First the Falcons released William Moore and Justin Durant, two veteran defensive starters from last season. Then just last week, the Falcons released veteran wide receiver Roddy White.
These three players had something in common. They were all leaders on the team. While he became injury-prone, Moore had great value to the team while on the field and in the locker room. Durant was only there one season, but he quickly gained respet of his teammates. And no one on the roster was more respected than White.
So now what? Who are the Falcons to turn to for leadership on the team? Well, it's slim pickens, at least right now. That's why seeking leaders should be high on the priority list when the Falcons tackle free ageny this week.
Over the weekend word leaked that former Rams' linebacker James Laurinaitis would be visiting Flowery Branch and might be on the Falcons' radar. Some fans reacted negatively to that report, believing that Laurinaitis was past his prime and that the Falcons were once again going after a cheap option instead of a young star.
But Laurinaitis is exactly the type of player the Falcons need. He's 29 years old and has played in the NFL for seven years. Laurinaitis has never missed a game - starting 16 games in every single season.
Are Laurinaitis' skills decreasing with age? Certainly. That's probably a given. He's likely not the player he was when he was 25. But the Falcons need a veteran that has experience to show the younger players on the team what is expected from a NFL player.
How would Charles Johnson do in that role? He'll turn 30 this summer and has been in the NFL for nine seasons. The Panthers released Johnson last week. Sure, Johnson is probably not the player he once was a few years ago. But Johnson did show when he came back from his injury for the playoffs that he can still be effective.
Would Johnson help a player like Ra'Shede Hageman or Vic Beasley? Certainly.
How about on offense? The Falcons have two young players at tackle - Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder. Both players will be in their third seasons this year. Todd McClure is long gone, and there really hasn't been a leader on the offensive line since he left a few years ago.
Would Alex Mack help that cause? Mack is the best center available in free agency. He's going to cost a lot, but the Falcons need a center in the worst way. They need an anchor on that line of scrimmage. They can't look to Matthews or Schraeder, at least not yet, to lead the line. They need a veteran. They need Alex Mack.
So as Atlanta's front office looks to improve the team this week in free agency, let's hope they also look at potential leaders. This roster is in dire need for a few that could help the young players and make this team better. You shouldn't have to sacrifice talent for leadership. There should be options available that can provide both to a team that has a roster needing both.
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