHYPED ASS!!!!

OPEN YOUR EYES

January 29th, 2012
2:32 pm

DECCOUD DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A STYLE!!! I DON’T KNOW WHETHER HE IS A BALL-HAWKING SAFETY OR A HARD-HITTING SAFETY!!!! HE IS SO SKINNY THAT AND RUNNING BACK COULD PLOW RIGHT THROUGH HIM!!!! HE IS GARBAGE, LET HIS ASS WALK!!!!

crabapplejoe

January 29th, 2012
3:49 pm

@Ryan: Lofton better than Brooking….seriously….now that’s funny.

[...] Atlanta Falcons This entry was posted in Atlanta Falcons and tagged agency, Falcons, focus, free, line, play. Bookmark the permalink. ← Irsay: Haven’t decided on Manning yet (Yahoo! Sports) [...]

Rollo Lawson

January 29th, 2012
4:47 pm

If Tony Gonzalez is worth1year $7 million, the organization should not have a problem giving Abraham at least $10 million over two years. Without Abe, we have NO PASS RUSH!!! Without Gonzalez, we still have Roddy and Julio. Bad move to give Tony that money, given our true needs.

Rollo Lawson

January 29th, 2012
4:55 pm

McClure is the “heart and soul” of our offensive line. That’s precisely why he needs to walk. Kinda reminds me of when our local media constantly proclaimed Keith Brookingas being the “heart and soul” of our defense which was constantly ranked in the bottom quarter of the NFL perennially. Will we ever learn? Apparently not.

trailboss

January 29th, 2012
5:00 pm

Now we can now that we can go after FA is a very good idea I like this approach more better than the draft and it make good business sense and its a great way to SAVE i.e. visiting college,following their progress,etc.You have game tape on what they’re getting,they have away to of making very bad choices when it come selecting good talent and now less see how it work out.Its a good way to make up for the draft choices we made getting Jones. I’m with you all the way as long as we improving.

Nativebird

January 29th, 2012
5:13 pm

Keep Clabo and Blalock and everybody else is on the block……..e v e r y b o d y. These guys were ATROCIOUS last year and a big time rebuild is needed. Big time. Top to bottom. McClure is done…and Hawley AIN’T the answer. He got PUSHED around from preseason to the post season. Clabo and Blalock have proven they are solid NFLCalibur performers. Everybody else is questionable. Bring in a ARMY of big-body’s in the offseason and have a OPeN competition free for all for every Job. Starting with CENTER.

hbcuclassics

January 29th, 2012
5:14 pm

http://www.hbcuclassics.com/hbcu_showcase
WR – Derrick Hector, Morehouse, 6′5, 200

- Mobile Alabama News

January 29th, 2012
5:30 pm

[...] the original post: FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line play – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Tagged with: agency • archives • cars • homes • lifestyle • mobile [...]

E Love

January 29th, 2012
5:34 pm

Falcons Fans RISE UP!!!!! NO

Falcons Front Office WISE UP!!!! YES

Lamar

January 29th, 2012
6:20 pm

WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY BY PAYING DUNTA ROBINSON THAT MUCH!! I know the Falcons will have to pay him 5 million if they cut him, BUT IT WOULD BE WORTH IT IF THEY WANT TO GET OFF THE FIELD ON 3rd DOWN!! You know how a team can pick up 3rd and 10?? Throw at Robinson, he cant cover my grandmother!!!!!

Cornerback Smurf

January 29th, 2012
6:25 pm

Grimes needs to go! Let some other team have him so they can get burnt on key downs and/or plays. I told everyone we should have gone after Johnathan Joseph but noooobody believed me. Look at the season he turned in for Houston.

[...] FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line playAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)With no lockout this offseason, there will be a return to normalcy in the NFL. Free agency will come first, followed by the draft. After last year's labor dispute was settled, a frenzied free-agency signing period began in late August.and more » [...]

Ueeediot

January 29th, 2012
7:17 pm

Its disgusting to think this team would want to resign DeCoud and let Snelling hit the free market.

All Snelling does is run hard and fall forward everytime he has the ball. Too bad he is the victim of an OC who didnt know what to do with him.

wisconsinfalcons fan

January 29th, 2012
7:25 pm

if you never played football on defense at a corner position you don’t know what it takes to defend a receiver that has speed an run their rout like it suppose to be run, they know where they are going corner only can guess even if they watch films lets give DRobinson another chance this year maybe
a different style on defense may help if not lets ask Deion to come in an help coach

Old Timer

January 29th, 2012
8:47 pm

I’m sick of seeing playoff-winning teams consist of all-pro players who were seventh round draft picks or undrafted free agents. Let’s see what Dimitroff thinks, then do exactly the opposite. TD has proven himself a loser.

Fred

January 29th, 2012
9:25 pm

Cut Dumbta Robinson, admit he is a mistake. He can’t see the field be cause his hair gets in the way.

PlanB

January 29th, 2012
9:42 pm

wisconsin f f – it could not have been said better. Everyone wants larger CB’s but the skill required at CB does not come in giants. Check the avg size of CB’s. Some are a little larger but very few. Agility and leaping ability play a big part at this position. Grimes is good. I hope he will not want the $10 million/yr. but we should keep him for a reasonable starting corner amount. How do other teams keep such good players with the cap such as the Eagles and Redskins?

PlanB

January 29th, 2012
9:44 pm

Also, Snelling has done everything we ever asked him to do and has done it well. Remember back!!!

shirley hemphill

January 29th, 2012
10:27 pm

I’ve yet to see John Abraham’s name not immediately followed by the phrase “groin injury”.

[...] the original post: FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line play | Atlanta Falcons Segnala presso: This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged falcons, general-manager, [...]

Easy money

January 30th, 2012
2:31 am

Does anyone here know who led the falcons in ints last season?

While playing beside Moore,,who was out half the season,
While having to accomodate Grimes being out and Owens- Franks being in,
While having to cover the deep middle for 10 seconds a play because the front 4 got no pass rush,
While playing entire games in a predictable soft zone that never changed,
Yeah,,Decoud is the problem alright,

You Fantasy football people are a blessing and a curse, but you make me some easy money,

Nique

January 30th, 2012
3:54 am

I think D-Led is wrong on this one, i think we retain HD for sure!!! & I believe there’s more of a chance DeCoud walks.

[...] FREE AGENCY: Falcons to focus on line play Free agency will come first, followed by the draft. After last year's labor dispute was settled, a frenzied free-agency signing period began in late August. The Falcons, who are projected to be about $ 28 million under the salary cap when it's announced … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]