No sooner had I written a little something about the looming lockout and how the Falcons have little need to make a free-agent splash than I was inundated by various forms of electronic missives, all wanting to know: Should the Falcons pursue Bob Sanders?
And my answer — and I stress this is just my answer — is no.
I realize he’s a safety of high caliber when healthy, and the Falcons could still use help in the secondary. But those two words — “when healthy” — are the reason the Indianapolis Colts, who have defensive issues of their own, cut a safety of such high quality.
In 2007 Sanders was the NFL’s defensive player of the year. He has since worked a total of nine regular-season games. He has had knee surgery and torn both biceps.
Sanders might be a gamble a lesser team would take, but the Falcons don’t need to take such a risk. They’re pretty good as is. They like their young safeties — Thomas DeCoud and William Moore — so much they just cut Erik Coleman, who was one of Thomas Dimitroff’s first free-agent signings. If there’s money to be spent on a free agent (assuming the lockout ends in time for free agency to be allowed), I’m fairly certain the Falcons would prefer to spend it on a wide receiver or a pass rusher.
I know what you’re saying: In 2009 the Saints grabbed Darren Sharper, a safety who was three-plus years older than Sanders is now. (Sharper was then 33; Sanders turns 30 this week.) All Sharper did was solidify a shaky defense and help New Orleans win a Super Bowl. But he had no history of injury. Indeed, he’d played at least 13 games in each of his first NFL seasons. Sanders has played in more than six games only twice in seven seasons.
In the NFL, you don’t usually profit betting on that sort of track record. Indeed, the draft choice for which Dimitroff can be most questioned — Peria Jerry in 2009 — is iffy not just because Jerry was chosen ahead of Clay Matthews and Ziggy Hood, each of whom started in the Super Bowl, but also because Jerry had been injured at Ole Miss. Sure enough, he missed nearly all his rookie season after hurting his knee and did little last season. (The Falcons say they’re still expecting big things from him.)
I say again: The reason a protracted lockout should cause the Falcons comparatively less distress is that they’re not lacking for much and they prefer to build through the draft anyway. They don’t need to be throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. A team that signs Bob Sanders is hoping against hope.
By Mark Bradley