If you were expecting the Falcons to jump out of the gates and be big spenders like the Dolphins, Rams, and Browns you were sorely disappointed with the start of the Free Agency Frenzy. Even though Dimitroff made a few quick strikes back in his early years for Michael Turner in 2008 and 2010 for Dunta Robinson, that hasn’t happened in a few years. It’s no secret that the teams that are perennial contenders rarely make huge signings on the first day, or even the first few weeks. By and large, the contracts that are signed on the first few hours of free agency are usually highly inflated. Mike Wallace signed a $60 million deal for 5 years and Paul Kruger inked a 5 year deal worth $40 million. This is not to say that they aren’t excellent players, but are they really worth that price? There was initial talk that the Falcons were pursuing running back Steven Jackson and a deal may be imminent, but that tapered off to being between the Falcons and the Packers, neither who will engage in a bidding war. There was a report that the Falcons had some interest in Richard Seymour and some even mentioned Rashard Mendenhall, even though the latter had no credible reporting. This free agency period started like most of them have in recent memory: not much. The Falcons found out that Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one more year and they re-signed left tackle Sam Baker as well. There was a thought that the Falcons also kept Brent Grimes on a one year deal, but that turned out to be a misunderstanding. The Falcons have done what good teams do: keep your own good draft picks, don’t get sucked up in the hype, and be methodical about bringing in players after the rush has passed. A look at what the team at Flowery Branch has done thus far:
Re-signed; 5 years / $32 million / $14 mill guaranteed
Moore was the biggest name of the class and was coming off a Pro Bowl season. Some fans were fearful that he might strike it rich somewhere else, but just as he always does, GM Thomas Dimitroff kept the players he wants to keep at a very fair price. Yet one more example of the Falcons GM being extremely fair and balanced in his negotiations, which is one main reason the players enjoy playing in Atlanta so much. Moore was paid about what he worth. It could be argued that he was slightly overpaid due to his injury history, but sometimes that turns out to be the case when you want to keep one of your franchise players coming off a great season. It’s literally a win-win-win: the Falcons keep one of their own drafted franchise players, Moore gets a very good deal, and the fans get to see Moore likely finish his career in Atlanta.
Negotiating Contract; Rumored close to $6 million This one probably didn’t have very much to do with the front office and more with Gonzalez making his decision. However, it can’t be minimized what difference the heavy recruitment likely made by Dimitroff, Smith, and Blank. No one knows the exact details of the one year contract, but it’s rumored to be somewhere close to what he was paid last year ($5.9 million). The rewards are obvious on the surface: the offense has it’s full array of offensive weapons in Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Julio Jones, not to mention a likely more effective running game. But there’s also added benefits as well. #88 just gave Dimitroff a huge amount of flexibility for this off-season. He doesn’t have to press and try to find a replacement at tight end. Even though that would be an effort in futility, there has to be some type of long-term answer to take over when he does finally retire.
That flexibility can enable Dimitroff to see if Chase Coffman may actually be a legit replacement for the future, while also developing Michael Palmer and any potential draft pick. It also allows him to focus mostly all on the defensive side of the ball in one draft, the way he did in 2009 (even though it wasn’t the most fruitful of picks besides Moore). He can also keep an eye on running backs and tight ends, if he chooses to. If he doesn’t he could always put off taking a TE for one more year. Like Moore, a win across the board.
Re-signed; 6 years / $41.5 million / $18.25 mill guaranteed The signing was announced late on the first night of free agency and it was universally a popular decision among most fans. Then they saw the numbers. Many were ready to grab the pitchforks and head up to Flowery Branch when details were first released. 6 years for almost $42 million for oft-injured Sam Baker, how could they overpay that much for a left tackle that has been good, but not the most consistent? When everyone calmed down and took a look at the guaranteed money, it started to make a whole lot of sense for everyone involved.
The deal itself looks really big, both by the sheer number and amount of years, ,but a closer examination reveals it to be something entirely different. The guaranteed money is what’s important. If the Falcons get 3 more good years out of Baker, then it would average out closer to $6 million per year and they would no longer owe him anything (the dreaded dead money). If Baker stays at LT for four years, it turns out to be a magnificent deal. Baker would be 32, having completed 4 out of 6 years of his deal and received all his guaranteed money and likely more. But if the Falcons went another direction, the deal would have averaged out to $4.5 million a year for a very solid left tackle. The last two years will be up to Baker to prove his worth and earn the remainder of the contract. Finally, the Falcons are starting to shore up an area that has been a major sore spot and position of angst for a long time.
Re-signed; 2 years / $3.4 million / $500k signing bonus It may not have been the flashiest of deals or the most exciting, but this was a superb deal on all levels. Reynolds has had his own ups and downs in his career, but most recently did very well before he was injured and put on the IR. The former Tar Heel is likely the lead candidate right now to take back over his right guard starting spot with the news that Todd McClure has decided to retire. In all likelihood, Peter Konz will slide to center and the right guard will be the only position that’s unsettled heading into 2013.
He will surely see competition for the spot, perhaps from Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley, practice squad candidates Phiilipkeith Manley and Jacques McClendon, a new draft pick, or even tackle Lamar Holmes. But Reynolds has faced competition two years in a row for the spot and has won it both times. Will there be a 3rd? If nothing else, this is a very low risk and potentially very high reward signing, including the fact that Reynolds adds amazing versatility in terms of depth all across the offensive line. Who thought we’d ever hear that statement as Falcons fans.
Age: 29 (30 soon); 3 years / $12 million / $4 million guaranteed__
2012 Career Stats: 1,042 rush yds; 4.1 YPC; 4 TDs; 321 rcv, 0 TDs__
Many Falcons fans were heading for a depression seeing all the teams in the NFC get better and better with each passing signing. Even though we’re all level-headed and know that our GM has a plan, it was still agonizing seeing these teams in the playoffs going out and improving their team in some form or fashion. Then happiness came swarming in: news broke that Steven Jackson had agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on a 3 year deal.
The Falcons just inked one of the best backs of the decade (and potentially all-time) on an extremely reasonable deal. Is he the Jackson of old? No. But in case you forgot, the Falcons already have a few offensive weapons on their own. Jackson comes to Atlanta wanting to the “bell cow” as he mentioned a few days ago, but he doesn’t have to be. He has a ton of colleagues more than ready to help him out. With Gonzalez coming back, it’s hard not to be happy reciting the following: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and now Steven Jackson. Talk about pick your poison. This lineup seems more like something you’d cheat on Madden with. Yes, it’s true that this does nothing to help the defense, but in a way it slightly does. Now the Falcons can focus purely on the defensive side of the ball in the draft. Having Gonzalez coming back and inking Jackson eliminates two holes in a big way this year. It’s true it’s not long term, but running back and tight end don’t have to be addressed until later in the draft or even at all.
Jackson helps in a number of ways, and the biggest one of all might be to have every single play available when he’s on the field. Michael Turner was a great Falcon, but most defenses knew he wasn’t a threat in the passing game. Jacquizz Rodgers had a great 2nd year, but found it tough to always find success between the tackles. Jackson can do it all. The cherry on top is the contract. The Falcons got a steal with Jackson accepting a 3 year / $12 million deal with only $4 million guaranteed. And disregard all the production on the field, Dimitroff and Smith got an absolute perfect guy to add to the locker room and the community. Yes, the defense is a trainwreck and yes the offensive line’s not the best in the world, but Jackson simply makes everyone’s job way easier. A big welcome to Atlanta Steven Jackson! You just made a ton of Falcons fans very, very happy.
More to come very soon, including:
Retired: Todd McClure
Gone: Lawrence Sidbury, Dunta Robinson
Still Unsigned Falcons: Chris Owens, Vance Walker, Mike Cox, Brent Grimes