All signs seem to show that Falcons WR Brian Finneran is on his way out in 2011. Finneran, who is 35 and will be an unrestricted free agent if and when the lockout is lifted, has stated that he plans to continue playing football in an interview with D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC.
Finneran, who was not expected to be resigned this offseason, made it clear that the Falcons no longer consider him part of their plans.
"They said they wanted to give some of the younger guys some opportunities to come up and make plays" said Finneran. "I had a good conversation with coach Smith and Thomas (Dimitroff). We kind of patted each other on the back for about 10 minutes and said our thank yous and goodbyes," he went on to say.
While his veteran expertise and leadership in the locker room will surely be missed, the move certainly makes sense. Over the past three years, it has become pretty clear to most people that the Falcons are looking to get younger at the receiver position.
In fact, the Falcons have taken a WR in the draft three out of the past four years: Harry Douglas in 2008, Kerry Meier in 2010, and of course the monster trade to nab Julio Jones in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. There simply is no room for Finneran on a roster whose receiving corps, in addition to the previous three draft picks mentioned, also includes All-Pro Roddy White, semi-capable vet Michael Jenkins, and kick return specialist Eric Weems.
Still, Mr. First Down, as many Falcons fans lovingly call him, has been with the team since way back in 2000. His career year came back in 2002, when he established himself as a favorite target of QB Mike Vick, amassing 56 catches for 838 yards and six TD catches while starting all 16 games. He then battled through two tough knee surgeries that caused him to miss all of 2006 and 2007, and has since returned to the team to be an offensive and special teams contributor.
During his time as a Falcon, he established himself as a source of veteran leadership as well as a beloved figure in the Atlanta community. He is a good man, a father, and most of all a hard working and dedicated football player who hopefully will be able to catch on with another team this offseason. I'm sure there is a team out there who could use some of his hitting power on special teams.
For those who recently grew up as Falcons fans, Finn was always a beloved member of the team, the kind of guy coaches love having in the locker room. There is no doubt in my mind he will be missed.
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