Abraham’s price tag too high for Falcons

Defensive John Abraham may be pricing himself out of Atlanta.

His six-year reign of terror on quarterbacks in the NFC South could soon come to an end.

The Falcons are set to meet with Abraham’s agent Rich Rosa here Saturday or Sunday for a “do or die” negotiation, Rosa told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday morning before the NFLPA agents meeting.

Abraham, who was a guest on the “2 Live Stews” radio show on 790 The Zone on Wednesday afternoon, said he wanted to be paid “12 (million dollars)-plus” per season.

“If I was playing terrible … no question, five million,” Abraham said. “I’m not a money chaser, but at the same time I’m expecting to get paid like everybody else is getting paid.

“Check out the five top ends. Everybody is getting 12-plus. I made eight million last year. Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, he’s so greedy.’ How am I greedy when I’m just trying to get paid the same thing they are getting paid? There are guys out there getting more money than me, but my production is the same as theirs or at least close.”

Abraham wants to stay with the Falcons.

“I don’t want to go nowhere,” Abraham said. “I love Atlanta. I got an ‘A’ (tattooed) on me right here. I love it here. I have red and black all over my body.”

While the sides have not discussed years and numbers yet, the initial discussions have not gone well. If a contract extension can’t be worked out, Abraham would become a free agent March 13, when the NFL’s new business year starts.

The Falcons want to protect themselves if Abraham’s play slips. Abraham turns 34 in May, but believes he’s playing at a high level and wants to be compensated accordingly.

Abraham’s numbers have not dipped. In his first three years with the Falcons he had 30.5 sacks. Over the past three seasons he had 28. Also, he has forced 17 fumbles during his stay with the Falcons.

Abraham would like to play another three seasons. The Falcons want to sign him, but have some financial constraints with 17 possible free agents and other important players, such as quarterback Matt Ryan, due for contract extensions in the future.

“Obviously, we’d like to have John back on our football team,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We believe he’s a fine football player.”

Dimitroff is expecting a busy free agency season.

“This is a very big free-agency class,” Dimitroff said. “People really like that we’re going back to having free agency before the draft. It allows us to make moves in free agency and it takes the stress over the precariousness of how the draft is going to land.

“I think that is an aspect of team building that I would suggest most of us as coaches, general managers and team builders, would believe that is very beneficial for us. I do believe there is going to be a lot of movement because of the sheer numbers of this year’s class.”

NOTES, QUOTES

-General manager Thomas Dimitroff reflecting on the trade with the Cleveland Browns that allowed the Falcons to move up 21 spots in the draft to select Julio Jones.

“We talked about it within our organization before and leading into the draft, throughout the season and (post-season),” Dimitroff said. “It’s something that I’ve said from the very beginning, our move and our desire to have Julio Jones on our team was something that we feel very, very comfortable with. We accomplished, in our minds, becoming more explosive.

“We also believe that we need to continue to grow as an offense and we will never look back on our move as being one that was overly expensive. It was something that we deemed was right for the organization at the time.”

The Falcons believe that Jones has started to already pay dividends.

“I think Julio had a fine rookie year,” Dimitroff said. “He missed three games with a (hamstring) injury (and a major part of two others because of injury). He was just shy of 1,000 yards. He led all rookies in touchdown (receptions). He made an impact on our football team that we enjoyed on so many levels.”

-Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is 43-19 over his four years in the regular season. He’s 0-3 in the playoffs.

The Falcons believe he will continue to improve and that there is another level that he can ascend to.

“I believe that Matt Ryan – I’ve said point blank before and after the season – Matt Ryan is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in this league,” Dimitroff said. “I like where Matt is. I like where his development is.”

The Falcons are not worried about Ryan taking a step backwards because of another poor playoff showing.

“Matt is his harshest critic, which I like as well because he’s going to do all that he can to continue to improve, continue to win games and (learn how to) win in the post-season,” Dimitroff said. “Again, I love the fact that we have a quarterback like Matt Ryan who’s the consummate leader in the locker room as well as out on the field.”

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Falcons may have to carry on without John Abraham unless his salary demands decrease. They’ll have to find a top-flight pass rusher in free agency or the draft.

They may be interested in Robert Mathis in free agency. They also think the draft has some intriguing pass rushers.

“The edge pass rushers are something that we covet,” Dimitroff said. “They are not always easy to come across. There is a good group of guys that get up the field and turn the corner athletically and burst to the quarterback. We are all searching for that and they come in all different kind of packages.”

TEAM NEEDS:

Left tackle: Will Svitek battled at the position after taking over for Sam Baker and will likely remain No. 1 over the offseason. Because they mortgaged away part of their draft in the Julio Jones trade, the Falcons will not be in a position to take a starting left tackle early in the first round and there doesn’t figure to be one left when they select with the 55th pick in the second round. They are expected to scour the free agency list and come away with a veteran tackle to throw into the mix. Don’t discount Marcus McNeill if he’s released by San Diego.

Right guard: The Falcons drafted Mike Johnson in the third round of the 2010 draft and expected him to step in and win the job. However, he was beaten out by Garrett Reynolds and ended up on injured reserve. When Reynolds broke down against superior athletes like Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, Joe Hawley – the center-in-waiting – had to take over. Sam Baker, whose time as the left tackle appears over, will also get a chance to win that spot.

Defensive end: With Abraham and Kroy Biermann both free agents, the Falcons could be looking for replacements for the No. 1 and No. 3 ends in their rotation. Ray Edwards, who had an uninspiring first season with the Falcons, returns. Waiting in the wings are Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews. It may be time to just put Sidbury out on the field. He’s flashed with explosive plays when given the opportunity. Matthews is a stout end, who can play the run. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan may want to keep Biermann around as a 3-4 outside linebacker rusher.

QUOTE TO NOTE

“There is some great quality in this draft. There are some positions that we think there is some great depth. I’m really impressed with this draft class. Fifty-five for us in the second round, there are always players that you can get that can significantly impact your football team and we think that we are dialed into some players at that point already.” — Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff on finding a player with the 55th pick in the draft.