Thomas Dimitroff hinted to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Constitution that the Falcons may not be serious bidders for big-name free agents. It seemed the excuse for that was that some of his other efforts in that arena have not turned out too well for the team.
Well, he’s right. Dimitroff’s track record is sketchy when it comes to free agency. It started off well, when in 2008 Dimitroff signed free agent running back Michael Turner, who turned out to be a tremendous player for the Falcons for several seasons.
But others have simply not turned out to be good acquisitions. We all seemed to want Ray Edwards, as it was the worst secret in the NFL that the Falcons wanted the free agent defensive end. It was a disaster, however, and Edwards is just the first one that stands out.
Dunta Robinson is another example. The free agent cornerback had played six years with the Texans. He was a hometown kid, from Athens, Georgia. But his three years with the Falcons were less than spectacular. Robinson did not live up to the six-year, $54 million contract he signed prior to the 2010 season.
Two years ago the Falcons signed Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson and Jon Asamoah right when free agency started. While Soliai was a decent run stopper, he is expected to be released soon. Jackson has been average, while Asamoah did not fit the new blocking scheme last season and was released after one year.
Last offseason the Falcons signed Brooks Reed and Justin Durant in free agency. Both players were hurt for a chunk of the season, and Durant was released right after the Super Bowl.
So the number of free agent pickups that have worked out have been few and far between. Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield were decent additions last year, but they were on one-year contracts and are free agents again now.
Dimitroff’s shaky record with free agents cannot deter him from being aggressive in this year’s free agent market. Why? Well, the Falcons just have too many needs to not be an active player.
They need two wide receivers, at least two interior offensive linemen, two defensive linemen, a couple of linebackers, a safety and possibly another cornerback. Those needs can’t all be fixed in the draft, especially since the Falcons only have five draft picks this season.
The Falcons may not be able to afford a big-name free agent, and that’s because they have so many needs they may have to focus on quantity as much as quality. Plus, big-name, big-dollar free agents are not always the answer. Sometimes those smaller names can work, if they are the right fit.
But the Falcons do have a void in leadership that might be fixed with a veteran player that could come in and make an impact on and off the field. For example, Charles Johnson was released by the Panthers this past week. There could be a good debate about how much Johnson may have left in the tank. He’ll be 29 this season and is coming off his most injury-plagued season of his career.
Johnson could fill a huge need as a leader, and that’s something the Falcons are going to have to address this offseason. They have Jonathan Babineaux on defense, but that’s about it. Offensively, the release of Roddy White takes away that unit’s best leader, so perhaps a veteran offensive lineman (Alex Mack, perhaps) would fit as well.
Dimitroff and his staff of a thousand former general managers are likely huddled up as we write this debating who to target. Their decisions will shape a 2016 roster that needs to produce, with the looming new stadium in the background of the Georgia Dome.
It should be an interesting week.
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