Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons: Why They Can't Afford to Miss on Any Pick in the 2012 NFL Draft

Matt Ryan's chance of making a run deep into the playoffs might be over.
Matt Ryan's chance of making a run deep into the playoffs might be over.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Sigmund BloomNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 6, 2012

GM Thomas Dimitroff has been raked over the coals for the Julio Jones trade in the 2011 NFL Draft repeatedly because the price of two firsts, a second and two fourth-round picks just seems like too much for any wide receiver. Jones did a lot to counteract that by showing the gaudy physical attributes that made Dimitroff throw caution to the wind last April, but the trade is starting to look even worse because of the gathering storm around the team in free agency.

The Falcons are fortunate to have over 20 million dollars in cap room, because they have five key players entering free agency:

Falcons fans should be praying that they don't see Curtis Lofton walk away in free agency
Falcons fans should be praying that they don't see Curtis Lofton walk away in free agencyKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ILB Curtis Lofton

DE John Abraham

DE Kroy Biermann

C Todd McClure

FS Thomas DeCoud (Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Falcons have re-signed DeCoud)

In addition, the team will either have to sign No. 1 CB Brent Grimes to a long-term deal or pay him the $10.6 million franchise tag number for cornerbacks this year, find a way to retain or replace No. 3 WR Harry Douglas and KR/PR Eric Weem, and begin to plan for a future without starting RB Michael Turner and TE Tony Gonzalez.

Did I mention that the team's left tackle situation is a complete mess as Dimitroff's second-ever draftee, Sam Baker, is falling apart? How about big 2011 free agent signing Ray Edwards being a bust in his first year as a Falcon?

Dimitroff began his tenure as GM by finding the team's franchise QB, but Matt Ryan hasn't taken the team to the next level in the playoffs and his deteriorating offensive line is causing him to get antsy in the pocket way too often.

It doesn't matter how good his weapons at WR are if he doesn't feel comfortable enough to find them downfield. In addition, if the team can't generate a pass rush to slow down the likes of Drew Brees and Cam Newton, they may find themselves on the outside looking in come January. The harsh reality for the Falcons is that the best of the Dimitroff/Smith era might be behind them.

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