NFL free agency: All gassed up, but no place to go

Curtis Lofton, the Falcons' leading tackler over the past four seasons, appears headed to free agency.  (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)

Curtis Lofton, the Falcons' leading tackler over the past four seasons, appears headed to free agency. (Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com)Arthur Blank’s charter plane – affectionately called Falcons One -- is gassed up with jet fuel and ready to go.Under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons have identified their free agent targets and hit them.In 2008, Falcons One swooped in and picked up Michael Turner, the top free agent running back on the market, and signed him.In 2010, the main target was Dunta Robinson and that was done rather quickly.Last season, after the lockout, they flirted with defensive end Charles Johnson before the bidding got out of hand. The Falcons then went after and signed Ray Edwards.However, barring a flurry of cuts and contract restructures, the team will not be a major player in free agency when the league’s new business year begins at 4 p.m. today.Falcons One might just be sitting on the runway, gassed up with no place to go.Although fans are clamoring for the Falcons to get involved in the Mario Williams sweepstakes, the team has just enough room under the $120.6 million salary cap for the 2012 rookie class and perhaps a minor tweak or two.The Falcons have been busy getting ready for the start of the NFL’s new business year, but likely will be shifting their focus to the NFL draft, which will be held April 26-28 in New York.Dunta Robinson, after a trip on Falcons One, signed with the Falcons on March 6, 20010. (D. Orlando Ledbetter, dledbetter@ajc.com )

Also, it appears that the Falcons will watch as some of their key players like defensive end John Abraham, middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, center Todd McClure and wide receiver Harry Douglas head to free agency.

The Falcons have already completed some key moves.

On Saturday, the Falcons agreed to terms with linebacker Lofa Tatupu, 29, a three-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, move that basically signaled Lofton is headed to the open market.

In addition to securing Tatupu, with a two-year deal, the Falcons re-negotiated cornerback Dunta Robinson’s contract, signed offensive guard Vince Manuwai and re-signed three veterans — defensive end Kroy Biermann, safety Thomas DeCoud and running back Jason Snelling — over the past week.

“They have a great quarterback and a running back,” said Manuwai, who sat out last season after playing eight seasons in Jacksonville. “As an [offensive] lineman, this is a good situation.”

Manuwai is set to compete for the starting right guard spot.

On Friday, the Falcons worked out Tatupu, who’s 6-foot, 250 pounds. The former Seattle linebacker did not play last season because of injury problems.

He will compete with second-year man Akeem Dent for the starting spot. The Falcons could use Dent in running situations and Tatupu on third downs.

The Falcons were ranked 29th in the NFL in third-down defense last season. Tatupu has 10 career interceptions.

Tatupu has a history of knee and concussion problems. He did not play in the league last season, reportedly because of his knee problems.

Robinson re-negotiated his contract with the team to provide them with $1.55 million in salary-cap space in 2012. On Jan. 25, Robinson’s cap-value number for 2012 was $7.55 million. He cap number is now $6 million.

Manuwai, 6-foot-2, 335 pounds, played left guard in 111 games and started in 105.

Manuwai was a solid run blocker, who helped to power the Jaguars’ run game for running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.

He suffered a torn tendon in his ankle during the lockout and wasn’t ready to play when it ended.

Last season, the Falcons mainly used Garrett Reynolds and Joe Hawley at right guard. Also, Mike Johnson, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, will compete for the spot.

Manuwai played under current Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for four seasons from 2007-10 when Koetter served as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator.

“It’s awesome because I know the offense already,” Manuwai said. “They just wanted to see me work out and make sure that I had no problems. They made the first offer, and that was it. I didn’t want to worry about looking somewhere else. To me, it wasn’t about the money.”

Prospective Free Agents

John Abraham, DE

Kirk Chambers, OL

Harry Douglas, WR

Kelvin Hayden, CB

Reggie Kelly, TE

Curtis Lofton, LB

Todd McClure,OL

Mike Peterson, LB

Chris Redman, QB

Brett Romberg, OL

James Sanders, S

Eric Weems, WR

Joe Zelenka, LS

Vance Walker, DT — restricted

Players Re-signed

Kroy Biermann, DE – 4 years, potentially $12 million.

Thomas DeCoud, FS – 5- years, potentially $21 million

Brent Grimes, CB – Franchise tag – 1 year, $10.281 million

Jason Snelling, RB – 3 years, $ 4 million.

Vance Walker, DT — $1.26 million

Antone Smith, RB – $540,000

Michael Palmer, TE – $540,000

New players

Manuwai, Vince, RG – Undisclosed

Tatupu, Lofa LB – 2 years.

Potential targets

Carl Nicks, guard, New Orleans — Our buddy Mike Tripplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has an update on Nicks.

Scott Wells, center, Green Bay — Here’s a story by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Wells likely leaving the Packers.

Kendall Langford, defensive end, Miami

Nick Hardwick, center, San Diego –Re-signed with the Chargers.

Mark Anderson, defensive end, New England

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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188 comments Add your comment

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

marko

March 13th, 2012
5:14 am

Looking forward to new toys ,and instead we’re told Santa Clause committed suicide.

Real Talk

March 13th, 2012
5:15 am

Here we go again injury prone players.

Frederick(Bailey) Douglass

March 13th, 2012
5:27 am

The Falcons have got to sign Harry Douglas. Maybe he is fed up? Knows something about Matt Ryan’s ability that we don’t know?

Whatever the case…you lose him, you lose major “explosion”.

Also…in all honesty, how in the world do you plan to start an NFL season with a middle linebacker that was horrible in 2010 and did not play in 2011. Laughable.

Maybe Akeem Dent is the truth?

Big Ray

March 13th, 2012
5:45 am

D. Ledd,

What in the hell happened to all of those reports you gave us about having upwards of 20-something million in cap space, huh?

Wow, man. The Falcons let us down? It wasn’t the Falcons that kept telling us how much cap space they’d likely have. You and Pat Yasinkas must both be writing from the same “bad, cruel joke” book.

OH well, things could be worse. We could be the Saints.

:twisted:

Hamp

March 13th, 2012
5:56 am

I was thimking the same thing about cap space. Did u and pat sell us pipe dreams or are you trying to put us back on the ledge?

robertussen

March 13th, 2012
6:15 am

we can sign players now and free up cap space later. watch them re-work ryans contract and free up tons of space. there is no player in free agency we cant sign.

John in VA

March 13th, 2012
6:23 am

D.O.L.,
Did you have nothing better to report? We keep getting updates we already know…the same list of “our” free agents…who we signed….then the same quotes we’ve seen multiple times. How about an “update”. I think you underestimate the Falcons. If there are 2 better than TD and McKay in regards to salaries and working the cap, I’d like to know who they are. Now I’m not saying they will get Mario Williams, but it shouldn’t be considered a “door shut” case. Also, you put a potential target of Carl Nicks. You think Atlanta can’t sign Williams but CAN sign Nicks. There won’t be a big difference in contracts being as Nicks wants to be the highest paid OL in the NFL…and rightfully so.

marko

March 13th, 2012
6:26 am

The Texans defense improved from sorta OK to basically awesome in a single season. the most significant signing was an old fat man named Wade Phillips. Let’s put away our razors, guns, step back from the ledge, and see what Mr. Nolan can do with this sorry mess . If you keep getting your butt kicked playing checkers, the problem might not be that you need new checkers.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Paddy

March 13th, 2012
6:27 am

Nicks and langford would be welcome additions.

DC Dirty Bird

March 13th, 2012
6:28 am

Let me get this straight. You say that we’re not going to be big players in FA, but you have Carl “I want to be the highest paid OG in the league” Nicks on the list of FA targets?

DLed, is it possible for the Falcons to rescind the franchise tag from Grimes since he has not signed his tender? If so, would it be probable that the Falcons could rescind the tag after signing Williams, then change the draft priorities to CB then TE?

Marcus

March 13th, 2012
6:43 am

This will be interesting …. just enough cash for incoming draft class, losing a lot of veterans, minus 1st and 4th round picks, and may be a bargain shopper in FA.

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
7:06 am

I don’t care who we do or don’t get just make sure we win next year.

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
7:08 am

And not just in the regular season a post season game or two as well. Maybe just surprise us all and go to the big dance.

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

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
7:24 am

The more I think about the more this team makes me sick. First no first round pick, then we can’t even keep our own key free agents and we can’t sign any to make a difference unless they were out of the league hurt last year. Wonder why we didn’t go after Randy Moss. Raise your glasses, heres to another mediocre year next year.

Samuel

March 13th, 2012
7:40 am

How about getting Matt Ryan to restruture his contract so we can get a Carl Nicks or Mario Williams. He’s kind of flopped in the last three playoff games.

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
7:42 am

Just read the Saints are close to a deal with Nicks and Colston, how is that possible when they were tighter on the cap than we were?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
7:43 am

Big Ray – They signed five players and slapped the franchise tag on Grimes ($10.281 mill). Money gone!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
7:45 am

John in VA – Just need to establish a baseline for today. Said authorities have hunkered down. Told us they’ll be back up by today or Wednesday for updates. Stay tuned.

Chattanooga Chuck

March 13th, 2012
7:47 am

Could Kamerion Wimbley be a possibility for The Falcons?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
7:48 am

Bird — Not ruling anyting out, but the vibe we are getting from the Branch is to pull off the Super Mario to the ATL deal. Smokescreen or truth? We believe truth. See Schultz’s most recent post.

Chop Buster

March 13th, 2012
7:53 am

DLed, do you have insider knowledge to know what the Falcon’s FA plans are? Have you been working behind the scenes with TD to know exactly who they will release, pursue, sign? Just curious.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
7:54 am

Samuel — TD recently said on 790 TheZone: ” Matt is the quarterback of our future and our franchise quarterback. He’s is of the utmost importance to this team. When we feel (it’s) appropriate we will move forward on our negotiations with him. We’re not in the process of doing that at this point.” I understand that to mean they are not working on a re-negotiation.

Wabe

March 13th, 2012
7:55 am

Those 5 players were at the time considered to be ‘bargain’ type deals.

Wonder how the Falcons PR guys are gonna spin this one…

Fans see Abe, Lofton, HD, etc. all walking. We don’t have a 1st rounder. And thought to be big players in FA, the Falcons will bring in a couple of more minor low-risk/high-reward type signings to try to fill the void of impact players moving on.

Should be an interesting day. Hope TD and this FO know what they’re doing.

Wabe

March 13th, 2012
7:59 am

I’m wondering why Pat Y. hasn’t written up an article about the Falcons cap situation considering he was probably one of the biggest promoters of this idea that the Falcons will sign one and probably two big time FA’s…

falCANS

March 13th, 2012
7:59 am

resign peterson and HD and lets go win a superbowl. Remember guys it was the scheme not the talent from last year

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
8:02 am

DOL so you are saying there is NO chance what so ever for us to sign a key FA?

Wabe

March 13th, 2012
8:04 am

It was the scheme, and not the talent…

Problem is, you’re not even bringing back the talent you had.

You’re losing the teams best pass rusher and stud MLB.
The teams slot receiver.
And potentially the veteran center.

Wabe

March 13th, 2012
8:05 am

And Nicks is reportedely tweeting that his agent has told him the Saints made an offer and that it’s respectable.

Chop Buster

March 13th, 2012
8:09 am

That $10m isn’t gone until Grimes signs. They still could remove the tag and go aftera real difference maker. I believe they will be working on at least one big signing. They won’t miss an opportunity to get the fans hyped (marketing).

GDawg

March 13th, 2012
8:09 am

I feel you Wabe, it looks like we can sign all these injury prone players but we can’t keep our own guys in house.

SINCE66

March 13th, 2012
8:10 am

As we’ve said before, you can’t have a whole team made up of super stars. Just good solid football
players can do the job.

JONESBORO SLIM

March 13th, 2012
8:13 am

It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Falcons “GET” Marcus Anderson DE New England he looks like just what hte Falcons need….and he can come cheap….and for you dreamers wanting Mario Williams “FORGET IT”…his GPS unit doesn’t focus on I-985….

Me Too

March 13th, 2012
8:14 am

If I see Michael Turner line up in the backfield in first game, I finished with the Falcons. It has been tried for four years and hasn’t worked for a playoff game.

Chop Buster

March 13th, 2012
8:20 am

Me Too, I know how you feel. LoL

Kramer

March 13th, 2012
8:26 am

DOL, what do you think of the possibility of Smith and TD going after Mincey in Jax? DE coming off a decent year and young. Of course, the Jax connection will not hurt.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
8:28 am

GDawg – Not looking good for a “major” free agent.

Ralph

March 13th, 2012
8:29 am

They spend all the money on reserve players. The Falcons need a difference maker. The Falcons want change without one. Brent Grimes is a good player but his impact is min. Falcons signings have to be question. Pass rush is going to be terrible with know no upgrade on the defensive line. Ray Edwards is stealing money. Not a fan of Decoud.

jerry

March 13th, 2012
8:30 am

Without Abe, Lofton, and Douglas, this is an 8-8 team at best. After four years of the Dimitroff era there is not a single All Pro player on the team. Does Dimitroff not understand that pass rushers make cornerbacks and quarterbacks make wide receivers, rather than vice versa?

falcon 8211

March 13th, 2012
8:31 am

I see where da bears are getting Mario Williams. Guess we r fooled again. Part of the PROCESS!LOL

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
8:32 am

Chop Buster – Was out at the Branch all weekend. While they did not reveal there plans, we came away certain that they don’t have Mario Williams money unless his demands come down to the bargain basement.

Nativebird

March 13th, 2012
8:32 am

If this is true, the Dimitroff and Smith era will be over by 2013 after the Falcons make 1 of the 2 next playoff runs and bounce again early. Blank and this front office team TALK a big game, but arent committed to the truly big dance….a superbowl. Oline and Pass rush must be fixed….or it’s all just another wild card finish. NOTE THIS right now….if what you say is true this offseason; Matt Ryan WILL be playing for another team in 2013, his choice. I know I would.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 13th, 2012
8:39 am

Ralph – It’s clear that they are counting on new DC Mike Nolan having a MAJOR impact with the peices they are retaining and have already amassed. Corey Peters, Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore will have to be counted on to be major impact guys. (I’d like to see them cut Sidbury loose!) After everyone calms down, they might be in a better place. It looks like they’ve asked Nolan to fix the dinner with the groceries that were already on the shelf.

Chattanooga Chuck

March 13th, 2012
8:44 am

Is there still any hope for Peria Jerry to provide an inside rush? Is he in our future?

Bob

March 13th, 2012
8:46 am

Lofton, goes so do I. Is he that bad really, well I can sit out a year in protest myself. I do have a Harley, that always need to be worked out to keep it in shape.

Ralph

March 13th, 2012
8:47 am

Falcons looking for bargain players and over paying reserve guys. Decoud and Ray Edwards are terrible signings. Ray Edwards knee issues and bad play is going to come back and hunt TD and the Falcons. I hate to be negative but are the Falcons trying to get to the Super bowl with the same pieces on defense?

JesusHChristo

March 13th, 2012
8:49 am

The problem here is DOL and others were acting as “Shock-Jocks” to keep people reading during the offseason – Building speculation of all these Pie in the Sky pickups – Then reality set in.

Franchising Grimes is going to prove to be a BAD idea. I AM CALLING IT NOW – GRIMES WILL NOT BE PLAYING IN ALL 16 GAMES THIS SEASON.

I pray he does not sign and we drop him – his injury last season concerns the shyte out of me. Mark my words – HE. WILL. NEVER. BE. THE. SAME.

chc4

March 13th, 2012
8:52 am

Without a pass rusher we are in for a big fall next season. Could be the beginning of the end for Coach Smith.