For the most part, the Falcons actions in free-agency haven’t matched up with what most of the fandom has demanded or expected. Here are some of the notable actions or non-actions, and why they are important:
1. Re-signing John Abraham. The soon-to-be 34 year old defensive end has been crucial to Atlanta’s pass-rushing ability since he arrived via trade with the Jets in 2007. While his production dipped last year, and he only recorded 9.5 sacks (3.5 of which came against a beleaguered Jacksonville team) he is still the most important cog in Atlanta being able to generate some sort of pass rush. Despite Atlanta missing out on Mario Williams among other high profile free-agents, they certainly needed to upgrade their pass rush. While an upgrade was not made, what the Falcons already had was kept intact, and additional potency can augment the Falcon sack artists through the draft. A three-year deal keeping him here (no details on monetary value of the contract is out yet) will probably not be super expensive, given the market value of 34 year old defensive ends, and will keep opponents lines honest by having to keep in mind that Abraham can still make them pay for not blocking him.
2. Apparent loss of Curtis Lofton. There is no doubt that the Falcons will miss having Lofton starting at middle linebacker, but the pieces that they have added/kept on defense will probably offset the impending loss of Lofton. Lofa Tatupu is not an elite linebacker, but there is no doubting his football intelligence, and I find it very unlikely that the Falcons would sign a player like him without A) being confident in his health and B) having a plan in place. I believe that plan is to mentor our young MLB Akeem Dent, who hits a lot harder, is faster, and is more athletic. If his quarterbacking of the defense can be of a level similar to Tatupu & Lofton, the Falcons would have gotten Dent for a huge bargain. He might not be great in pass coverage; however rumor is that the Falcons did not believe Lofton was more than a two-down LB. In the end, we might not be losing as much as one would initially believe.
3. A probably signing of a Left Tackle. A week ago we reported that Marcus McNeill was released by the Chargers. On Thursday, it was reported that McNeill was going to be meeting with the Lions. The next day, more reports surfaced that McNeill would be visiting with both the Chiefs and Falcons this week. McNeill has health issues with his neck, but if he is 100% healthy as Pro Football Talk reported that he was, he would be a tremendous upgrade over Baker/Svitek (even though Svitek played reasonably well down the stretch). Another prospect for signing could be Demetrius Bell. There have been no meetings between Bell and the Falcons but he could also be a wise and inexpensive signing.
In addition, I would not be surprised to see the Falcons draft a LT this April. He will not start immediately, but a franchise LT is necessary, and one (like Matt McCants) could be found for a bargain in the draft.
The Free-agency period is not over yet for the Falcons, not by a long shot. However, most of the fury of maneuvering for free-agents is over, and signings will trickle in over the coming weeks. Stay tuned here as we turn increased attention to the draft, and potential prospects for the Falcons in this quickly approaching draft.