Falcons’ fans: Please, enough with cries for Mario Williams

Sorry, folks: Mario Williams is not walking through that door. (AP photo)

Mario Williams is not walking through that door. (AP photo)

Reality check request: Can we please stop the Mario Williams campaign in Atlanta?

NFL free agency officially opens Tuesday at 4 p.m., and you will be amazed by how many deals get completed by 4:01 p.m., considering teams haven’t even been allowed to negotiate. (Sarcasm.)

Yes, the Falcons will be active. Teams don’t try to create salary cap space unless they’re planning to do something, and the Falcons already have restructured Dunta Robinson’s contract. According to the latest figures, the Falcons’ 2012 payroll is at $116,002,840, which is only $5,723,709 under the cap. (This assumes cornerback Brent Grimes signs a $10.6 million one-year tender.)

Let’s make this as clear as possible: There is not nearly enough money for the Falcons to sign Williams, Houston’s defensive end, unless they gut the roster and sign several replacements for the minimum straight out of Fred Sanford’s front yard.

Sorry to kill the sports talk radio buzz (and hopefully unclog the inbox of my email). But Williams is expected to use Julius Peppers’ six-year, $84 million contract as a starting point. That’s a $14 million annual average and cap hit. Do the math. I just don’t see any way general manager Thomas Dimitroff would be willing to do that, especially given the other holes the team needs to fill.

If I’m wrong, I shall accept the appropriate flogging from readers.

I do expect the Falcons to create some more cap space, possibly by cutting and/or trading a veteran or two who currently are under contract.  But this is a team that needs players on both offensive and defensive lines, as well as in the secondary.

Here’s an updated wish list of potential signees (post signings and franchise tags):

Carl Nicks, guard, New Orleans: He’s considered one of the better interior offensive linemen in football and has a nasty streak, which the Falcons needs. Weakening the Saints is an added bonus. One problem: Nicks wants to be the highest paid guard in the NFL, which means exceeding Logan Mankins’ six-year, $51 million deal ($20 million signing bonus).

Scott Wells, center, Green Bay: He’s a Pro Bowler and has been a starter since 2006. Green Bay may not be able to re-sign him for cap reasons, and the the concern of overcommitting to a player who recently turned 31. But Wells would be an outstanding replacement for Todd McClure (35, still unsigned) and would weaken the Packers. He’s looking for about $7 million annually.

— Kendall Langford, defensive end, Miami: He’s known for being a strong run defender. Also plays in the 3-4, which could help his cause if he Falcons switch to a hybrid front. Langford played for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan with the Dolphins. His 2011 salary was relatively modest: $1.4 million.

– Nick Hardwick, center, San Diego: A good backup plan if the Falcons can’t get Wells. He’s 30 (turns 31 in September) and has started 108 games. According to Stats LLC (via Pro Football Weekly), he didn’t allow a sack last season and was called for only one penalty. Last year’s base salary: $3.675 million ($4.508 million cap hit after signing bonus).

– Mark Anderson, defensive end, New England: A pass-rush specialist. He had 10 sacks in the regular season and 2½ in the playoffs. The Patriots have had talks with Anderson, 29, but so far have been unable to re-sign him.

There’s a far more realistic list of candidates than Mario Williams.

By Jeff Schultz

155 comments Add your comment

David

March 12th, 2012
1:19 pm

So if you’re wrong and get flogged, would that be blogging flogging, or flogging of blogging?

David

March 12th, 2012
1:19 pm

(Oh, and — FIRST!)

CONservative Johnson

March 12th, 2012
1:20 pm

You’re probably right, Jeff . . .

moe

March 12th, 2012
1:22 pm

1st and they willl get hem watch and see

Um ...

March 12th, 2012
1:26 pm

… thanks, killjoy.

JP3

March 12th, 2012
1:26 pm

Um, don’t we already have enough guys who can be a “strong run defender?” (Editor’s note: “Strong run defender” denotes a complete inability to rush the passer. See also: Ray Edwards.)

JP3

March 12th, 2012
1:28 pm

BTW, my comment is in reference to Kendall Langford.

Schultz wrote......

March 12th, 2012
1:28 pm

…”I just don’t say(sic) any way general manager Thomas Dimitroff would be willing to do that” –

Say what????

Jared

March 12th, 2012
1:29 pm

Not saying it will happen, but if we cut Ovie (3) and Baker (2) and extend Matt (5) we’ll have around 15.7 million to work with. Plus we’re granted 3 500k exceptions, adding another $1.5 million (17.2 total) I’ve read that Mario Williams’ cap hit could be made as low as 7 million this year working the cap. With the draft (3.3), HD (2.5), McClure (1), Mario (7), and McNeill (3.5), it’s very plausible to make the cap work for the people we want to bring back and grab Super Mario.

Runner-

March 12th, 2012
1:30 pm

Good points, no point in spending all of our money left on 1 DE. Spend the money wisely and resign our key players (HD, Sanders, Hayden) and spend the rest on boosting our O-Line and D-Line.

Bluestreak

March 12th, 2012
1:30 pm

Though I really, really, really want to see Super Mario in red and black knocking Brees, Freeman and that Auburn grad (er, former football player) on their backside twice a year for each QB…I would rather use the bucks and strengthen both lines (and maybe another LB). If we can build both our lines with somewhat no namers (which most great lines are made of), then go for it! Much rather have a great (or at least better) pass rush and brick wall for Matty Ice to sit behind than one standout player.

I hate it when logic wins out.

RonnieMackATL

March 12th, 2012
1:30 pm

I just wish we could see a list of all the 2012 Cap Numbers. The top 10 DLed posted makes up 57% of the cap.. If we could see the rest of the cap numbers at least we could figure out who we want Thomas to cut.

If they aren’t going to try and free up room for Mario, their moves to this point make no sense.

Based on what Schultz wrote......

March 12th, 2012
1:33 pm

…about the Miami, NE, and San Diego guys, and based on what Jared wrote about the cap space we “might” have, we should look to sign all 3 of those guys…easily within reach based on cap space and their last salaries / projected futures salaries…

D Money

March 12th, 2012
1:34 pm

What is the source for your cap space…I hope it’s not PTF. They are constantly wrong. If we started out with $30 million, we’ve currently used up just about have of that with the signing and re-signings including Grimes tag number. I’m not exactly sure why we wouldn’t be able to get Williams in here. Not to mention adding addtional space from cuts as Jared said above.

tonyb

March 12th, 2012
1:35 pm

Here is were the Falcons can make it happen. Grimes has a 10.6 million cap number. He is not a franchise player. He is a fine cornerback, but they have replacement candidates on the roster in Franks and Owens. Plus, they can sign someone in FA. So if they can get Williams, they can 1) try to trade the rights to Grimes for a draft pick, or 2) pull the tag off him and take the compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere. Would I, as an NFL GM, trade Grimes for Williams. The answer to that is Yes, everyday of the week.

bulldogbubba

March 12th, 2012
1:36 pm

Didn’t Clusters play football? What does he think.They won a few championships @ the ‘OrangeJungle”

tgueboy

March 12th, 2012
1:42 pm

i agree 100% with tony b

Jeff Schultz

March 12th, 2012
1:43 pm

David — “So if you’re wrong and get flogged, would that be blogging flogging, or flogging of blogging?”

<<< Hah. Probably both.

Jeff Schultz

March 12th, 2012
1:45 pm

JP3 — I hear ya. And Ray Edwards has to be better. Will be interesting to see if he can create more pressure without knee injury (which team will use as excuse).

Jeff Schultz

March 12th, 2012
1:49 pm

D Money — Straight from somebody who has the list.

Sonny Clusters

March 12th, 2012
1:49 pm

We played all kinds of ball and was oustanding in all of them. Our biggest concern right now is the Braves and we was wondering how much cap tipping can 1 man do? It looks like Fredi’s tipping 9 out of 10 times so far and it may get worse. If our thighs weren’t sore we’d travel down to Florida and see if we could be some help. If we was a deer we’d be careful right about now because soon the season will begin and the concessions stands are going to have to be supplied and that means some little deers are going to become deer dogs. With enough mustard anybody can eat one.

JesusHChristo

March 12th, 2012
1:50 pm

Real Eyes Realize Real Lies…

T-Bone

March 12th, 2012
1:53 pm

I vote that we make Jared and tonyb (above) the new GM. These guys obviuolsy know more than TD.

tonyb

March 12th, 2012
1:55 pm

There are a couple of other moves the Falcons may be able to make. When I saw that Jason Snelling was re signed for 3 years, my first thought was that Turner may be a cap casualty if they find a player or two in FA they want to sign. Turner has two years left on his contract, and they would take a 5 million cap hit if they cut him this year. But they would not owe him this years salary and he would be off the books next year. Turner appears to be slowing down, and Snelling is a very productive backup running back, with better pass catching skills out of the backfield. Plus, the Falcons should be able to find a starting RB in the second or third round this year if Snelling cant hold the job.

Saying this, if Abraham will get his demands in order, then I would say re sign him. But players like Williams don’t hit free agency often, and this team must have a rush DE. They are expensive for a reason. It will be interesting to see what moves the Falcons make this week.

Die Hard Falcon

March 12th, 2012
1:56 pm

I agree w/ D money, I was counting on more cap space than that based on what was originally reported and what reported signings there’ve been.
I definitely agree about trading Grimes or getting the compensatory pick if it gets us Williams, much less CB talent needed when you get pressure, but if you get no pressure, then you need Revis X 2 to have any hope. I think w/ the personnel we have, our OLine might not be so bad, I really think a pass rusher should be the #1 priority.

Go Falcons!

El Bravo

March 12th, 2012
1:57 pm

If we are going to be realistic Jeff, wouldn’t signing of Vince Manuwai indicate that they are looking to shore up the O-Line on the cheap? It seems to me that we are going to have an open competition on the O-Line and all the options for it are already signed.

IJS

March 12th, 2012
2:00 pm

This was a great post! I don’t believe that Mario Williams is deserving of a “preeminent” status. Yes, he’s effective & impressive, however, almost every major position is in desperate need of an upgrade. The Vikings just cut a well-established guard & I hope that we can sign Mr. H. I don’t think M.Williams is the solution to our problems. I hope that we can sign T. Porter and Marques Colston to reasonable contracts and address other needs and not invest into one player who won’t make that big of a difference.

FalconJim

March 12th, 2012
2:07 pm

Jeff, it’s good to see you had time to write something, buddy. And while Mario would be a great addition, I can’t see breaking the bank for him, and ignore all of our other needs.
But, I guess that’s why they pay TD, and “Smitty” the big bucks…..to figure all this stuff out, and field a team that’s going to be competitive year-in and year-out. So far, so good…..except, about that Play-off thing…

DC Dirty Bird

March 12th, 2012
2:07 pm

Why should we “stop with the cries for Mario Williams”? Grimes isn’t signed, nor has he signed his tender. We could easily let him walk tomorrow evening and sign Mario. Also, the last I checked, we don’t have to be under the cap until after training camp. As such, we can sign Williams now and decide who’s going to be a cap casualty after the draft.

JSS

March 12th, 2012
2:13 pm

I’ve been crying this since last year and before this free agent season started that Falcons fans were just being blind to the realities of their salary cap issues. You have Mercedes dreams but a Toyota Corolla budget!

Joe goodmen

March 12th, 2012
2:15 pm

Were did you get your cap Numbers? Jeff – I hope not PTF there way off on a lot if not all of there projections

Here lets update you on the real cap for the Falcons

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/atlanta-falcons/cap-hit/

they have about 12 mil when you throw in Robinsons reworked deal throw in some cuts and you can easly be looking at 17 or 18 mil more than enough to land Mario Williams

Me Too

March 12th, 2012
2:15 pm

Please trade or cut: Michael Turner, Ovie Mughelli, and any other offensive non-interior lineman who is on the team to block. The Falcons don’t need blockers; they need scorers.

MattRyansBrain

March 12th, 2012
2:15 pm

Schultzie,

there are about 4-5 more moves the Falcons can easily make to save cap room – you are being very simplistic in your arguments. Sam Baker and Ovie Mughelli both need to be cut anyway and will save money. Also, if Mario signs a 6-7 year deal, then even if Mario averages $14million/yr the first year cap hit is likely to be under $10 million. Also, Falcons will get cap relief in 2013 which will help next year (Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner likely to be cut in last year of his deal then – there is another $10+ million in savings there for 2013. Falcons signing Mario Williams is very “do-able”.

Jared

March 12th, 2012
2:17 pm

@MattRyansBrain,

Glad I’m not the only one that can do math…

Joe goodmen

March 12th, 2012
2:20 pm

Jeff do you have a full list of player salaries like that one I posted? If so post the link so you can prove me wrong. Because http://www.spotrac.com was 100% accurate last year

JSS

March 12th, 2012
2:29 pm

You only take discounted deals when you don’t have options. There are a number of teams who playoff ready teams that are in better cap position then the Falcons. Mario is in the driver’s seat. It is not a matter of whether a deal is “”do-able.” Players are on to the signing a deal only to have it voided once a team has cap issues. Ask Peyton Manning how well that works for you?

Reid Adair

March 12th, 2012
2:30 pm

Rest assured, the number that Thomas Dimitroff is working with is far higher than $5.73+ million. I’m convinced there will be numerous changes.

Falconidiot

March 12th, 2012
2:36 pm

Lofton, Abe and MT and the 30 mill we are under the cap minus the little we have spent could get us ball park Jeff, although i agree we could possibly spend it better, the Falcons will need a big signing to sell a lot of upcoming empty seats and most of all suites.

welikebaseball2

March 12th, 2012
2:36 pm

JP3: I totally agree about Langford. For the life of me, I can’t figure why his name is even being thrown around as an Abraham replacement. Because, let’s be real, that’s what we’re looking for…an Abraham replacement. As much as fans griped about Abraham “getting old” & being a “non-factor,” are we seriously thinking of replacing him with a guy who’s averaged under 2 sacks per season? I’ll bet the fan base will be missing Abraham’s 9.5 sacks then!

So, Schultz, you lay out for us the logic of why there’s no way we go after Williams, I can’t see your logic in proposing that we’d even look at Langford. As JP3 said, another “run defender”? Really? So we lose Lofton & Abraham & replace them with Dent (sorry UGA homers, there’s no guarantee Dent will fill #50’s shoes) & Langford? Seriously?

RonnieMackATL

March 12th, 2012
2:36 pm

Thank you, Joe goodmen.

John

March 12th, 2012
2:39 pm

Have to agree. Im not too worried what happens in free agency since I know they want to win more than I do and Im positive they will have considered their options. I just want footballs news, the days get so boring without it :(

JSS

March 12th, 2012
2:45 pm

Even if you have $17 million in cap space freed up after 4PM tomorrow, you still get enough relief in cap space to fill your needs with the “inflated” deals that top line UFAs have been receiving this year. Marginal FAs have signed deals 15% higher. What aren’t you people seeing about the market place?

St Simons - we're on Island time

March 12th, 2012
2:46 pm

good, i thought atl would try to get him, just for the Bust potential

JSS

March 12th, 2012
2:46 pm

^^^^^
can’t

mark

March 12th, 2012
2:48 pm

Jeff is trying to be a realist but he forgets that Rich Mckay is a savant when it comes to the cap, and I think the signing of the OG/ILB the last two days means two guys are gone. Baker and Lofton, also you would be able to cut Olvie and not resign Douglas. That right there would give you 12 to 14 million in space. I do not think we would cut Turner b/c we do not have a good enough plan B, plus they want one more year from him at 1,000 yards to transition to new offense. Pressure is on to win playoff games, and since they are not going to resign Abe, other moves set up to replace with Williams. Let the flogging begin.

Dave Hampton...Falcons first 1000 yarder

March 12th, 2012
2:49 pm

Anyone notice how ineffective the running game became, comparatively speaking after Ovie left? I like the Cox kid, but I’m not ready to put him into Ovie’s category. Michael ‘The Slow Burner’ Turner seems to be ripe for the releasing…Snelling re-signed and ‘Quizz needs to find some playing time.
Mario would be nice, though…more than nice, he’d be fantastic.

Ted M

March 12th, 2012
2:54 pm

What teams have lots of cap space?

Roy

March 12th, 2012
2:57 pm

Let’s see were losing Abraham tell me who is going to rush the QB, Ray Edwards! We never really get serious in the drafting a DE.

Jeff B

March 12th, 2012
2:58 pm

Jeff, aren’t you omitting the cap space carry-over from last season? I thought that gave us almost $10M extra cap room? So we have $15M now, and could free up a lot more…

Birdman of Falcatraz

March 12th, 2012
3:01 pm

Perhaps excluding Patriots, and maybe the surprise Bengals there arent a lot of Super Bowl potential teams with boatloads of cap space. Teams like the Bucs, Bills,Jags to me arent likely to throw so much cash at a risk venture when their rosters need more than ours do. Yes there are other teams with more space that are playoff teams, but the number being used here is worthless, similar to saying I only have 4 dollars in my bank account today so tomorrow (payday) I cant afford a 5 dollar footlong. When all is said and done we will have close to the 14mil needed if they believe, like last year that one player can bring a visit to the SB.