Whilst not being arguably the most glamorous position on the football field, the fullback can be a very influential force. The Falcons now have quite a dilemma over the future of this position that will need to be made soon this offseason.
The Falcons have not had to worry about the fullback position for the last few seasons, as they were blessed with one of the best in the league, Ovie Mughelli who fit perfectly into the Mularkey power run scheme.
Ovie started the 2011 season in fine form, until he picked up a season ending ACL (knee) injury against Detroit in week 7. His absence was clear to be seen, the inside push from the offensive line was not the same as it has been in years past and not having the elite lead blocker in front of the running back clearly hurt the Falcons. The big 4th down calls at the end of the Saints game in Week 10 and in the playoff game vs the Giants could well have turned out differently if Ovie was in the lineup.
While Mughelli is clearly one of the best lead blockers in the league, his chances of returning as an Atlanta Falcon next year looks doubtful at this point. For a start, the obvious implications of returning from an ACL injury must be a concern. An ACL is usually said take two years to fully heal and Mughelli’s performance in 2012 would likely be down on his performances from years past. With Ovie also being 31, returning from such a serious injury becomes even more of a challenge.
The change in offensive scheme does not favour Mughelli either. Incoming Falcons OC Dirk Koetter is looking to install a more pass heavy offense, where the players in the backfield will need to chip in catching the ball. While Mughelli has caught some passes in the past it certainly has not been his strong point. The Falcons, I would guess are looking for a more versatile fullback that would fit this scheme better and can add to the team in many different ways.
The last factor not playing in Mughelli’s favour is money. Ovie is set to make $3.8 million including bonuses in 2012. That is an extraordinary amount for a fullback to earn in today’s pass happy NFL, especially for an ageing player coming off an ACL injury. If the Falcons were to make the decision to cut or trade him they would save approx $3 million against the cap. At a time when the Falcons need all the cap room they can get to resign key players, it has to be playing on the front offices mind.
So should the Falcons cut Ovie Mughelli?
I have to say regrettably yes, if the figures I have been given are true. It’s a tough one because Ovie is a really good leader on this team and could still have some sort of an impact on this offense. But to cut him would be the cost effective decision and the best for the future of the franchise.
If Ovie goes who do the Falcons get to replace him?
Mike Cox stepped in for Mughelli when he went down last season and did an okay job. I expect him to be in training camp to get an opportunity to fight for the spot. I just can’t see him being the long term answer at this point and I would say there are better options out there, for the falcons to consider.
Although Cox may not be the answer, the Falcons don’t have to look far in my opinion; as I see it, Jason Snelling would be a terrific fit for the fullback spot in this scheme. He is an incredibly versatile athlete that can catch passes out of the backfield, pass block, and be the lead blocker when called upon.
Snelling is a free agent, however and will need to be resigned. A part of me says he could leave but this expanded role in the offense could make resigning him some what of a priority.
Other potential replacements include Chiefs FB Le’Ron McClain & Chargers FB Jacob Hester who both are decent pass catches out of the backfield.
What say you guys? Should Mughelli Go? Who do we get to replace him? Have your opinion in the comments box below.