Rejoice Bird Cagers, Falcons and Football are both back! Currently out of town, but wanted to get a new post up and question regarding our Beloved Birds since the lockout is officially over.
Of course its all speculation at this point, but word from our main Falcons man D. Orlando Ledbetter is that the Falcons are taking themselves out of the running for Minnesota Defensive End Ray Edwards and that Panthers DE Charles Johnson won’t make it out of Carolina. In the same report, Ledbetter says that Stephen Nicholas is rumored to be heading to the Giants of New York.
This leads to the big question: Will you panic if the Falcons stay put and don’t make a move in free agency?
It’s debatable whether or not the Falcons need to add a top-tier defensive end and pay a king’s ransom for either Ray Edwards or Charles Johnson (which is likely to happen since the market is pretty thin at DE). Kroy Biermann had an excellent year according to ProFootballFocus in almost every category except sacks. Whether or not Biermann can make the jump is up for debate. Some believe that its almost a lock for #71 to make the jump this year to at least as many sacks as Edwards has collared the last two years (8) and that it would be too big a risk for them overpaying for someone who may or may not have benefited from having some other studs on the defensive line (Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams).
No New DE?
If the Falcons don’t feel that Edwards is the right fit for the right price, than they definitely deserve the benefit of the doubt with their track record the past three seasons and off-seasons. It’s hard to imagine Charles Johnson not being a good fit, but he may not make it out of Carolina and could be priced through the roof, especially considering the amount of their own players they need to re-sign. If they feel that a new DE is not worth it, than they get the benefit of the doubt for sure, but it’s a pretty big risk in and of itself since Biermann will have high pressure on him to match expectations and Lawrence Sidbury has put-up or shut-up year ahead of him but he couldn’t even make it onto the field at all last year.
In-House Talent Enough?
Chauncey Davis is a good backup, but not much more. We know the deal with Jamaal Anderson. Cliff Matthews and newly signed Ryan Winterswyck will be fighting for roster spots and are projects at best. It’s a risk for sure, and the other main problem is that they will likely find themselves in this exact same position a year from now when John Abraham’s contract is up. Put simply, the Falcons will have to address the defensive end position eventually. Maybe the advent of trio of Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters, and Peria Jerry will free up the new defensive ends.
Even though everyone in the media believe that the Falcons MUST get a defensive end, the Falcons front brass obviously know what they have in-house and they may be just waiting for Abraham’s 8 million dollar salary to expire next year. However, the issue at linebacker will be much, MUCH more of a risk. Almost all fans agree that while Stephen Nicholas may not be the absolute “best” overall option at strongside linebacker, he is the best available option for the near future. DOL noted that Stephen Nicholas appears to be headed to New York, which evidently the Falcons like to draft and supply the Giants with OLB’s, considering the did the same thing with Michael Boley a few years ago.
Will Nicholas Walk?
The options are limited and counting on in-house candidates is a much bigger risk than defensive end. Biermann and Sidbury have at least shown flashes, but that can’t be said for outside linebacker. Mike Peterson surely will be coming back, but counting on any 35 year old to play a brutal 16-plus schedule (including pre-season and potential playoffs), is just asking too much for a starter. Unless either Robert James or Spencer Adkins are on the verge of an enormous leap from barely making the roster to full-time starter, the possibilities are grim. Akeem Dent may be an answer for the future, but expecting anything as a rookie is fantasy talk.
Other OLB Options
They may have options at OLB if Nicholas leaves in either James Anderson or Manny Lawson. Like Johnson, though, Anderson likely won’t escape Charlotte and the Falcons seem stubborn on who they bring into their linebacking corps.
In short, if the Falcons BOTH don’t sign a defensive end and let Stephen Nicholas walk without replacing him in free agency, it’s hard to want to panic seeing as though the Falcons defense would seemingly REGRESS after suffering one of the worst and most embarrassing home blowouts in playoff history. The Falcons top brass surely get all the credit and faith in the world due to their track record, but standing pat on all defensive fronts is due for some serious heartburn as the season draws close.