Who benefits from a long lockout? Maybe the Atlanta Falcons

Smitty and Dimitty: You're in good hands with these guys. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Smitty and Dimitty: You're in good hands with these guys. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

You can’t really game-plan a work stoppage. How do you prepare to do something when nothing can be done? That said …

If the NFL lockout arrives as expected — the start (or stop) date is March 4 — and lasts into August or September, the Falcons figure to be OK. They don’t need a lot. They can subsist without buying a big-name free agent. And they are, you’ll recall, coming off a pretty fair season.

“We’re definitely preparing for a regular offseason,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said this week. “That’s the only way we can do it.”

It’s the only way to prepare. What if the work stoppage holds for all of 10 locked-out days and then the NFL goes back to work? A GM can’t say, “I’m a little behind here — who’s a free agent this year?” He has to be ready to rumble. And the April draft will come off no matter what’s happening labor-wise.

But the great imponderable of Looming Lockout 2011 is free agency. Let’s say no settlement is reached until September: The best guesses hold that the NFL and its players would decide to have a blurry-fast training camp and preseason and skip free agency. (Scheduled FA’s would return to their teams for one more season.) The 2-14 Carolina Panthers might have a tough time with that; the 13-3 Falcons would not.

There was a time when the Falcons needed everything in a hurry, but that time was 2008. In his first three months on the job, Dimitroff made a big splash in free agency by signing Michael Turner and had a big hit in the draft with Matt Ryan. Those were two guys the Falcons had to have. Ever since,  their moves have been a function not of desperation but deliberation.

Dimitroff did swing the Tony Gonzalez trade with Kansas City in April 2009, and last March he spent big on the free-agent cornerback Dunta Robinson. All else of significance has been draft-related.  TD the GM takes no small measure of pride in his ability to wrangle a draft. Last year he took offensive guards Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley in Rounds 3 and 4, and this moved the famous Mel Kiper of ESPN to rate the Falcons’ 2010 draft a C-minus. (This grade rankled, and rankles still, within team HQ.)

Starting guards Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock are scheduled to be free agents, and so is right tackle Tyson Clabo. There’s a chance the Falcons could lock up Clabo, say, by tagging him a “franchise” player, but Dimitroff prefers not to go that route. So there’s a possibility all three could leave if free agency is allowed to take its normal course. But the Falcons have backups in-house — don’t forget tackle Garrett Reynolds, a fifth-round draftee in 2009 — and could survive such an exodus.

And there’s the value of having a Bird as sharp as Dimitroff in charge. He always works off the draft, and he works not just for next season but down the road. (Every GM seeks to do the same, but not all are so adept.) The Falcons will have the 27th pick in Round 1, which is a far cry from the No. 3 of Dimitroff’s first draft, but he likes this way fine.

“It’s drastically different,” he said, “and [drafting later] is an area in which I feel a lot more comfortable. [The New England Patriots, whence TD came, tend to draft late.] You can get good football players, and there are opportunities for value. You can also move up and down.”

This draft’s target area? Read between the lines. “We need to continue to add explosive players with a sense of urgency on both offense and defense,” Dimitroff said.

Sounds like “wide receiver and pass rusher,” does it not?

If this lockout amounts to anything, the winners will be teams with a plan in place and the management to carry it through. It was no accident that the Washington Redskins won two Super Bowls in post-strike seasons: They had Joe Gibbs and Bobby Beathard to steer. It would be no great surprise if the post-lockout NFL sees the Falcons in Super Bowl XLVI. They’ve got Mike Smith and his little buddy in charge.

By Mark Bradley

145 comments Add your comment

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 18th, 2011
10:48 am

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

February 18th, 2011
10:53 am

Wow ! in a stunning upset i got the 1st march madness begins early for me

Mark Bradley

February 18th, 2011
10:54 am

SOUTH GA gets the kudos

todd grantham

February 18th, 2011
11:01 am

stunning is right.

Ben

February 18th, 2011
11:01 am

I think the lockout works against the Falcons for the exact reasons you mentioned. Not having free agency means one less opportunity for the smart franchises like the Falcons to do what they’re good at (make great FA decisions), and one less opportunity for the retarded franchises like Dallas or Washington to do something they’re great at (make stupid free agent decisions). In a nutshell, no good roster moves for the Falcons + no bad roster moves by other teams = advantage for the stupid teams that we’re competing with for the playoff spots.

Capologist

February 18th, 2011
11:01 am

You can’t be serious. Because of a potential lockout, that would benefit the Falcons? I guess whatever you need to tell yourself after the “Shellacking In the Dome”, whatever helps.

norman

February 18th, 2011
11:04 am

Bradley- Just a couple of months ago, I asked you about a work stoppage in the NFL. You said that it just wasn’t going to happen. Too much money for the players and owners. Now you’re writing on the coming work stoppage. What made you change?

danielsdawgs

February 18th, 2011
11:11 am

Bring in Champ Bailey. We need a shut down corner

jfreak13713

February 18th, 2011
11:15 am

A work stoppage hurts the Falcons and the NFL because the fans in a time when money is very tight will them as greedy! They won’t lose every fan but some will punish the NFL and or the Falcons by not attending as many games or not buying merchandise. I hope the players and owners understand whats going on in the country right now with budget cuts and UNION workers expecting TOO much out of tax payers and see themelves in the eyes of their fans??

Paul H

February 18th, 2011
11:19 am

Rounding out the top 10

Hankie Aron

February 18th, 2011
11:24 am

Not sure Mark how TD would feel you calling him Mike Smith’s little buddy. As a fan, I am more than satisfied with their leadership along with Artie “Money Bags” Blankasauraus

Hankie Aron

February 18th, 2011
11:24 am

I like your thoughts jfreak

Hankie Aron

February 18th, 2011
11:25 am

As said too often on the blogs, Book it

cantondawg

February 18th, 2011
11:25 am

In this economy, A strike is absolutely ridiculous. I have no sympathy for either the owners or the players.

The owners will always win out because they have the money in the first place. It won’t affect their lifestyle because they’re rich already.

Tell me how many players could make the millions that they are making now in a job outside of Football.

You would be lucky to find one. Most of them would be making less than $100,000 in a menial job.

Hankie Aron

February 18th, 2011
11:28 am

Capologist-a franchise nor a GM are relegated to 1 bad game. Get serious before you put that out there

Mr. Obvious

February 18th, 2011
11:28 am

Who benefits most from an NFL Lockout?

Our families, friends and loved ones we have neglected on weekends, Mondays & Thursdays for so many years in favor of following a meaningless (in the grand scheme of life) “game” played by a bunch spoiled, inarticulate millionaires who think we are all beneath them.

Observer

February 18th, 2011
11:29 am

The Packers lead the NFL in injuries which continued in the Superbowl and still won.
The Falcons lost a nickel back and fell apart.
Packer GM > TD and the rest.
Patriots vs Packers in next year’s Superbowl with the Pack winning.
TD and Smitty are better than what the Falcons usually have.
But not by as much as MB thinks.

Observer

February 18th, 2011
11:31 am

Good point Mr.Obvious.

falconpoop

February 18th, 2011
11:41 am

Forget FA, forget the draft, forget everything! I just want to play football! I’m retarded and everyone knows it! I hated school, and I hated doing homework! Gosh why can’t I get a girlfriend?!!! I guess I’m so freakin ugly and so freakin slow. I can’t do math. Algebra III always got me. Dang it Huberty! (Algebra III teacher). Go Falcons!

falconpoop

February 18th, 2011
11:41 am

I don’t know how to multiply, or add and subracting is my favorite.

teamguy

February 18th, 2011
11:43 am

One way a lockout will hurt the Falcons is they won’t get my season ticket renewal. I may not get my $440 back for the NFC Championship game that didn’t happen, but they won’t get any more. Baseball pulled this crap a few years back, and they have not made one dime off me since then. Goose-that-laid-the-golden-egg, meet your executioner: the NFL. And I don’t care who’s fault it is. .I’ll be gone. And I’ve been doing this since the second year the team has existed. My family can take a pretty decent vacation with the money I spend on these tickets, so I guess they will benefit the most.

teamguy

February 18th, 2011
11:44 am

Dan

February 18th, 2011
11:44 am

Still touting the superior intellect of Dimitroff – it is as if the one and done in the playoffs and the Saints loss in the playoffs never happened

How about sombody winning a playoff game before they are Cantonized

Remarkable

February 18th, 2011
11:44 am

We still need a cornerback. Where will he come from? Round 3?

Howard

February 18th, 2011
11:48 am

Ask Mel Kiper about Emmett Smith

Mark Bradley

February 18th, 2011
11:55 am

Time and tide, norman.

Curious George

February 18th, 2011
12:10 pm

Since Arthur Blank could potentially save million$$$ next year if there is no football due to an extended NFL Lockout, could the Atlanta Thrashers Hockey Club benefit the most by being being purchased away and saved from the Atlanta Spirit Group (of Criminals) as an “alternate investment” for Mr. Blank to infuse with that monetary capital?

Roll Tide

February 18th, 2011
12:13 pm

If the falcons were smart the would try to get Bob Sanders for the right price. They have a nice young safety back there but the saints have Bob Sanders on our list so your loss.

Go Saints

Who Dat in Atlanta

February 18th, 2011
12:20 pm

Falcons are coming off one of their best season in a looooooong while and still couldn’t get out of the the first round.

WHO DAT!

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
12:23 pm

Bob Sanders would look good in a Saints Uniform

Milburn Drysdale

February 18th, 2011
12:25 pm

I am with Teamguy…..any work stoppage and the owners and the players can flat forget me ever watching a game on Tv, much less shelling out big bucks to go watch them play at the Dome. They did this back in the eighties, but we forgave them. Not gonna happen this time. The fans need to RISE UP and let these people know who really pays the bills. Just one game and you can for about it.

Najeh Davenpoop

February 18th, 2011
12:32 pm

A lockout benefits every owner equally, since they get paid whether or not games are played. I hate to tell y’all this, but the owners flat out don’t care whether or not you renew your season tickets. They are getting paid their billions of dollars in TV revenue even during the lockout.

Snoman

February 18th, 2011
12:34 pm

Hey Roll Tide, go ahead and spend all your money on Bob Sanders for the two great games he will play for you. The rest of the money will be spent on his therapists as he will be in rehab the rest of the year.

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
12:39 pm

Snoman you must be a falcons fan, does that first round beatdown still hurt.

Back to the Ain'ts

February 18th, 2011
12:45 pm

Who Dat,

My memory of the playoffs was that the Ain’ts lost to the SeaChickens who had a losing record going into the playoffs. And the Falcons, while they did lose in the 1st Rd of the playoffs, lost to the eventual Superbowl champs.

Certainly nothing to brag about, but a lot less embarassing than meager fight your boys put up.

Go spend your money on Bob. There’s a reason the Colts are letting him go. Nine games in three years. ‘Nuff said.

Milburn Drysdale

February 18th, 2011
12:46 pm

@Who Dat…..doesn’t a beatdown at the hands of the Packers hurt a lot less than a first round beatdown to the Seahawks?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Sean Womble. Sean Womble said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: Who would benefit from a protracted #NFL lockout? Maybe the #Falcons. http://bit.ly/eyTyei [...]

Ted Striker

February 18th, 2011
12:50 pm

I looked the pic at the top by Curtis Compton and asked myself: How is it that Dimitroff can pull off wearing a visor without getting a label and Spurrier couldn’t?

Then I realized it was because Dimitroff doesn’t toss his.

Can you imagine the Bear ever tossing his houndstooth hat? Or Paterno slamming down his coke bottle glasses? Or Tressel ripping off his sweater vest in disgust?

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
1:01 pm

While the Saints did lose on the ROAD and the game was close, The Falcons got a beatdown in the so called WINNER DOME AND THE GAME WASN’T EVEN CLOSE. Still waiting on that first playoff win from the bust Matty Ice

Dumbo

February 18th, 2011
1:02 pm

I know one place they could care less about a lockout…..ALABAMA…heard tell that Tshirts with “Free Harvey” under a tree are selling out

Mark Bradley

February 18th, 2011
1:03 pm

Dimitroff is an interesting fellow. He told me after our iced-in week that he learned to drive on slippery surfaces from “riding the hard pack.” (I believe that means he snowboards.)

cheshire

February 18th, 2011
1:08 pm

Observer, thanks for that completely irrelevant post about the Packers.

???

cheshire

February 18th, 2011
1:09 pm

Who Dat, you lost to the worst team that has EVER made the playoffs. We lost to the Superbowl champion.

I don’t think i’d be making comparisons between the Saints playoff loss and the Falcons playoff loss if I were a Saints fan.

Dumbo

February 18th, 2011
1:09 pm

Who Dat Nation…is it true, that when Brees runs on the field, all the Little People jump up in their replica # 9 jerseys and start singing the Munchkin song from the Wizard of Oz?

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
1:11 pm

Mark

Would you consider Matt Ryan being a bust at this point? Zero playoff wins and he can’t lead the team when it counts.

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
1:12 pm

cheshire

February 18th, 2011
1:09 pm
Who Dat, you lost to the worst team that has EVER made the playoffs. We lost to the Superbowl champion.

Superbowl Championships

Saints 1 Falcons 0

Who Dat Nation

February 18th, 2011
1:14 pm

Dumbo

February 18th, 2011
1:09 pm
Who Dat Nation…is it true, that when Brees runs on the field, all the Little People jump up in their replica # 9 jerseys and start singing the Munchkin song from the Wizard of Oz?

Is it true that Matty Ice practices choking on madden because he knows he can’t lead a team to a playoff win. Michael Vick has more wins than the bust and he took a year off in prison

cheshire

February 18th, 2011
1:15 pm

Who Dat – lol, such a predictable response from a Saints fan. I guess you just change the subject when you can’t respond to the topic at hand?

And are you seriously calling Matt Ryan a bust??? That’s easily the dumbest thing i’ve ever heard. How many playoff wins did Rodgers have after his first 3 seasons? None, but according to your logic, he was a “bust”. Idiotic to say the least. There are plenty of hall of fame QBs who didn’t have playoff wins in their first 3 seasons. Are they busts too?

My prediction – you won’t respond to these questions because you can’t, but you’ll remind everyone about that time your team won a Superbowl.

Dumbo

February 18th, 2011
1:15 pm

Who Dat Nation……………..thanks good….how many years has the Munchkin been in the league…SD didn’t think too highly of him did they

1eyedJack

February 18th, 2011
1:18 pm

Curious George

I’m hoping Arthur Blank is holding out to buy the Braves and doesn’t monkey around with his money buying a hockey team that will probably be playing elsewhere in a few years.