Decisions…decisions…. In terms of the NFL, 2012 could be a life or death year for the Falcons. The Falcons are swinging for the fences with two strikes. The pre-swing rocking motion seems to be giving us enough momentum to push this team past the metaphorical fence that is the Super Bowl, but the window for the team is a shrinking strike zone. With crucial players aging, and others expecting unrealistic amounts of money through free-agency, I see this year as vert critical for the organization (especially when you have teams like the Carolina Panthers on the rise).
The Saints are in a very tough position this off-season, and the fact that they are having to let go of key players could happen to any team. I love the fact that the Falcons are trying to work a long term deal now with Matt Ryan instead of waiting for the last second (this way we can structure it in a way to get him some help, unlike Brees who is getting paid but losing a lot of his weapons and shields). This team as a whole is in its prime; especially with the re-signings of Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud, Jason Snelling, and Kroy Bierrmann. This is even more the reason to solidify our middle linebacker position for the next 4-5 years.
I am all for re-signing Curtis Lofton. Yes, there are a number of linebacker prospects in the draft, and if the Falcons believe they can snag a solid starter with a late second round pick, I will back the decision. But I struggle to think this will happen…. I do know a safe pick though, and that is the beast that has maned the middle for the last four years. He was the 5th leading tackler in the NFL last season, and in an era where defensive players torpedo themselves into runners instead of wrapping them up, a sure tackler is extremely valuable…..at the right price…..
And that is exactly the problem. Curtis Lofton is looking to get paid, and a number of teams will pay for a sure tackler. If the Falcons can re-sign Lofton (one of my favorite players) at the right price (6-8 million a year) and still work to get another defensive end, the defense (on paper) will be as stout as the Guinness I will be enjoying in a couple days (Happy St. Patrick’s Day).
If we can’t re-sign Lofton, I’m not sure a decent starter is on the roster for middle linebacker. I know the organization is high on Akeem Dent, but when I asked Jeff Schultz (a writer and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) via twitter he stated “Not sure they’d (the Falcons organization) consider him ready”. The one person I wouldn’t mind them picking up as a very short term answer would be…..yes…..I’m saying it….. The soon to be 37 year old monster London Fletcher.
Yes London Fletcher is hitting Brett Favre status, but he is still (if not the most) productive and efficient in his craft. He led the league last year with 166 tackles (almost 20 more than Lofton), and the talks with the Redskins as of late seem to be going south. If the Falcons can get him for an old man discount (unlike Abraham), they can still have money to go out and pick up another defensive end, or at least get time to figure out who will be on deck to fill the long term middle linebacker slot in Mike Nolan’s defensive scheme.
It is no secret that the Falcons must put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks in order for our defensive backs to be successful. Since we have the same four defensive backs returning, the Falcons must have an ace closer to strike down passing offenses late. Talks have gone through saying that the Falcons are going to prepare for a more pass heavy style of play. Does this mean they could go out and steal a Cortland Finnegan from the Titans while they try to pick up a Peyton Manning (this would move either Dunta Robinson or Brent Grimes to the slot). In saying that, who would you rather have in the batters box for the Falcons if you could only have one: Curtis Lofton? Mario Williams? or Cortland Finnegan?
These next few weeks should get very interesting, and will show Falcons fans the direction this team will be heading…..