It’s Christmas Eve for football junkies and front offices alike as the Free Agency is ready to kick off in a matter of hours. This year was supposed to be comprised of little activity and only a few big name players donning new uniforms with the failure of the NFL to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all as the deadline nears. With so many teams electing to limit players tenders or outright release them, the market has gained momentum. Who knew the following players would all be available when the signing period begins: Julius Peppers, Terrell Owens, Ladanian Tomlinson, Antrel Rolle, Thomas Jones, Darren Sharper, and Brian Westbrook. Granted, some of the players are a little past their prime, but the shear number of high-profile names makes for good entertainment and destination tracking.
Latest word from Steve Wyche of NFL.com is that the Falcons are extremely interested in cornerback Dunta Robinson and have evidently been coveting him for awhile, according to Wyche.
This would be a big departure from Dimitroff’s dealings in last year’s free agency period, where he sat tight and added a few pieces, but nothing of great note. He has been known for adding a few big guys in free agency, really just one in Michael Turner in the Falcons first year. Erik Coleman could be considered in that group, but he was coming off an injury-riddled season. If the Falcons are in fact in the market for a free agent cornerback, it certainly would make a ton of sense. If the Falcons could sign Dunta Robinson it would eliminate a huge need in the secondary, while also giving TD and the front office much more flexibility in the draft.
Here’s an excellent breakdown of the Top 50 Free Agents according to Pat Kirwan of the NFL Network:
Besides potentially nabbing Dunta Robinson, take a glance at the list and make your case for other free agents Dimitroff and gang should be targeting as the Free Agent Season begins.
It’s next to impossible to get inside the head of general managers concerning their intentions with players. The poker they play with sports agents and other teams can be high-stakes, but the required actions of restricted free agent tenders can give a glimpse on their aims. Dimitroff and the Falcons front office issued the following free agent tenders on their restricted free agents:
This was something that many fans and local media alike believed would happen. Clabo and Dahl were practice squad participants that were salvaged by the Falcons and turned into one of the best offensive lines in football, at least in 2008. They helped pave the way for the second highest rushing team in the NFL and helped send Michael Turner to the Pro Bowl, while also keeping Matt Ryan upright long enough to garner Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Took a marked step back last year with run blocking and pass blocking. OL Coach Boudreau obviously likes them well enough to give them one more shot, which they really deserve. As expected, TD is likely using this to his advantage to see which one, or both, should be locked up long-term. Also gives the Falcons another year to develop Tackles Garrett Reynolds and Will Svitek to see what they have in them.
Koenen is the really easy part. The Falcons felt highly enough of Punter Michael Koenen to slap the franchise tag on him, making him one of the highest punters in the NFL. He’s one of the best in the league and no one in their right mind will give up a second rounder for Koenen. Likely just delaying the inevitable where they’ll have to lock him up to a long-term deal next off-season.
This is where it gets really interesting. It was widely believed that the Falcons offered Jerious Norwood a 1st round tender and Jason Snelling a 2nd round tender, which would lead many to believe that the Falcons valued Norwood over Snelling. Hard to understand since Snelling had a breakout year of sorts and became the workhorse to help destroy the curse once and for all. Norwood has been boatloads of potential, but injuries sidelined him for most of last season.
TD and the front office may believe that no teams will be willing to part with a second rounder for Snelling and/or Norwood, or they have found enough interest to get back into the second round after dealing for Tony Gonzalez last year. Snelling, in particular, was mentioned by NFL Network as one of the Restricted Free Agents that could be targeted. It’s impossible for teams to keep good running back tandems together too long, especially three. One will probably be a part of the Falcons long-term future, and one will likely be headed elsewhere at some point.
Dimitroff and Co. obviously covet Ojinnaka as a crucial backup who can easily step into a role and is extremely versatile. Started off playing tackle after being drafted, but has been moved to guard and evidently has found a home. He fought off stiff competition from many rookies and vets alike brawling for a job on the 53 man roster. Almost will definitely return, but the team reportedly plans on drafting a guard/center in April.
Chris Redman – Appears that he will hit the open market at midnight. The Falcons reportedly want to re-sign him after the market almost assuredly drive down his price as one of the highest paid backup QB’s in the league. Will be interesting to watch this one play out.
Safeties Antoine Harris, Charlie Peprah, and Jamaal Fudge – Definite backups for sure. Harris is the most valuable of the group with his superb special teams skills. Fudge has been on and off the team for the last two years and could add depth. Peprah came on late after the injuries to William Moore and Antoine Harris. Hopefully, the return of a healthy William Moore will cut down the backup spot to one.
Second edition of what the experts and draftniks are slotting for the Falcons @ #19 in April:
DraftCountdown.com – Sergio Kindle/OLB/Texas
NFLDraftBlitz.com – Carlos Dunlap/DE/Florida
FootballsFuture.com – Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan
WalterFootball.com – Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan
BleacherReport.com – Golden Tate/WR/Notre Dame (wow)
NFL.com/Pat Kirwan – Jason Pierre-Paul/DE/South Florida
NFLDraftDog.com – Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan
MyNFLDraft.com – Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan
Fftoolbox.com (3) – Brandon Graham/DE/Michigan – Sergio Kindle/OLB/Texas – Everson Griffen/DE/USC
-Are you anxiously excited about Dunta Robinson coming to the ATL? Or is it a mistake?
-Do all the tenders sound about right?
-If given the choice, who would you rather keep: Snelling or Norwood?
-Is it a lock that Brandon Graham is coming to Atlanta?
Come follow The Bird Cage on Twitter (D3_Falcons) for some great instant free agent updates.