We’ve heard the rumor that the Falcons are going to pursue Houston Texans defensive stud Mario Williams.
There is no way the Falcons can comment on it because that would be considered tampering and a hefty fine would be in order. The Falcons would end up in Commissioner Roger Goodell’s doghouse along with the New Orleans Saints if they commented on Super Mario.
But the rumor is starting to grow legs. At least three people with ties to the NFL Network have floated this scenario. All – Steve Wyche, Bucky Brooks and Jason LaConfaro – are our pals and highly respected members of the NFL media community. Here’s some of the speculation.
With the negotiations for defensive end John Abraham and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in holding patterns, the Falcons have to do something. They can’t lose arguably their two top defenders and not replace them with someone of similar or greater stature.
We have to look to some of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s recent comments for guidance. In an exclusive interview with the AJC on Jan. 10 he provided some hints.
Q: Can this defense, as constructed, compete for the Super Bowl title?
A: “. . . Obviously, there are still areas that we can improve upon. We need to continue to pressure the quarterback. . . . With that said, I love the tenacity of this defense. I’m encouraged by the direction of this defense. Like I’ve said since the very beginning in 2008, we will always continue to look to see where we can upgrade our talent across the depth chart and specifically on the defensive side of the ball.”
The following day at the “Come to Jesus” press conference with Arthur Blank, Dimitroff was very clear about a few things.
“We know that we need to get better in many, many areas,” Dimitroff said. “It is my job to
make sure that I step back with Coach [Mike] Smith and obviously, Mr. Blank, and look at all aspects of the football operations and determine where we need to make changes and where we need to adjust going forward.”
Dimitroff noted that there would be no “sacred cows”on the roster. “I don’t care where we drafted them or how we acquired them in free agency,” Dimitroff said.
Now, finally at the NFL Scouting combine, Dimitroff gave us some more insight to the team’s offseason modus operandi after their third exit from the playoffs in four seasons. He knows they must get better and may have come to the realization that “hey, maybe the Cardinals, Packers and New York Giants were just better teams.” The Packers and Giants did go on to win the Super Bowl. The Cardinals were a miraculous Santonio Holmes catch away from winning?
Q: How do you all rate the quality of pass rushers in this draft?
A: The edge pass rushers are something that we covet. They are not always easy to come across. There is a good group of guys that get up the field and turn the corner athletically and burst to the quarterback. We are all searching for that and they come in all different kind of packages. They don’t all have to be 6-4 and 270 pounds or 265. They at times can be 6-1, 6-1 ½ 230 pounds. It depends on the system that you are playing and there are certain systems out there that allow some to rush out of a wide-tackle nine and be very productive. Those same players might not be very productive in another system.
Free agency is set to start at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and the Falcons almost have to make a major move or two.
After turning over the coaching staff, they must upgrade the talent. While they have the fifth-most regular-season wins in the league over the last four years, they can see that the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers are going to be factors in the NFC.
Other teams projected to be in the Super Mario sweepstakes are Chicago, Green Bay, Seattle, Dallas and Tennessee. In addition to the Super Mario chatter, some in the agent community believe the Falcons could also make a play for Miami defensive end Kendall Langford. He played for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Here’s Langford’s bio.
Last season, before the Falcons signed defensive end Ray Edwards, they went after Charles Johnson, but the bidding got out of hand as Johnson received a six-year, $72 million deal. The bidding for Williams is expected to be reach the $100 to $110 million range and average more than $14 to $16 million per year.
Blank said the Falcons want to win rings and seems to know that he has to upgrade his talent after three playoff losses.
Should the Falcons go all Jerry Maguire and “Show Mario the money?” Will they blink at the sticker price? Could he be the perfect replacement for Abraham?
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog