Is Clabo the Future at Right Tackle?

Pay ‘em or Pack ‘em – Clabo Edition

Kicking off our 2010 Bird Cage Off-Season, we’ll take a look at all the potential free agents the Atlanta Falcons may elect to pay or pack as the start of free agency approaches in a little over a month and a half. Thomas Dimitroff, Coach Smith, and Co. will have to make some hard decisions concerning who to try and re-sign, and who to let go. In the free agent editions, each potential free agent’s situation will be examined, along with the pros and cons associated with re-signing them or letting them walk. First on the agenda, Right Tackle Tyson Clabo.

Collective Bargaining Agreement/Uncapped Salary Rules

One of the biggest question marks in this NFL off-season deals with whether or not the NFL and the Player’s Union will reach another collective bargaining agreement. The story, rules, and policies surrounding the entire situation is convoluted and complicated to say the least. The long and short basically say that unless a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, than 2010 will be an uncapped year in terms of free agency. However, this will actually limit free agency for much of the league. Currently, NFL players have to have played in the league at least 4 years to be eligible for free agency, but the new agreement will extend that window to 6 years instead of 4. Basically, this will actually limit free agency much more than the past. 212 players that were designated for unrestricted free agency actually will become restricted free agents, meaning their current club can match any offer and even receive compensation in terms of draft picks. Several Falcons fall into this category including Tyson Clabo.

More Information on the complex 2010 Uncapped Rules

Free Agent Status at Risk for 212 Players (ESPN NFL)

DOL’s excellent take on Clabo and Free Agency Possibilities

Clabo Background

Tyson Clabo was an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest who was originally picked up by the Denver Broncos in 2004 and made it onto their active roster for the final two games after spending time on the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants practice squads. Was signed by the Falcons in 2005 to their practice squad and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at right guard. Next year of 2007, Clabo moved to right tackle and started 11 games. The next season under Coach Paul Boudreau’s leadership, Clabo helped pave the way to the NFL’s second leading rushing attack and assisted in sending Michael Turner to the Pro Bowl. Clabo has been a model of consistency in starting the last 43 games he’s played without injury. The right tackle is enormous at 6’6, 331 and very, very young for an offensive lineman at 28.

2008 Boom, 2009 Dip

Clabo was the anchor of the most surprising aspect of the 2008 Falcons turnaround by protecting rookie Matt Ryan in the passing game and being superb in run blocking, paving a way for Michael Turner to hit the Pro Bowl and finish second only to Adrian Peterson on the season. The Birds, including Clabo, likely benefited from one of the weakest schedules in the league, but still sparked one of the best turnarounds in recent memory. Many thought that Dimitroff might go the way of re-upping Clabo during the season the same way they did with Jonathan Babineaux and Michael Jenkins. With plenty of money to spend, the silence in the negotiations with Clabo and the Falcons have been deafening. “There have been no talks of . . . contract extension,” Clabo said. The question remains: is Dimitroff simply waiting for the contract/collective bargaining situation to be resolved? Or does TD, Smitty, and Boudreau know something we as fans don’t?

The right tackle had a less than stellar year this season with a much tougher schedule. Although some of the issues with the running game may have been play-calling or the running backs, Clabo had difficulty living up to the standard he set for himself in 2008. Clabo may have kept up in run blocking, but took a step back in pass blocking. He was beat many times by defensive ends, Stylez White 2.5 sack performance comes to mind, and didn’t have the same dominance in the rushing attack he had in 2008.

Pay ‘Em

Tyson Clabo was a huge success story going from skipping around to practice squads to finally being developed by the Falcons to legit starting right tackle. He is a fierce power in the run game and helped to jolt Michael Turner to almost 1,700 yards rushing, 17 TDs, and the Pro Bowl and the Atlanta Falcons claiming the second best rushing attack in the NFL in 2008. Clabo pairs with Harvey Dahl to form the “Nasty Boys” combo that creates a force in the rushing attack. He may have had a dip in production, but that can be said of the entire offense and offensive line as a whole.

The guy was a practice squad-to-starter project the Falcons constructed and it would be hard to imagine letting him walk to another team. After all, the O-Line only gave up two more net total sacks than 2008 with a much, much harder schedule. If there is no new agreement put in place by March, do the Falcons match other team’s offers? The alternatives are risky and perilous. The Falcons would likely pay tons more to sign another free agent tackle if they were to go that route. The drop-off to 1st year 5th round draft pick Garrett Reynolds would likely be too significant. Although Will Svitek showed some promise filling in for Sam Baker, there’s no guarantee that would translate into a full season and be any better. At some point, you have to pay the dough for legit starting tackles in the NFL, and if history shows anything you have to run the football to win. Can a team hoping to make a serious run in the playoffs with several holes really afford to open another one?

Pack ‘Em

Clabo is a huge success story, but feel-good stories don’t translate into wins in the NFL. The right tackle had a marvelous year in 2008, along with the rest of the offensive line, but most of that was due to the fact that the Falcons ran against one of the weakest schedules in the league. As was evidenced this year, when the Birds didn’t have a ton of cupcakes on the docket, they struggled to run the ball and certainly had a hard time pass blocking. The amount of sacks did see an increase, but that fact may not be entirely indicative of the hurries and pressure that Matt Ryan saw in his second year than his first. The rushing attack was not nearly as potent either and that was the main focus for the Falcons offense to be successful in 2008: run first, run second, then play-action.

Although Clabo is young, he likely will not be worth the dough that he will command. With Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo both having their contracts due up at the same time, it is unlikely that Dimitroff will be willing to fork over the money for both at the same time. Although Coach Boudreau worked his magic with Clabo, it may be the case that Dimitroff, Smitty, and Boudreau would like to give a chance to someone they scouted, chose, and drafted (Garrett Reynolds). Would Clabo be willing to move to guard, perhaps his natural position, where he can road grade defenders and not worry as much about pass protection? Unlikely, since tackles typically command more money than guards, on average. Ultimately, is Clabo worth the money he will likely command? Assuming there is no new labor agreement set in place, the Falcons hold the upper hand in possibly tendering Clabo and will be doubtful that other teams will give up draft picks for Clabo. If Clabo walks, the Falcons will have Svitek, Reynolds, and likely a 2010 draft pick to develop.

What’s your verdict: Pay ‘em or Pack ‘em?

Check out DOL’s superb new post on Emmit Thomas’ contract non-renewal

459 comments Add your comment

falcon21

January 14th, 2010
10:37 pm

I think they will come to an agreement. As for Clabo, if he does not want to move to guard we should let him go. He is a big body but the o-line was not good this year and the move to guard would help the team. Keep Dahl because he brings it on every play. We still have FA and the draft. Matt Ryan when given a little time will pick a team apart. Build the O-Line first.

falcon21

January 14th, 2010
11:04 pm

Good job D3, you are the man. Hope we get a DC soon!!!

Box

January 14th, 2010
11:16 pm

D3,
Good post, as usual. I say keep Clabo. His age and experience make him a value, if the price is right. Was his slight slide due to unreported injury? Having the right side pair of the “Nasty Boys” gives character to the team. If we were to ask him to move to guard, would we let Dahl leave, or Blaylock? IMHO.

Box

January 14th, 2010
11:17 pm

Falcon21,
How can Rocky Top get a HC in a day and we can’t get a DC for weeks?

Nique

January 15th, 2010
1:06 am

Pack em… Draft a LT in the 1st & move Baker to his true position of RT which will help his production & hopefully keep him a lil healthier

Ed

January 15th, 2010
1:20 am

Great work D3…it’s a very tough call on Clabo but drafting an O-lineman is a no-brainer. Which round he’s drafted in will depend on who’s available beginning with the first round. Phil Loadholt was available in the second round last year and we opted for W. Moore. Loadholt is a definite upgrade over Clabo so you have to keep your options open. You can never have too many quality lineman on either side of the ball.

Box

January 15th, 2010
1:31 am

Let’s not forget FA. The Browns G\C might be just what we need.

JJ

January 15th, 2010
8:13 am

D3, nice job buddy. If it’s a uncaped yr.,I say pay him for 1 more yr and draft his replacement. Dahl is a must as well as drafting a center. Have not heard any word on retirement for McClure. Baker is so iffy on the left side, retaining Clabo would seem justified. Is Romberg ready to step-in for McClure?

Are we making picks for this weekend games? My masterful picks went 1-3 last weekend, remember defense this weekend CBrass. Y’all have a great friday, thank god for warmer weather.

SW, nice posts yesterday–G.HARDY–G.HARDY–G.HARDY!

FalconUGAFan

January 15th, 2010
8:16 am

Box, We are going after the best, IMHO. Can Rocky Top say the same? Additionally, our hire is not potentially as devastating as UT. We may lose one or two recruits. They could lose their entire class (those that haven’t reported.)

Paddy

January 15th, 2010
8:29 am

Sign Dahl. Move Baker to RT and get a top flight free agent to assume LT. Easy! Well, maybe not that easy!

JJ

January 15th, 2010
8:33 am

ARI>NO – aints are overrated, good O, terrible D.
IND>BAL +2 – love Bal. D, but no way they can keep up w/ #18.
SD>JETS +1 – cinderella story comes to an end, short week, long flight.
MINN>COWGIRLS – close game, cannot root for them 2 weeks in a row!

JJ

January 15th, 2010
8:35 am

CBrass, I know, you may want to pick opp. of mine. lol

CBrass

January 15th, 2010
8:52 am

JJ,

Did we have to same picks last week or is it the fact that I went 0-4 last week? LOL

Juiceaccts

January 15th, 2010
9:16 am

Thank god there is one competent writer on the AJC that brings up stuff that matters.

I would move Clabo to RG and get rid of Dahl. Depending on who is available draft Baluga or trade down and get a different OT. Let everyone battle it out in TC and assign positions accordingly.

I like Dahl but Clabo can provide depth for G/T and he’ll be moving back to his natural position.

Hopefully if we trade down we can get a 2nd rounder and pick up a DE.

tbhawksfan

January 15th, 2010
9:28 am

Move Clabo to G, draft Anthoney Davis or Bulaga. If they arn’t reafy to start, give Baker another year at LT and make the move the following season.

Bulaga/Smith……Clabo….McClure…..Blalock….Baker

is a nice young line. We also have a couple of capable back ups. Could use a future C.

Oline is good to go.

tbhawksfan

January 15th, 2010
9:38 am

#19: Smith OT or Bulaga OT
#81: D’Anthoney Smith DT
#114: Curran OLB
#147: Devine RB

Supplemental third rounders and late rounders on a CB/S/TE/C

tbhawksfan

January 15th, 2010
9:42 am

At DE we have: Abraham, Biermann, Davis, Sidbury and Andersen as a hybrid DT/DE ;)

We could use a star DE like Dunlap, but I wouldn’t use a pick to bring in another mediocre DE. We have enough of those.

For me it’s OT or Dunlap.

vafalconfan

January 15th, 2010
9:54 am

Move him to guard. He was a liability this season in pass blocking and he would have a hard time in the film room arguing otherwise. We need a stud at RT. Good teams protect their quarterback. The Falcons failed to do that this year.

CBrass

January 15th, 2010
9:56 am

D3,

Once again great job. Looks like you have won over a couple of more new comers. Some one pointed out that Clabo have both experience and young on his side and that something that’s very hard to come by. If we are able to keep both I say that we should. I just think that Clabo is going to demand more than TD is willing to pay.

SeminoleWarrior

January 15th, 2010
9:57 am

Good morning Cage Family. Hope that all is well with each and everyone.

I can think of 50,000,002 reasons guaranteed (107,000,002 reasons over six years) to ensure that the Falcons offensive line remains in tact. Matt Ryan has a six year, 72 million (35 million guaranteed) deal and Michael Turner has a six year, 35 million (15 million guaranteed) deal. As the heartbeat of the Falcons offense, these two, along with Roddy White have been taken care of. Now, the big nasties upfront need to he handled as well.

Clabo, Dahl, and Blalock MUST be retained!! Coach Boudreau has the makings of something special with this group. I want to keep the OL in place for one. We do need to add some depth I concur. But this is a young, active, and aggressive line that will only get better over time. When it is on, they are one of the top five run blocking teams in the league. I remind you that when we RUN the ball, we are SERIOUS contenders.

This offseason, we are focused on the defensive side of the ball, and with good reason. But it was I that said last spring, prior to the draft, that we would have to address OL issues this off season. At that time, it was only Clabo, Dahl, and Blalock that we had to be concerned with. Now, it is the entire OL is at issue. Three possible contracts, a LT who appears to be injury prone but has potential, and a center that may retire. Nothing, and I mean, nothing will set us back more than to lose the continuity we have up front.

So I say, come to an agreement with them all, and get this done sooner rather than later. As I said, there are 100,000,002 reasons not to screw this up!!!

JeanE

January 15th, 2010
10:08 am

I say Pay him and next year, he’ll be back to nasty with his partner in crime, Mr. Harvey Dahl.

SeminoleWarrior

January 15th, 2010
10:10 am

JeanE, I concur 1000% percent. The two of them feed off each other. Sidekicks…Like Batman and Robin, Laurel and Hardy, Fred and Lamont.

SeminoleWarrior

January 15th, 2010
10:26 am

Yo D3,

Congrats my brother!!

The Cage has gone prime time. USA Today is now posting links to your material my brother. The Cage has arrived to the world!!!

An example can be found here:
http://content.usatoday.com/topics/more+articles/People/Athletes/NFL/Sam+Baker

CBrass

January 15th, 2010
10:32 am

D3/SW,

That’s pretty damn cool!!! They have the last two blast entries up!!!!

SeminoleWarrior

January 15th, 2010
10:35 am

Morning CB,

Yeah. I thought that was great. A testament to the great work D3 is doing. Damned, I glad to be a part of the mix!!

SeminoleWarrior

January 15th, 2010
10:37 am

CB/D3 and WR,

What do you think of your choices at DC?

CBrass

January 15th, 2010
10:43 am

SW,

Only time will tell. If this is true the Cowboys need to lose this weekend so that Grantham can get to town.

LRD

January 15th, 2010
11:20 am

D3 NICE!! linkage and everything. Very nice.

I say keep him. But draft the best damn tackle we can. And then build up the draft pick as future replacement, and we need the depth on the OL

Picks for weekend
AZ – NO: Man, I hope this game is half as exciting as the Packers game.NO loses.
Ind/Baltimore: I am going out on a limb, saying Flacco is injured, but more mobile, and there is a riot in downtown INDY as they lose, and everyone will always question the fact that gave up on a perfect chance for a perfect season.
SD – Jets: San Diego. I think they are SB bound.
Minn- Cowboys: I would like to see this as Favre retirement game (yet again).. but I cannot pick the Cowboys two times in a row. Picking them in the first time brought snow and ice. if they win I guess forecast calls for fire and brimstone

LRD

January 15th, 2010
11:23 am

Pick Clarification: Indy loses and the riots start.

WR

January 15th, 2010
11:29 am

I say keep Clabo, but not at a starters price, quality reserves are hard to find, and if he’s not of starter caliber, he’s at least a quality offensive lineman. Clabo probably will continue to start, and thats not bad, but he’s not a player to invest big time money in, but the line has only been together for a couple of years, and the weakest link appears to be more at the LT position, so Clabo should stick.

Seminole, I’m excited about the hiring of Al Groh, first off he brings the 3-4 scheme to the Jackets, he’s a former NFL coach, that has helped put good players in the NFL, so that should help on the defensive side of recruiting. Second, teams usually spent the majority of their time concentrating on stopping GT’s triple option attack, with very few teams in college football using the 3-4, teams will not be able to focus solely on the offense, which can only benefit the offense. Its kind of a pick your poison scenario, do you focus your attention on the assignments of stopping the offense, or do you focus on your assignments when facing a 3-4, there’s not enough practice time to focus on both, so in the long run this is a big benefit to Tech.

WR

January 15th, 2010
11:40 am

D3, as for picks for this weeks playoffs, after going 0 and nothing for last week, its a crap shoot, probably should just stick to FFL but here goes:

N.O over ARI, the Saints won’t make it to the Superbowl, but there high octane offense has the ability to sustain against the high octane offense of the Cardinals, plus the game is in the Voodoo dome, no team is better at home, probably has a little to do with all the witch-doctors in the stands,LOL.

Colts over Jets, hard to go against the Jets because of their D, but Peyton and company get ready for a rematch and loss to San Diego in the AFC championship game.

Boys vs. Vikings, the Vikings are awesome at home, and have been for quite some time, but the Boys are playing expired ball, this one is the hardest one for me this weekend, but I’ll bit the bullet and take the Old man and the purple people eaters.

SD vs. Balt, as good as Baltimore is defensively, the Chargers are offensively, the Chargers can’t stop the rush which the Ravens have plenty of, but the Ravens will have a hard time stopping the multiple weapons SD possesses, SD takes this one.

Saints
Colts+2
Vikings
Chargers+1

Unca' Bob

January 15th, 2010
12:27 pm

SW,

Thanks for the link. WaHoo D3. Big time!!

Harry Douglas update.

http://jmike.blogs.atlantafalcons.com/2010/01/14/catching-up-with-harry-douglas/

tbhawksfan

January 15th, 2010
12:58 pm

Clabo and Dahl are good Falcons. We like them, but we could use more over-all talent on the OL. With both of their contracts up, I think TD will keep one and draft OT first round.

I agree with the OL being the key to our investment in Ryan and Turner. Just think we’ll keep one (Clabo) and draft a LT of the near preasent and future.

The rest of the picks go to the D, maybe a third, fourth round RB.

WRB

January 15th, 2010
2:57 pm

Thanks for the article on Douglas Unca Bob

I hope he comes back strong . But just how much time can one miss at playing and still be as good as he was ? And I hope he is not one to fall into that always injured category . Not to be negative but you all know what I mean .

WRB

January 15th, 2010
3:11 pm

D3 ……MVP

The Real Falcon

January 15th, 2010
3:16 pm

Clabo must go!

WRB

January 15th, 2010
3:24 pm

Cards .I hope and I agree with you WR . But I got this fealing???
Vikings
Colts + 1
Balt

Unca' Bob

January 15th, 2010
3:28 pm

Colts +2
Chargers +1
Cards
Cowboys- The only reason I picked them is so they’ll lose.

falcon21

January 15th, 2010
5:08 pm

My picks are Cowboys, Saints+1, Chargers and Colts+2.

JJ

January 15th, 2010
5:37 pm

D3, Congrats buddy, tks for reply!

WR, you may want to recheck the games this weekend (Jets/Ravens). Otherwise, agree with you about clabo. Congrats to tech, dogs and tenn. on their new coaches. Not sure if young Dooley got the job, hope he does.

Sarah B

January 15th, 2010
5:52 pm

OK I went 2-2 last week so let’s see how this goes:

NO – should be high scoring
Chargers – the O is pretty hard to stop
Colts – jets aren’t there yet the Manning meltdown will be next week
Vikings – one more for Favre

Sarah B

January 15th, 2010
6:13 pm

Thanks JJ

Make that:

NO
BAL over COLTS – Manning meltdown this week
Chargers over JETS by a lot
Vikings over Boys

Sorry I had just read WR’s post.

CBrass

January 15th, 2010
6:22 pm

Well, here goes nothing.

Cards
Colts+1
Vikings–Have to get our DC to Athens as soon as possible.
Chargers+2

WRB

January 15th, 2010
6:55 pm

Cards
Colts + 1
Vikings
Jets not Balt !!!

Sarah B

January 15th, 2010
7:07 pm

WRB Jets are playing at Chargers

BT

January 15th, 2010
7:08 pm

Good Job D3,
IMO, it`s the same deal with both Dahl and Clabo.
Time is on the Falcons side, let them sit as UFA`s (for a while)and if either is offered a contract?
They have rights of refusal by seeing the offer and if the deal is too rich?
Let them go and recieve compensations.
The team might be better off in the long run for it?

Truth is, the pass blocking on the right side was only adequate and the run blocking suffered a significant drop off from `08.

DIVISIONAL ROUND PICKS:
Saints over Cards
A well rested and healhy Saints team should be able to top a Card team off of a short week and a grewling game againts GB.
Plus the Saints are very good at home, the Cards on the road, not so much.

Colts over Ratbirds.+2
The Colts were the best team in the league before they called the dogs off, down the stretch.
At home, well rested and healthy = date in the AFCCG.

Cowboys over Vikes,
The Cowboys have been hitting on all cylenders down the stretch, while playing the best ball in the NFC.
The Vikings have like the 30th rated pass defense in the league.
That fact alone prevents an otherwise good team from going deep into the playoffs.

Chargers over Jets +2
Phillip Rivers is playing near Payton Manning level at QB, his supporting cast is not too bad either.
Chargers at Colts should be a great AFCCG matchup.

WR

January 15th, 2010
7:18 pm

My bad on the teams playing, but I’m taking the same picks.

falcon21

January 15th, 2010
7:38 pm

BT you hace two +2’s.

falcon21

January 15th, 2010
7:38 pm

falcon21

January 15th, 2010
7:46 pm

BTW WR, good move for Tech, he’s a very coach.