Players To Re-Sign:
OT Tyson Clabo- Coming off of his first Pro Bowl selection, Clabo is definitely the most talented of the free agent group. Fortunately, it looks as if the front office is committed to keeping Clabo in a Falcons jersey this offseason. With the lack of a suitable replacement to take over next season, the Falcons will likely give Clabo a big, fat extension.
OG Justin Blalock- Of the three offensive linemen who could walk, Blalock will be the easiest to re-sign. He's the youngest of the group, and also the most balanced in terms of pass-blocking and run-blocking ability. If the team can keep Clabo, Blalock will likely be next on the list for the Falcons.
LB Mike Peterson- Though he's not getting any younger, Mo Pete still has alot he can provide for the team: leadership, experience, and the ability to mentor young LB's Weatherspoon and Dent. He's also still great at playing the run.
K Matt Bryant- Bryant should have made the Pro Bowl last season. He nailed 28 of 31 FG attempts, and you really can't ask for much more than that out of your kicker. This one should be an easy decision for the Falcons.
WR Eric Weems- He was fantastic on special teams and established himself as one of the league's top return men. Add in the fact that Kerry Meier is still rehabbing his ACL and it's basically a no-brainer for the Falcons to keep him.
Players To Let Walk:
RB Jason Snelling- Though I've discussed his potential fate at length before, Snelling wants starter money, and he'll likely get it. He's still got fresh legs at 27, which will separate him from the overused veteran backs that populate free agency. The Falcons would love to keep him, but only for the right price.
RB Jerious Norwood- Norwood just can't get on the field. He's a talented back that showed big promise only a few seasons, but if drafting Jacquizz Rodgers signals one thing, it's that Norwood is on his way out of Atlanta.
OG Harvey Dahl- Ideally the Falcons would like to keep all three starters next year, but with the team only $13.9M under the new salary cap that's not going to happen. Dahl's a solid guard known for being a nasty run blocker, but with Mike Johnson waiting in the wings, the team can afford to let him sign somewhere else.
LB Stephen Nicholas- Although he's noted that he loves Atlanta, Nicholas is still going to try and get the best deal possible. Nicholas has always been a pretty underrated linebacker in my opinion, and he is already drawing the interest of a few teams. In fact, it has been reported that the Giants have shown a lot of interest in Nicholas, looking to bring him in as a full-time starter.
CB Brian Williams- Williams' game has naturally slowed down with age, and durability is also a concern. While depth at corner is pretty thin, the Falcons will explore other options in free agency.
P Michael Koenen- Two things: A) Michael Koenen's performance took a big step back in 2010. B) The Falcons drafted punter Matt Bosher. I think you guys are smart enough to figure out what's going to happen next.
Free Agency Needs:
1. Pass-rushing DE
It seems like this has been a need for a long time, but the team certainly could still pass-rushing help. At 33, the Falcons can't necessarily bank on John Abraham being the double-digit sack force he was last season. However with the offensive line becoming priority No. 1, the Falcons are now showing less interest in a free agent DE than initially thought. You certainly can't rule anything out, but for now it seems the Ray Edwards buzz has cooled off.
Potential Targets: Ray Edwards, Charles Johnson, Jason Babin, Mathias Kiwanuka
2. Veteran Backup DB
While the Falcons have great starters at both cornerback and safety, the secondary lacks any real depth. Most of the backups are of the young and inexperienced type, players who I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable with startings games. So, the Falcons will look to sign a veteran defensive back, preferably one who can play both cornerback and safety such as Danieal Manning, who rejected an extension offer by the Bears before the lockout.
Chris Houston, Danieal Manning, Phillip Buchanon, Eric Smith, Eric Wright, Haruki Nakamura
3. Offensive Lineman
If the Falcons can keep two or all three of their O-line starters, then there's obviously no desperate need for another lineman which is great. With several young guys waiting to take over, this is really not likely. However, if they can only manage to keep one (or *shudders* none) there's a very slight possibility the Falcons go after a starting-caliber O-lineman. Again, this is pretty "pie in the sky," so don't expect this.
Potential Targets: Jared Gaither, Jammal Brown, Davin Joseph
4. Running Back Depth
If the Falcons choose not to resign both Snelling and Norwood, then the only guys on the roster behind Jacquizz are Gartrell Johnson and Antone Smith, neither of which are fantastic options. The Falcons may want to look at signing a backup running back. I'm not saying we should sign Tiki Barber, but perhaps another insurance option would be better given how much Turner carries the ball.
Potential Targets: Derrick Ward, Mike Hart, Kevin Faulk
Undrafted Free Agents:
According to the latest reports, teams will be able to sign undrafted free agents as early as 10:00 AM Tuesday. Make sure you stay tuned tomorrow for an in-depth look at all of this year's undrafted rookies.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.