News from Saturday evening was that the New Orleans Saints signed former Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton. As of now, there are few ears that this news has not reached. Truly, it should surprise nobody that the Falcons did not re-sign Lofton, as many articles have been written about his impending departure. However, the fact that New Orleans is the team that signed Lofton makes the Falcons’ inactivity all the more puzzling.
Immediately after the Falcons quick exit from the playoffs, fans and Atlanta officials alike began focusing on free-agency, salary cap space, and how to improve their team. Writers around the league, including this very blog here, noted that the Saints were on the cusp of salary-cap disaster, and that the Falcons had ample cap-space to sign just about anyone they wanted. When combined with contract re-structuring and cuts of certain players (Baker/Mughelli), the Falcons could open up even more cap space, and give them further opportunity to make this team to a higher level personnel wise even before the draft.
Things seem to have gone awry. In their January 10 press conference, Arthur Blank and Thomas Dimitroff both assured Falcons fans that there would be ‘no sacred cows’. I took that to mean there would be no re-signings or unnecessarily large contracts given to players based on past performance or loyalty to the team; each and EVERY player would be re-assessed and given his fair market value–nobody’s job would be safe after another quick exit from the playoffs.
It seems that ‘no sacred cows’ comment was lip service.
The Falcons re-signed Kroy Biermann to a three-year deal that averages just over $3 million a season. Thomas DeCoud signed a 5-year deal that averages $3.5 million a year, and could be worth more based on incentives in his contract. Lets not even really factor in the monumental amount of cap space that Grimes is taking up with the having the franchise tag applied to him ($10.6 million). Biermann has a very high motor, but as of now, nobody has confused him with Jared Allen. It isn’t a huge contract, but it isn’t necessarily indicative of the production that Biermann actually brings to the table. DeCoud’s contract brings him to the level of pay of the likes of Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes, Houston’s Danieal Manning, and Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark. I’ll let you in on a little hint here: DeCoud is not nearly as good a player in coverage as any of those three, yet the Falcons are paying him like he is.
These players who have become our very own ‘sacred cows’ have taken up a great deal of our free salary cap space (at least $17 million). When you add signings of John Abraham, Jason Snelling, Vince Manuwai, Lofa Tatupu, Harry Douglas, and Chris Redman, the Falcons are left with a paltry $2 million in free salary cap space. Granted, a number of the aforementioned players were crucial role players for this team, but the amount of money they take up remains.
So much for ‘no sacred cows’.
This is what makes the Falcons losing Curtis Lofton in free-agency–to the Saints no less– all that more shocking. The Saints were supposed to be in a world of hurt financially. After tagging Drew Brees, they shouldn’t have had any cap space to do much of anything. Instead, they were able to re-sign Colston, add guard Ben Grubbs to offset the loss of Carl Nicks, sign a couple of other players for depth, and land our starting middle linebacker. Their re-structuring of contract, and apparent creativity in finagling salary-cap numbers have allowed them to sign players at positions that their free-agents departed, and at some spots (MLB for example) improve.
How are the Falcons not being this creative? Is Thomas Dimitroff not able or too shy to ask our player to re-structure their contracts? Are these players really becoming our ‘sacred cows’, or is there really a higher plan of which we have no knowledge? I understand not wanting to free up cap space now that may cripple the team in future seasons, but would perhaps a few restructurings be wise? It just seems to this observer that the Falcons have taken a step back after the initial free-agency period. Nearly every position player was re-signed; no upgrades were made. The one position where the player was not re-signed, he was lost to our most bitter rival. If the grand scheme is to go into 2012 with the exact same team that went 10-6 and was bounced quickly by the Giants in the playoffs, Falcons fans could be in for a very long 2012 season.
Thoughts on the Falcons and their ‘sacred cows’?