Offseason review: Atlanta Falcons

BY foxsports • May 29, 2011

Pre-Draft Needs

DE, WR, OLB, G, CB

Draft Class

Round 1-Julio Jones/WR
Round 3-Akeem Dent/LB
Round 5-Jacquizz Rodgers/RB
Round 6-Matt Bosher/K-P
Round 7-Andrew Jackson/G
Round 7-Cliff Matthews/DE

Potential Free Agents of Note

Jason Snelling/FB-RB
Jerious Norwood/RB
Eric Weems/WR-KR-PR
Justin Blalock/G
Harvey Dahl/G
Tyson Clabo/ORT
Stephen Nicholas/OLB
Mike Peterson/LB
Brian Williams/CB
Matt Bryant/K
Michael Koenen/P

Post-Draft Needs

DE, G (depth), CB (depth), OLB (depth)

Analysis

While the move was somewhat of a surprise, the decision to trade up for wide receiver Julio Jones made perfect sense. The Falcons gave up a lot to get him, but Jones will finally give the team badly stability opposite veteran wide receiver Roddy White. The Falcons simply couldn’t keep up with the firepower from the Green Bay Packers during last season’s home playoff loss. With Jones in the fold, veteran wide receiver Michael Jenkins will be expected to be a backup. Jenkins, who has two years left on his contract, is scheduled to earn $3.5 million in base salary this season, which could be deemed too much to pay for a projected backup, so he could be in store for a pay reduction.

The Falcons also had a big need at defensive end coming into the draft, but did not address it until the seventh round. The expectation is that the team will look toward free agency to fill the job opposite veteran John Abraham, who is on the final year of his contract.

Another big need coming into the draft was at outside linebacker.

Third-round pick linebacker Akeem Dent, who played outside in his first three seasons at the University of Georgia, played inside last season. He projects to play on the strong-side with the Falcons — the position he played through his junior season. He was moved inside during his senior season due to the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme.

Both of Atlanta’s starting guards, Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl are unsigned. Should one or both become an unrestricted free agent once free agency begins, that would make guard a need. Second-year guard Mike Johnson could get a chance to start if Blalock or Dahl wind up signing elsewhere.

The Falcons could have a depth problem at running back should veteran Jason Snelling leave during free agency. Not only did he become a solid backup for starting running back Michael Turner last season, but he became the Atlanta’s third down back. The team prepared for the possibility of losing Snelling by selecting Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round. The diminutive back figures to be Turner’s backup and possible third-down back for the long-term.

With veteran cornerback Brian Williams turning 32 in July and unsigned, the Falcons will need to address his nickel role in free agency. Third-year pro Chris Owens showed that he might be up for the role during his rookie season, but Williams beat him out for it last season.



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