Dimitroff propels his Falcons one step closer to a Super Bowl

Bill Belichick asks his former employee for managerial tips. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Bill Belichick seeks managerial tips from a former employee. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch — Assuming he hasn’t done so already, Thomas Dimitroff should take several moments to prop his feet on the nearest ottoman, pour himself a tall glass of cabernet and crank his main man Bob Seger to 11 on the hi-fi. Dimitroff has it coming.

The great general manager aced his greatest test. Half his offseason business had been left undone. He’d traded 21 spots upward to draft Julio Jones, the wide receiver of vast promise, but the still-sought pass rusher would have to come via free agency, which owing to the NFL lockout would be rendered a frenzy.

Speaking in his office shortly after noon Friday, Dimitroff said, “I feel calm amid this ostensible disarray.” An hour later, he felt positively serene. An hour later, the Falcons had their pass rusher.

They’d landed the free agent Ray Edwards, formerly of Minnesota. And here we stand back to assess what the Falcons have done over an offseason complicated by a work stoppage: Upgraded at receiver, upgraded at defensive end and retained right tackle Tyson Clabo, a free agent himself. If they do nothing else, they look to be a better team than they were last season, and last season they were 13-3. They look to be better because their master planner had, yet again, planned masterfully.

“When we’re called on to adapt,” Dimitroff said, “we want to be adaptable. This league is about being adaptable. The best teams are.”

There was a time — decades of it, actually — when the Falcons were among the NFL’s klutzes. That time ended when Arthur Blank found this GM by way of a webcam interview. Since January 2008 this has been a model organization, smart and assertive and prescient. These Falcons had a plan to handle the lockout. These Falcons have a plan for everything.

“Nothing has surprised me as yet,” Dimitroff said, meaning about the post-lockout process Blank had called “free agency on steroids.” The Falcons made a quick pitch to Charles Johnson, but that defensive end chose to re-up with Carolina for the stunning sum of $72 million ($30 million guaranteed) over six seasons.

Dimitroff again: “This is a puzzle, and it all has to fit together from a skill standpoint and a character standpoint, but it also has to fit financially.”

The Falcons landed Edwards for $30 million ($11.5 guaranteed) over five seasons. That’s a fit cut from regal cloth.

The day had begun with the Falcons shedding Jamaal Anderson and Michael Jenkins, first-round draftees from a previous regime. That was done to clear money for Edwards, who would come aboard not long after the first practice of Training Camp 2011 — a short and sedate walkthrough –  ended. (There would be another session, this one with helmets, in the afternoon.)

“As a staff, we were so prepared going into this,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve done a good job of being patient, and we’d said that going in: ‘We have to be patient when things go awry a little bit.’ ”

Nothing really did. The Falcons took a run at Johnson but wound up with Edwards, who’s likewise a left end and who has had 29 1/2 sacks over five NFL seasons to Johnson’s 21 1/2 over four. And they did it at less than half the price.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but these aren’t your father’s Dumb Ol’ Falcons. Dimitroff is shrewd enough to know what to do, bold enough to do it.  “When we started, we said we didn’t want to get to the point where we were over-analyzing things,” he said. “There can be a tendency to second-guess and to hesitate, and when you do that you don’t get the person and you’re left holding your backside wondering, ‘What happened?’ ”

What happened Friday was this: The Falcons reported to camp and were given an immediate jolt by news that their GM had delivered. The first day of on-field work ended with this franchise closer to holding the Lombardi Trophy than at any time since Rod Smith beat Eugene Robinson deep in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXIII.

It’s traditional on the first day of camp to guzzle Gatorade by the jug. On this Friday, an exception needed to be made: The Falcons should have raised a glass of the grape to their snowboarding architect. He’d done his part. The rest is up to them.

By Mark Bradley

113 comments Add your comment

JP86

July 29th, 2011
5:47 pm

JP86

July 29th, 2011
5:47 pm

Go Falcons!!!

Mark Bradley

July 29th, 2011
5:54 pm

JP86, kudos.

view from the east

July 29th, 2011
5:54 pm

The falcons have always had busts at defensive line [other thna Claude Humphrey] with first round picks. Much better in free agency with line players.

Whopper Dawg

July 29th, 2011
5:56 pm

I haven’t been as big a fan as many of TD, due mainly to his drafts since his first one. But you have to applaud this one.

Spanish Speaking Sicilian

July 29th, 2011
6:02 pm

Hopefully they don’t play the Packers in the playoffs again.

MB, it would be great if you could predict the NFL standings like you did the SEC

fifth

July 29th, 2011
6:03 pm

Not to be excessively picky, but Cbabo is a RIGHT tackle, I believe (4th para). Sorry.

Macroscopically, a nice article.

Sly Ty

July 29th, 2011
6:03 pm

Dimitroff has done and OUTSTANDING JOB. I certainly hope that he gets Blalock done in the next couple days, and then take care of Brent Grimes and perhaps get up Carlos Rodgers as well. At this point though, if these things don’t happen he has already been greatly successful. Thanks Mr.Dimitroff.

fifth

July 29th, 2011
6:04 pm

auugghhh, Clabo, Mia Culpa alphabet police.

HATinGA

July 29th, 2011
6:04 pm

Love the Edwards move! The Beerman was better when he wasnt playing every down!!

Boston Dawg

July 29th, 2011
6:07 pm

Yeah football!

Jamaaliver

July 29th, 2011
6:11 pm

Can’t wait to see Monday’s Heat Check, MB. I suspect the Falcs will be burning up the charts!!

Backup WR is suddenly a question mark. Will Eric Weems, Harry Douglas be ready to step up. Any chance we re-sign Finneran for depth and Special Teams play?

jdawg

July 29th, 2011
6:14 pm

we need to add another corner….then we will be set

j

July 29th, 2011
6:17 pm

extremus

July 29th, 2011
6:17 pm

Great move. If the Falcons can stay healthy, the defensive upgrade alone should be enough to contend for a Superbowl championship.

Bill

July 29th, 2011
6:25 pm

Good pickup, but far from putting the Falcons in the superbowl. They need much more defensive help and another offensive lineman. I think that Ronnie Brown could help this team.

JD2

July 29th, 2011
6:30 pm

The fearless got nnamdi asomugha. Do u guy think we can make a run at assante Samuel

Jeff

July 29th, 2011
6:32 pm

He had me worried, but after seeing the terms of this deal, I realize that Dmitroff really delivered. Way to go!

D-Man

July 29th, 2011
6:32 pm

For all the wanna-be GMs who ripped the Falcons and Dimitroff for drafting Julio Jones like that was the ONLY move that would be made going “OMG We need defense! What are the doing? Dimitroff and Blank are idiots…blah blah”

Could you please leave this genius to his work now and be quiet? Good move Birds!!

JD2

July 29th, 2011
6:33 pm

The eagles just signed nnamdi asomugha. I think it is time to go after assante Samuel.

Sly Ty

July 29th, 2011
6:43 pm

Brent Grimes and Assante Samuel are virutally the same player. Samuel has had more exsposure because of the big games he has been in against Peyton Manning. They both are good at playing off coverage, and neither is a big guy. Sign Grimes after re-signing Blalock. We are good. Oh yeah, TO BAD FOR ALL YOU JET FANS.

Paddy

July 29th, 2011
6:54 pm

TD’s job is like the National Security Advisor to any president. See the big picture and try and find out what will be the next be thing to pop up on the screen. Then be able to tell his boss (Mr Blank) how he plans to solve it. The good ones stay on the job a long time because thay use their mind in a way no one else can. They are to be relied upon and most important, listened to. We have a very good mgt team in ATL. TD thinks, Mr Blank listens!

SimpleDawg

July 29th, 2011
6:58 pm

Don’t look now, but the Eagles just landed that cornerback with the funny name……

They now have the 2 best corners on one team in the NFL. This could be trouble for Matty and the Boys…..

clay

July 29th, 2011
7:02 pm

falcons and eagles are going to be a hell of a game. they finish 1 and 2 in nfc.

STEELY DAN MAN

July 29th, 2011
7:41 pm

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL ?

bamaguy

July 29th, 2011
7:51 pm

For the first time, in a long time, I am excited about the Falcons.

bigcalidawg

July 29th, 2011
8:14 pm

For Edwards, not a lot of sacks, considering he was opposite side of Jared Allen. Hopefully, Abe has a lot left in the tank, cuz Edwards is serviceable, but no sack machine.

M10

July 29th, 2011
8:15 pm

The Eagles have 3 probowl cornerbacks thats crazy.

allweatherfan

July 29th, 2011
8:15 pm

Great job Falcons brass! Now lets get depth in the secondary and we should have a pretty good chance at continuing on the success of last season. Bamaguy is 3 straight years of winning seasons (first back to back in history) not worthy of getting excited?

Blue

July 29th, 2011
8:16 pm

Super bowl champs are not built around corners New England, Green Bay, PITT, Colts all have average corners, todays football is about rushing the QB on D and protecting the OB on Off

Tech Engineer

July 29th, 2011
8:41 pm

Things are looking good for the Falcons if they can avoid key injuries. I’m anxious for the season to begin. I was at the Super Bowl in Tampa when the Falcons loss. I hope to see the Falcons win the Super Bowl soon.

casual

July 29th, 2011
9:12 pm

I think it was an excellent move and at value even better. I had thought that it would be smarter to wait for free agency to try to address DE as it is less risky. It is going to be interesting as it appears every team in the division made improvements. The Eagles appear to be going all in this year. Here is to hoping that the dog killer flops on the big stage and drags them down with him.

Draggin Fly

July 29th, 2011
9:13 pm

Tech Engineer – If you were in Tampa for SuperBowl 33, you were by yourself. The Falcons were in the Super Bowl in Miami.

justin

July 29th, 2011
9:26 pm

Realistically, will we add any other free agents and who?

donkkkk

July 29th, 2011
9:34 pm

Your kidding me right? Ray Edwards has never had more than 8 sacks in a season playing for a team with the best defensive line in football which means he is never double teamed and last year was a big disappointment. The problem is the Eagles just got a lot better, the Packers are still the same team and the Saints improved on offense, defense and special teams. I would not be surprised to see the Falcons end up behind Tampa this year. Clearly the Saints/Packers and Eagles are the class of the NFC.

Mave

July 29th, 2011
9:35 pm

What I like is that this will be the biggest move we make…and I like it…guys lighting up the boards asking for big names like this is fantasy football…that doesn’t work. TD is buidling like the Pats, like the Steelers (they don’t make big FA splashes doling out tons of cash)…draft, develop, get some mid-level FAs to supplement and let the system deliver you to the playoffs. We just have to get over that hump and win that SB.

BobDawg

July 29th, 2011
10:13 pm

Dimitrov did good but I wonder if the “Iggles” did better bringing in 2 Pro-Bowlers at CB???? It is going to be a war this season between the Falcons/Iggles and Packers… Both Falcons and Eagles realize that the Pack is young and could dominate the league with Rodgers for several years…. Both done good….

felix the cat

July 29th, 2011
10:18 pm

Glad I get to watch from sixth row section 134.. Go Falcons!

Collin

July 29th, 2011
10:41 pm

Donkkk you are saying we Didn’t upgrade at WR and DE?

I think some people just don’t understand how moves like the ones we’ve made can change the entire complexity of a team, good DEs on both sides means better secondary play. Good WRs on both sides means better RB and Slot (or TE) play. People can keep bringing up Green Bay in the playoffs but that was the perfect storm of an ungodly performance by Aaron Rodgers, and a Bad one by us.

falcon

July 29th, 2011
10:46 pm

UGA 1999 where are you? LOL the man who thinks he knows everything and say the falcons are gonna get CB from Oakland…….well you were WRONG! It just reminds folks to not listen to the silly little blogger.

Connie Lingous

July 29th, 2011
10:56 pm

To get to the Super Bowl we will need a QB that does not crap his drawers in the playoffs, and I am not sure we have a guy like that under enter now based on what he has shown in his playoff losses to date.

Bradley, I’m surprised you’d award us the Lombardi Trophy so quickly. Gives me a queasily familiar feeling to your declaration the Braves were equivalent in 1996 to the 1927 Yankees just before we got swept out after leading 2-0.

Come on Bradley, get real.

Tdawg

July 29th, 2011
11:03 pm

I am laughing at the Eagles who have tied up way too much of their payroll on the corners when we all know it starts in the middle. Kincaid will not be sleeping well tonight

omar

July 29th, 2011
11:36 pm

go away Connie Lingous. You clown

chickenman

July 29th, 2011
11:55 pm

Great signing… i was worried for a moment but when i saw them clear space i knew we got our guy! Side note . was at camp today and was impressed with jaquizz… and other than julio’s lack of care on special teams he dident drop a single pass

donkkkk

July 30th, 2011
12:00 am

WR is the hardest position to make a difference as a rookie. Allen is barely above average. Eagles got much much better on defense, Saints added huge weapons to the best offense in the league and upgraded their defense significantly. Packers didn’t lose anyone. I’m telling you Falcons will be lucky to make the playoffs and Bradley has them going to Super Bowl. Worst Homer reporting I have seen in quite a while.

Ducks Fan

July 30th, 2011
1:47 am

A good (necessary) pickup for the Falcons, but I still don’t think we handle GB, Philly and NO, who will all be stronger next season.

Dr. Warren

July 30th, 2011
2:08 am

Backup running back is now a problem. MB, how does Michael Turner look? Is he in shape or overweight like he was in ‘09?

Go Vikes

July 30th, 2011
3:31 am

I’m sorry falcons fans but at best you picked up an average rotational DE who has a good game every 5 or 6 games(if that). He won’t solve any of your defensive problems.

Russ

July 30th, 2011
3:57 am

Forget the corners !!!! The philadelphia player the falcons have to worry about is #7!!!! We will find out very early just how close they are to a super bowl!!!!

Stinger2

July 30th, 2011
4:38 am

Bradley: Well, here you go again!! Annointing Dimitroff as “great” after signing a free agent, then saying the Falcons are one step closer to the Super Bowl. Great fodder to stir up the pot. Could you now tell us how many more steps must be taken for the Falcons to get to the Super Bowl?