Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has a busy offseason ahead of him, but the good news is he's developed quite a trust with fans since his arrival in 2008.
Dimitroff's trademark might be his habit of making low-key moves and acquiring blue collar players, rather than using blockbuster trades and signings to create hype (the anti-Jets, if you will). That is, aside from the 2011 draft trade that headlines Dimitroff's resume. Dimitroff traded five draft picks to Cleveland in order to move up and get Julio Jones.
The other marquee signing of the general manager's tenure was Tony Gonzalez in 2009. The only blemishes are the lucrative deals given to free agents Dunta Robinson in 2010 and Ray Edwards in 2011.
Edwards only made it through a year and a half with the Falcons before being released for lack of production and possible off-field issues, while Robinson has arguably struggled to justify his contract.
In the coming months, Dimitroff's workload will include deciding what to do with the aging Michael Turner, who is on the downside of his career despite heavy pockets, wooing Gonzalez into returning for a final season, as well as making decisions on key free agents Sam Baker, William Moore and Brent Grimes.
According to ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas, the Falcons have $113 million of salary for the coming year committed towards what should be a cap of around $120 million.
Here's a speculative breakdown of how Dimitroff will handle the offseason, and whether each position should be dealt with through draft or free agency. 2013 salaries are listed in parentheses.
Player contract and salary information from from rotoworld.com
Matt Ryan (Pro Bowl): Final/six-year, $66 million ($10 million)
Dominique Davis: Secnd/three-year, $1.44 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Luke McCown
Matt Ryan should see a new deal this offseason, not next. Dominique Davis showed promise last preseason that he could be a number two in the NFL. Luke McCown didn't see a snap in 2012 after being brought up with his former offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter.
Moves to make: Sign Ryan to new deal, re-sign McCown or add free agent
Draft Priority: Low
Michael Turner: Sixth/six-year, $34.5 million ($6.9 million)
Jason Snelling: Second/three-year, $4 million ($850,000)
Jacquizz Rodgers: Third/four-year, $2.23 million ($555,000)
Bradie Ewing: Second/four-year, $2.284 million (405,000)
Free Agents: Antone Smith (restricted), Mike Cox
Michael Turner should be released after proving his decline isn't worth his paycheck, as well as the fact he doesn't fit into Koetter's offensive scheme. Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers could provide a one-two punch good enough to produce, as they complement each other well in the current system. Mike Cox was brought in to fill the void left by an injury to Bradie Ewing and the release of Lousaka Poilte, so he shouldn't be on the return board. Antone Smith is not a priority.
Moves to make: Release Turner, let Cox walk
Draft Priority: High
Chase Coffman: Final/two-year, $1.17 million ($630,000)
Tomy Gallarda: Final/two-year, $870,000 ($480,000)
Adam Nissley: Second/three-year, $1.44 million ($405,000)
Free Agents: Tony Gonzalez (Pro Bowl), Michael Palmer (Restricted)
Tony Gonzalez may or may not return. If he retires, Chase Coffman is an okay option to be the starter, but he needs to improve as a blocker. Tommy Gallarda and Adam Nissley are not starting caliber; neither is free agent Michael Palmer.
Moves to make: Try to bring back Gonzalez with one-year contract, or add tight end in free agency
Draft priority: High (Low if Gonzalez returns)
Roddy White: Fifth/six-year, $48 million ($5.6 million)
Julio Jones (Pro Bowl): Third/four-year, $16.183 million ($1,846,250)
Harry Douglas: Second/four-year, $12.5 million ($1.75 million)
Kerry Meier: Final/four-year, $1.947 million ($575,000)
Tim Toone: Second/three-year, $1.44 million ($480,000)
Kevin Cone: Second/three-year, $1.245 million ($480,000)
Drew Davis: Final/two-year, $870,000 ($480,000)
Free Agents: None
Roddy White and Julio Jones make up the best receiving tandem in the league. Harry Douglas is a solid slot receiver, but many believe that position could see an upgrade, especially if Tony Gonzalez does not come back. Drew Davis is a bang-for-buck receiver and saw considerable action in 2012. Kerry Meier, Tim Toone and Kevin Cone are not considered contenders for first-depth positions.
Moves to make: Possibly add depth through free agency
Draft Priority: Low (Medium if Gonzalez retires)
Tyson Clabo: Third/five-year, $25 million ($4.5 million)
Lamar Holmes: Second/four-year, $2.633 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Sam Baker, Will Svitek
The Falcons will likely try to re-sign Sam Baker, who progressed tremendously in 2012. Will Svitek may have enough past-play leverage to fend off a free agency decision to an outside player. Tyson Clabo struggled at times this past year but is still a lock for his position. Lamar Holmes is expected to evolve into a very solid backup.
Moves to make: Re-sign Baker, re-sign Svitek or add through free agency
Draft Priority: Medium
Justin Blalock: Third/six-year, $38.4 million ($4.5 million)
Peter Konz: Second/four-year, $3.588 million ($716,236)
Mike Johnson: Final/four-year, $2.432 million (630,000)
Joe Hawley: Final/four-year, $2.273 million ($630,000)
Phillipkeith Manley: Second/three-year, $1.44 million ($480,000)
Harland Gunn: Second/three-year, $1.44 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Garrett Reynolds
Peter Konz will inevitably move to center, which was the position he was drafted by the Falcons to play, to replace Todd McClure, who is expected to retire. Joe Hawley could follow Konz to that position. Mike Johnson has the most upside to take over at right guard, though Hawley could take that position as well if Garrett Reynolds is not re-signed.
Moves to make: Let Reynolds walk, move Konz to center, possibly move Hawley to center (assuming McClure retires)
Draft Priority: Medium
None under contract
Free Agents: Todd McClure
With Todd McClure likely hanging up the pads, Peter Konz will launch his role as the Falcons starting center. If Joe Hawley follows, which is very likely, the position will not need depth.
Moves to make: Add Konz, possibly add Hawley, possibly add through free agency (assuming McClure retires)
Draft priority: Medium
John Abraham: Second/three-year, $16.72 million ($4.25 million)
Kroy Biermann: Second/three-year, $9.15 million ($2.4 million)
Cliff Matthews: Third/four-year, $2.162 million ($480,000)
Jonathan Massaquoi: Second/four-year, $2,268,860 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Lawrence Sidbury
John Abraham has two more years left on what is undoubtedly his final NFL contract. Kroy Biermann is a solid utility, but his position will very likely be upgraded with a draft pick or free-agency signing. Jonathan Massaquoi was drafted last year to be the Falcons next project at the position, which could mean the end of the road in Atlanta for free agent Lawrence Sidbury.
Moves to make: Possibly add through free agency
Draft priority: High
Jonathan Babineaux: Final/five-year, $25 million ($4.7 million)
Corey Peters: Final/four-year, $2.557 million ($1.323 million)
Peria Jerry: Final/five-year, $10.35 million ($905,000)
Travian Robertson: Second/four-year, $2,145,896 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Vance Walker
Jonathan Babineaux is underrated in the big picture, but not within the Falcons organization. His side kick is still to be decided, however. Vance Walker might have played well enough late in the season to earn a contract with the team, while Peria Jerry has continued to struggle with filling out his potential. Jerry could even be cut, and the Falcons are expected to draft early to add at the position.
Moves to make: Possibly cut Jerry
Draft Priority: High
Stephen Nicholas: Third/five-year, $17.5 million ($2.5 million)
Sean Weatherspoon: Third/five-year, $14 million ($1,047,500)
Akeem Dent: Third/four-year, $2.76 million ($625,000)
Robert James: Final/three-year, $1.245 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: Mike Peterson
Despite being criticized for leaving the tight end open in the playoffs, Stephen Nicholas still has staying power. Not only was the issue with tight ends running free seemingly more of a scheme problem, but Nicholas led the Falcons in tackles in 2012, justifying his contract. Sean Weatherspoon is well worth the buck and is a franchise player on the defensive side of the ball. Akeem Dent has also played above his contract, but struggles against the pass. Mike Peterson has likely played his final game as a Falcon, if not his career.
Moves to make:
Draft priority: Medium
Dunta Robinson: 4th/ six-year, $57 million ($8 million)
Asante Samuel: 2nd/ three-year, $14.5 million ($3 million)
Dominique Franks: Final/ two-year, $1.17 million ($630,000)
Terrence Johnson: 1st/ two-year, $1.2 million ($555,000)
Free Agents: Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Robert McClain (Exclusive Rights)
Some say Brent Grimes should walk, but having not proven he's recovered from his Achilles injury it's likely he won't be able to leverage a fat check with one of the 31 other teams in the market. That could mean a re-signing of Grimes, who is a pass-defending machine. Dunta Robinson, who has not justified his contract on the field and is an injury risk (even with the way he tackles with his head/shoulder), could actually get the boot. Both Chris Owens and Robert McClain are worth bringing back, as McClain was a top-flight nickelback in 2012.
Moves to make: Re-sign Grimes, re-sign McClain, release Robinson
Draft priority: Low
Thomas DeCoud (Pro Bowl): Second/ five-year, $17.5 million ($1.9 million)
Shann Schillinger: Final/four-year, $1.91 million ($575,000)
Charles Mitchell: Second/ four-year, $2.202 million ($480,000)
Free Agents: William Moore (Pro Bowl), Chris Hope
Pro Bowler Thomas DeCoud struggles with downhill play at times, but his pass defense will preserve his spot with the Falcons. William Moore is the second-biggest priority for the Falcons' current free agents. Either he, or Chris Hope, would get re-signed. Charles Mitchell is a talented player that could evolve into a major bargain-starter if he had to get thrown in the fire.
Moves to make: Re-sign Moore
Draft priority: Medium
(The Falcons will retain kicker Matt Bryant and punter Matt Bosher in 2013.)
Overpaid: Michael Turner, Peria Jerry, Stephen Nicholas (eh), Dunta Robinson
Bang for Buck: Dominique Davis, Jason Snelling, Drew Davis, Lamar Holmes, Akeem Dent, Charles Mitchell
Who to bring back: Sam Baker, Will Svitek, Vance Walker, Brent Grimes, William Moore
Who to let walk: Luke McCown, Antone Smith, Garrett Reynolds, Michael Palmer, Lawrence Sidbury, Chris Hope
Who will retire: Ton Gonzalez, Todd McClure, Mike Peterson
Who to release: Michael Turner, Peria Jerry, Dunta Robinson
Draft priority: High (RB, TE, DE, DT), Medium (T, G, C, LB, S), Low (QB, WR, CB)
Projected Depth (Minus free-agent add-ons, including high and medium draft priority):
QB: Matt Ryan. Dominique Davis
TB: Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling, DRAFT PICK
FB: Bradie Ewing
WR: Julio Jones, Harry Douglas, Kerry Meier
WR: Roddy White, Drew Davis
TE: Chase Coffman, DRAFT PICK
T: Sam Baker, Will Svitek
G: Justin Blalock, DRAFT PICK
C: Peter Konz, Joe Hawley,
G: Mike Johnson, Joe Hawley
T: Tyson Clabo, Lamar Holmes
DE: John Abraham, Jonathan Massaquoi
DT: Jonathan Babineaux, Vance Walker
DT: Corey Peters, DRAFT PICK
DE: Kroy Biermann, DRAFT PICK
LB: Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent
LB: Stephen Nicholas, DRAFT PICK
CB: Brent Grimes, Chris Owens
CB: Asante Samuel, Dominique Franks
CB: Robert McClain
S: Thomas DeCoud, Charles Mitchell
S: William Moore, DRAFT PICK
K: Matt Bryant
P: Matt Bosher
LS: Josh Harris
Special Teams/Outside starting depth: Tim Toone, Kevin Cone, Tommy Gallarda, Adam Nissley, Phillipkeith Manley, Harland Gunn, Cliff Matthews, Travian Robertson, Robert James, Terrence Johnson, Shann Schillinger
Total players: 59/53
Possible cuts/Practice Squad demotions: Toone, Gallarda, Nissley, Manley, Gunn, Matthews, Johnson
Free Agents to keep eye on: Reggie Bush (TB), Chris Ivory (TB), Steven Jackson (if he opts out of final year in St. Louis, TB), Jared Cook (TE), Martellus Bennett (TE), Dwight Freeney (DE), Cliff Avril (DE), Michael Johnson (DE), Michael Bennett (DE)
Mike Foster is an Atlanta Falcons Featured Columnist for BleacherReport.
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