A short while ago, then general manager Rich McKay pulled a deal for John Abraham from the New York Jets in a three way trade with the Denver Broncos. The trade was a bold move that looked to form one of the deadliest defensive end combos in the NFL with Patrick Kerney manning the other side. Although Kerney was in the last year of his deal contract with the Falcons, there looked to be at least one year of two of the best defensive ends on the same team and a complete nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. Abraham went down with an injury and only started 7 games with 4 sacks and Patrick Kerney battled injuries as well, only starting 9 games himself. It was very rare to even see Abraham and Kerney on the field at the same time. The defensive end positions, at least one of them anyway, have been a major point of low production on the field and contention among fans.
Kerney left for Seattle as soon as free agency started and McKay drafted Jamaal Anderson with the 8th overall pick in 2007’s NFL Draft. Anderson’s struggles and trials have been well-documented by a wide range of fans and sportswriters alike. In simple terms, Anderson has had 2.5 sacks in 44 games started pretty well nails the door shut on his success at defensive end. He may end up being successful at defensive tackle, but he is likely done at D-End besides the occasional rotation.
There is a fairly big chasm among fans and the media alike on how much of a need defensive end actually is for the Falcons. One side believes that it is finally time to draft a top-flight D-End to help rush the quarterback and create much needed pressure in the backfield. Their argument surely holds merit since the Falcons were one of the lowest ranked teams in terms of sacks and QB pressure. Either through the draft or free agency, its time for the Falcons to seriously upgrade the other defensive end position opposite John Abraham.
The other side of the argument has fans believing that the Falcons already have two answers already on the roster in Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury Jr. Biermann had 2 sacks in very limited time as a rookie and more than doubled his sack total in his second year as a rotational player. Many believe he has potential to become the next Patrick Kerney. Sidbury Jr. didn’t have a fantastic rookie year by any means, but he did come away with a sack and returned touchdown in very narrow time on the field.
As with many of the other positions, the market for defensive ends is very limited due to the uncapped year and failure to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Although Thomas Dimitroff will probably sit tight in free agency as a whole, particularly the big names, adding a key piece at defensive end would really free up some possibilities in the draft. A look at some potential D-End targets:
Many have considered Kampman leaving a done deal since he had to move to outside linebacker after the switch to the 3-4 defense. He was reportedly not very happy with the move, at least initially. Kampman had almost 10+ sacks from 2006 – 2008, with his best year coming in 2006 with 50 tackles and 15.5 sacks. The newly converted outside linebacker was doing pretty well with the transition (42 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks) before he was injured in the 9th game of the season and place on IR. Ranked as a very productive OLB in the 3-4 scheme in terms of a being a complete player: very good rushing the passer and stopping the run, but predictably struggling in coverage. Rehab is apparently going well, but do the Falcons want to take a chance on a 30 year old defensive end coming back from injury?
The Bears defensive end has been on somewhat of a decline in recent years, averaging just over 5 sacks the last two years (5 in 2008 and 6.5 in 2009) and was benched the last two games in favor of Gaines Adams, whose life tragically ended in January. Ogunleye has only posted huge sack numbers twice in his career (15 in 2003, 10 in 2005), but has been extremely consistent in terms of averaging between 7 to 9 sacks. Doubtful Dimitroff would pay for a defensive end of 33 years old, but he could add insurance to developing Biermann and Sidbury Jr.
Probably a reach, but Dimitroff knows Green well from his days in New England. He may have even been a part of scouting him as well. Green is primarily a 3-4 defensive end that is suited to mainly stop the run and not necessarily dependent on rushing the passer. The Falcons need a serious pass rushing improvement and not sure this adds anything. Did have 6.5 sacks in 2007, but only had 3 sacks over the last two years.
As with almost every single position in free agency, many defensive ends became restricted with the failure to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Any chance to land one of these players would cost one or more draft picks.
Ray Edwards – Vikings
Johnny Jolly – Packers
Marcus Spears – Cowboys
Much like all positions in free agency this year, the market for defensive ends is paper thin. Much talk has been made of the Falcons being interested in Peppers, but the price tag will put likely out him way out of reach. Dimitroff will likely either give Biermann and Sidbury Jr. a big chance to earn the starting job outright or draft a future defensive end in the first round.
The Bird Cage is now on Twitter (D3_Falcons) so come join us for some fast paced Falcon and Football talk.