Falcons’ fixes (part 3): Sign Grimes, Lofton; balk on Abe

Brent Grimes has proven to be the best cornerbacks on Falcons' roster. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Brent Grimes has proven to be the best cornerback on Falcons' roster. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

(This is the third in a series of blogs in which I’ll focus on some high-profile Falcons’ veterans and their respective uncertain future with the team.)

The Falcons might try to find some solace in the fact that they lost in the playoffs two straight years to the ultimate Super Bowl champion.But that somewhat falls into the lipstick-on-a-pig category. That defense would carry more weight if the team had played like a legitimate contender in the playoffs and not lost by lopsided scores of 48-21 (Green Bay) and 24-2 (New York).

In this corner in the past few weeks, we’ve focused on a few possible ways the Falcons can fix their roster. We debated the future of running back Michael Turner and whether his salary ($5 million) and his age (30) next season and signs of wear merited him being brought back.

We also focused on five high-profile acquisitions (two draft, three free agency) the front office has made and what direction to go with them. (Conclusions: Cut tackle Sam Baker and fullback Ovie Mughelli; keep Ray Edwards and Dunta Robinson; stall and assess defensive tackle Peria Jerry.)

Today’s topic is free agents. How the Falcons view their own free agents is the first step to setting their offseason strategy (free agency and draft). General manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith will prioritize their 17 players who are on the verge of hitting the open market. We’ll find out what their priorities are soon enough. Here’s mine:

1. Sign cornerback Brent Grimes: He is team’s best cornerback (Robinson’s salary notwithstanding). If it comes to this then the team must put the “franchise” tag on him. (That would guarantee Grimes a one-year contract at the average of the top five salaries cornerbacks in the league.) That’s the only leverage the Falcons have in negotiations. There’s also a chance Grimes’ age (29 in July) could dissuade some bidders from breaking the bank for him.

2. Sign middle linebacker Curtis Lofton: This will be an interesting decision because Mike Nolan’s defense seems to place more emphasis on defensive backs than linebackers. Lofton is solid. But as our Darryl Ledbetter pointed out, Lofton plays on third down and the Falcons’ third-down defense ranked only 29th. So if the team now considers him a first- and second-down player, that will factor into negotiations. Still he would be a huge loss.

3. Sign center Todd McClure: He’s wearing down and turns 35 in two weeks. But he can still play and the team doesn’t have a replacement, so it’s better to build around him next season. The offensive line is the biggest issue on the team but that’s not because of McClure.

That’s it for the top priorities. Here’s the next level down.

Defensive end John Abraham: He is the Falcons’ best pass rusher but he’s strictly a situational player now. Keep him at a moderate price.

Free safety Thomas DeCoud: He’s not good enough to be a starter (we’ve seen that) but he could be a solid depth guy in nickle- and dime- situations. Again, keep him if you can but he’s not worth blowing the budget over.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas: He’s finally showing signs of getting back to full strength, but the fact remains he’s only the No. 3 receiver so he can only be paid like that. If other teams want to pay Douglas like a starter, the Falcons can’t match. Otherwise, he’s a keeper.

Wide receiver Eric Weems: I put him on the same level as Douglas, the difference being that Weems returns kicks. It might come down to keeping only one or the other.

Bottom tier: Frankly, I don’t care what they do with these guys:

Defensive end Kroy Biermann: He slid this season and isn’t the impact pass-rusher he used to be.

Running back Jason Snelling: If Turner is released then I suppose Snelling’s role could increase. But otherwise, he’s a non-factor in this offense.

Linebacker Mike Peterson: I love talking to this guy. Every player should have his passion for the game. I’m just not sure if he has anything left in the tank.

Others: Kirk Chambers (tackle), Kelvin Hayden (cornerback), Reggie Kelly (tight end), Chris Redman (quarterback), Brett Romberg (guard-center), James Sanders (safety), Joe Zelenka (long snapper).

PART 1: Michael Turner might have to be let go

PART 2: Fixing 5 mistakes starts with Sam Baker

By Jeff Schultz


242 comments Add your comment

Duncan

February 6th, 2012
10:02 am

Nah, cut...

February 6th, 2012
10:02 am

..Robinson, and DeCoud, but keep Snelling…

Jeff Schultz

February 6th, 2012
10:03 am

Nah, cut … Can’t cut Dunta Robinson. His contract makes it prohibitive right now.

Duncan

February 6th, 2012
10:03 am

Two years in a row the falcons 1 and done and the team that dominates them win the SB. Falcons problem is they bring in guys who only care about money. That isn’t the case with the two teams that played last night.

Chris

February 6th, 2012
10:06 am

Chris Redman is getting up there in age, but you need a serviceable backup and I think he fits the bill. Unless you think John Parker Wilson is ready to be the #2?

lanier

February 6th, 2012
10:06 am

amazingly I agree 100% but if they can keep Redmond cheaply they should

biff pocaroba

February 6th, 2012
10:06 am

don’t resign turner,just a fat and content paycheck guy now,not willing to work and go the extra mile

jay

February 6th, 2012
10:07 am

What ever they do if Decoud is still on this team next year I will know we aren’t going anywhere. The reason is no talent evaluater would keep that kid on the team unless he’s the 4th string safety and a pro bowl type special teams guy.

Chris

February 6th, 2012
10:07 am

Duncan, don’t forget the Falcons lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs too and they also went to the Superbowl.

Sleeze

February 6th, 2012
10:08 am

I thought Stephen Nicholas was a free agent. Big decision there as he is a starter and Mike petersen is also a free agent, and I agree we shouldn’t invest much in Petersen.

bill mann

February 6th, 2012
10:09 am

duncan you are right on the money, see dunta robinson, perfect example

CDOG

February 6th, 2012
10:17 am

JEFF, YOU’RE A GREAT SPORTS WRITER. GOD BLESS YOU

Herschel Talker

February 6th, 2012
10:22 am

Schultzie:

DUMP THOMAS DECOUD!!!! HE IS A BUM!!!

DUNTA IS AN OVERPAID BUST!!!

HT

Samuel

February 6th, 2012
10:28 am

It comes down to retaining players who make plays and bringing in talent who can help the team. Without wasting cash.

mike

February 6th, 2012
10:34 am

Snelling is a beast he needs more touches…watch his carries vs Turner’s carries..he doesn’t get the ball that much but when he does he produces.

Supes

February 6th, 2012
10:36 am

I agree on Grimes, but I’m starting to think Lofton is the next BROOKING(S) !!! :) He’s great at making tackles 5-10 yards after the line of scrimmage, gets free shots at QB’s for sacks, always whiffs…he’s decent in pass coverage but not as good as Spoon.

Grimes is a sure thing, Abe…if he wants to come back on a Tony G. type deal I’ll be alright with it and think it will help sure up our D-Line…but again on Lofton…he’s gonna demand a big time contract…is he as good as Bowman, Willis, Lewis, Bishop, etc…he just doesn’t seem to make “impact” type tackles and plays very much, and isn’t that the job of the LEADER of the defense and MLB?

Big Crimson 75

February 6th, 2012
10:37 am

Gotta disagree on Grimes. He will want too much $$, and he is not worth max $$.
Look @ the Super-bowl last night — both teams had average corners at best. You don’t win in the big leagues being stacked at corner — just ask the Eagles.
I agree that Loftin & McClure are must re-signs. Abe is also a must(can you imagine a pass rush here w/o him)?
After these guys, I say keep Douglass & Decoud…..
..Bye bye to Bierman, Grimes, Snelling & the rest.
Sign Carlo Nicks from N.O.!!!!!
also, after watching Boley in on every tackle last night, I wonder if Arthur even mentions this to the prodigy of pro football — T. Dmitroff.

Jeff B

February 6th, 2012
10:38 am

@Sleeze – Nah, we signed Nicholas to a multi-year deal last offseason, after the lockout was over.

Sonny Clusters

February 6th, 2012
10:38 am

Who needs players? Put the ones they have in new uniforms and cut the price of hot dogs. That is a formula from the Atlanta Braves and look how many division “Championships” they have won. Hahahahahaha! We was just kidding.

Jeff B

February 6th, 2012
10:40 am

Hey Jeff, with all the lockout hoopla last year I’ve forgotten what the pace is in a normal offseason – how long until we should expect to hear about some contract extensions?

honest_abe

February 6th, 2012
10:41 am

lofton is a 2down linebacker who is going to want to get paid like a top 3 linebacker. lofton isn’t a difference maker like a patrick willis or ray lewis in their prime. marginal players have shown that they can do a great job for a fraction of the cost. i.e. pat angerer, colin mccarthy, chase blackburn.

let grimes, lofton and abe all walk. go out and spend big money trying to lure mario williams here. let akeem dent compete for the starting middle linebacker job.

Brownie

February 6th, 2012
10:42 am

I agree with Mike – Snelling was drastically underutilized last year. I almost thought they were intentionally doing it to use up the rest of what was left in Turner’s tank, get Quizz some experience, and save Jason for ‘12 (while keeping him under the radar for other teams looking for a productive RB). He runs with much more aggressive/speed/quickness/cutting ability that Turner has been, and can be valuable alongside Quizz. Cut Ovie – I think they need to get away from the fullback set anyway.

Unless Turner shows up at spring practice around 235 lbs or less, cut him. Too overweight, too slow, no lateral movement at all – most of his runs end up with him running into the backs of our OLinemen.

Boom Dizzle

February 6th, 2012
10:59 am

Just my opinion but I’m not as attached to Grimes as others. Especially after watching the Giants win a Super Bowl with a dominant D-line and a so-so secondary. I’d rather money be spent on the line of scrimmage (offense or defense).

mountain_jim

February 6th, 2012
11:02 am

Snelling was only a non-factor because of Mularkey, I would try and keep him. And let McClure go – too old and he’s not that great anymore, and they already drafted his replacement.

Tradition

February 6th, 2012
11:04 am

None of these moves will impact team’s ability to achieve elite status and win a championship. What will is a top down attitude change to move players from comfortable to hungry. Until this happens, we’ll continue to see overpaid/underperforming players continuing the trend of mediocrity in ATL.

On another note, why does the field turf in the GA dome look like a washed out grey on tv yet other indoor fields look bright green?

Nick Nice

February 6th, 2012
11:04 am

I not attached to any of our free agents except Lofton.. If grimes and Abe come asking for a big pay day. Let them go!! Money is definately needed to be spent on the line scrimmage. Babs really needs a more stout DT next to him. I am not knocking Corey Peters, but it would be nice to see a more consistant push up the middle..

Frontman

February 6th, 2012
11:11 am

In part, you’re going to have to let the new DC evaluate them and give his input, but, that being said…
Abraham simply can’t play enough downs to command top dollar. He only has value if he is getting 15+ sacks.
Supes is exactly right on Lofton. Good athletic ability, but makes ZERO plays. He can’t hold Patrick Willis’s jock. I would try to sign Lofton for some sort of reduced amount with multiple years, but if some idiot thinks he’s worth $5+ mil a year, let him go.
You must keep Grimes if his knee is healthy. He is an absolute playmaker who almost never gets burned.

gregpatrick

February 6th, 2012
11:13 am

I find it hilarious that people are calling the Giants secondary so-so. Ross and Phillips are top notch safeties. Combined with the D-line of the Giants Ross and Phillips are great in double coverage when needed and bring some real pop when the big hit is needed. Nolan is a great defensive mind and will do a great job utilizing the players he deems useful to his strategy.

Wilbo

February 6th, 2012
11:25 am

Great suggestions! Leave the team exactly as it is, and pretend it doesn’t totally suck when it counts.

DawgDad

February 6th, 2012
11:26 am

“Lofton plays on third down and the Falcons’ third-down defense ranked only 29th.” So, you’re saying it won’t matter if you take away one of their two best players on third down??? You won 10 games; take away Lofton you might win 5, who knows?

Defensive rankings are extraordinarily deceptive because they’re based on yardage.

With Grimes you’re going to have matchup problems with big receivers and problems keeping him on the field. But he’s the most athletic guy out there and he does generate turnovers. His cause would be aided greatly by a pass rush, William Moore staying on the field, and a better free safety.

You’ve been trying to build a younger more athletic team. I agree, Falcons can’t let the young building block players walk. To return to the playoffs some of the younger players on the o-line and d-line just need to improve and play better. If they do, Falcons will tread water. If they don’t, the Birds will take a step back before making their next move. Thinking you’re going to put this team in the Super Bowl next year would appear to be a pipe dream; it’s like the Braves, far too many question marks and key players with little to no upside potential.

DeepDiver

February 6th, 2012
11:26 am

If Kroy is gone what will Kimmy and family do?

Too tough

February 6th, 2012
11:32 am

sign players with passion for the game and to a will to “WIN”…dump the money boys. Dont sign the money boys, bet some players that are HUNGRY! That have the desire for the game then the $. go falcons.

JSS

February 6th, 2012
11:33 am

You can’t really talk unless you actually know what the deck of cards you’re playing with (in terms or players)…
Grimes was a bargain for you for years (5), now is his to get paid, he’s earned it! The league’s CBA is structured that his time is now (he’s “franchise tag” worthy), if Tony Gonzalez is worth 7.5 million for one year, guess what? The market place (set by the Falcons) has spoken… But oh pooh, dang it, you Falcons fans want a Mercedes-Benz; but you only have Lexus budget! You should not have over spent on the face of the franchise and certain other pieces in 07, 08, and 09… You can’t have it all!

screwball

February 6th, 2012
11:35 am

Ivan

February 6th, 2012
11:41 am

Disagree with McClure and Biermann. McClure can be replaced, and I’m tired of seeing the o-line getting thrown around like rag dolls, putting our QB under duress. Time to revamp the entire line, in my opinion.

Biermann is good, but he doesn’t get much help with a situational Abraham and invisible DTs. There’s also rumor of him playing linebacker in 3-4 packages for Nolan. He might be valuable under Nolan for now until he can get more players that fit his scheme.

DawgDad

February 6th, 2012
11:42 am

“most of his runs end up with him running into the backs of our OLinemen.”

And WHY would that be? Because the OLinemen are getting stood up and pushed back too much. I’m not saying Turner is the answer moving forward, but he’d be a lot closer to a 1600 yard back with a better offensive line like he had two years ago. They HAVE to fix the offensive line and get a pass rush or they aren’t going anywhere in the playoffs. There’s lots of ways to generate offense, but they all require blocking up front.

Hollywould

February 6th, 2012
11:50 am

Keep Grimes, Mcclure,Lofton if he doesn’t break the bank. How many times did we see Lofton with his back to the ball 20 yards downfield? Too Many/ Hopefully, that will change with Nolan. Let Decould go!!
Man, that guy has metal hands/ makes one tackle early in a game, acts like he hit lotto and the rest of the game was out of position, juked on moves. spent way too much on Tony G. Keep Bierman at low price. Keep Snelling as I still think he is a reliable back. Bye to Ovie/ like him but wants too much money.

Ueeediot

February 6th, 2012
11:52 am

lol @ “Weems returns kickoffs and punts.”
Thats a good one.

Why are the only options with Turner to cut or trade him. Anyone consider that with a new OC (who isnt a pouting child) that changing Turner’s role along with bringing up Antoine Smith or Dimitri Nance, along with J Rock to balance the carries.

I really believe we are going to see a much better offense now that the whiny cry baby is HC of Jax.

QB/DB

February 6th, 2012
11:52 am

You are crazy if you think we should just get rid of Turner! The Birds are effective when Turner can pound (see Giants) and have another change of pace back. The Falcons have to be careful, Turner is who he is, everyone on here seems to just want to blow the team up! We are close, we just have to add a few more of the RIGHT pieces!

True Center

February 6th, 2012
12:01 pm

How much longer can turners knees and body support his running style. Would love to see what snelling and rodgers could do as full timers splitting carries like jacobs and bradshaw.

Cut Decoud, Bierman.

And finally lets find a backup QB that can manage a game.. Would you feel comfortable with Redman running the show for a season? We need to develop a Matt Flynn or Chad Hoyer.

Ivan

February 6th, 2012
12:07 pm

Boom Dizzle – “Just my opinion but I’m not as attached to Grimes as others. Especially after watching the Giants win a Super Bowl with a dominant D-line and a so-so secondary. I’d rather money be spent on the line of scrimmage (offense or defense).”

Couldn’t agree more. Which is why I get a little worried when I see things like, ” …Mike Nolan’s defense seems to place more emphasis on defensive backs than linebackers”

Mo

February 6th, 2012
12:21 pm

DeepDiver- Kimmy was recently spotted with her ex big Papa. Word is he may be THE Papa…if ya know what I mean.

N-Time

February 6th, 2012
12:24 pm

Great post! Just to reiterate keeps Grimes, Lofton, & McClure, but also, Snelling, & Ovie b/c we need weapons. Sign Tracy Porter or keep Hayden for depth (we saw last night how a weak secondary can really bite, honestly, we’ve watched this for many years w/ our Falcons, Sorry!) I hope we get Chan Crowder as well and / or Robert Mathis, just don’t break the bank please! Don’t forget about the O AND D-line!!!

Rothschild

February 6th, 2012
12:28 pm

Koetter might use Snelling better. He has more to give.

coachx

February 6th, 2012
12:28 pm

You cannot decide who tio cut without scouting the available free agents 1st………………..DUH !!!!!

If you let Abe leave we beeter have a FA target who can be our primary pass rusher.

Teams are throwing the ball like 65% of the time now……….so a “situational pass rusher” would be on the field the majority of the time now.

Mo

February 6th, 2012
12:34 pm

Decoud is a backup safety at best. He can either take backup pay here or go somewhere else and take backup pay. It’s gonna be very hard to sign Grimes with the amount of money already thrown away on Robinson. Grimes is the best corner is this soft zone scheme the Falcons have played but is he a fit for the type of play Nolan will require is the BIG question. I believe Abe would be willing to give a hometown discount for a 2 or 3 year deal. Say 3 yrs 15 mill 10 guaranteed. At his age he’s not gonna get much better on the market. I may be the only one but I believe Hawely will start at center and McClure will be the backup. Biermann and Snelling both are probably gone…know big deal there.

panic fan

February 6th, 2012
1:05 pm

Ok bargain shoppers we have blue light special on isle 3 TD will be lookin 4 more bang for the buck,past bang will not count no sacred cows.
Moving forward on players for the future so if its a 1yr deal it will be cost effective im sure,changes that fans of the popular players will be upset that was recent quote from front office.Look for new roster to take shape on isle 3 best bargain for the future,no 1 yr wonders or cows allowed writting on the wall its easy to see who goes and who plays

Bravesfan79

February 6th, 2012
1:29 pm

How can you say beerman slid this season? He wasnt given a chance!! I actually noticed beerman making more of a impact on games than the DE from the vikings, despite only playing 1/4th as much.

Rosy Palmer

February 6th, 2012
1:41 pm

Snelling would do just as well as Turner if given 25 carries per game. Plus he’d be much,much cheaper. I say let Turner go and split the carries between Snelling & J.Rogers.

Grimes is too short to cover all the 6′4″ receivers like Calvin Johnson,Hakeem Nicks,and A.J Green,etc.

Put Abraham out to pasture !

Rosy Palmer

February 6th, 2012
1:44 pm

Am I the only person that saw this this year ?

Abraham not sacking qbs as the qb made a 25 yard throw down field ?
Grimes losing a jump ball to a taller receiver ?
Turner running up a lineman’s back 10 times per game for no gain ?
Matt Ryan coming unglued as he is flushed out of pocket ?
Weems being a non-factor in 14 of 16 games as returner ?