It's simple, really: After rumors surfaced that Atlanta was interested in potential free agent defensive end Ray Edwards in the dead of the lockout, the wizard Thomas Dimitroff goes to work:
1. Despite your obvious intentions, walk into the shortened free agent orgy and do absolutely nothing. Let them know.
1a. Character issues? Hm. That's never been mentioned up until this point, and is now being cited freely across the national media without specific sources or in any detail. Silly facts: THOU ART BRANDED, GOODY JOHNSON.
2. Sharp right turn: Dive headfirst into a bidding war with a division rival over a player at the same position. Lose out intentionally, but not before said 2-14 rival has choked down the biggest contract possible. Congrats, doormat! You've retained a modicum of "quality!"
3. Trim the fat of draft sins past (committed previous to this regime of truth and justice, naturally). Revaluate market for said free agent and, OH LOOKY LOOKY: despite no other viable options, the duration of Edwards' time on the shelf and the nefarious "character issues" tag have pushed to the (comparative) bargain bin. It's reverse supply side economics! ("Hysteria induced, rumor mongering economics" needs more palatable alliteration. We'll work on it.)
4. Sign said "character risk" at a noticeably lower price. Enjoy a burgeoning reputation as a front office and organization with that golden touch: Where the bulk of NFL franchises fear to tread, your unwavering confidence in your locker room culture means that no wayward discipline issue is too daunting for your franchise to embrace.
It's as if the team that originally coveted Edwards set out to devalue his stock to lower his price while simultaneously boosting potential PR for their success rate in acquisitions.
All a part of the plan.