Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore missed four games last year and still finished fifth on the team in tackles with 75, 22 behind team leader Stephen Nicholas. Had Moore player in every game, he likely would have been the team leader in tackles.
It could definitely hurt when a guy who could lead the team in tackles leaves via free agency.
The leading tackler for the Falcons in 2011 was Curtis Lofton. He bolted to the New Orleans Saints last year and the Falcons fell apart on defense. Lofton‘s departure wasn’t the sole reason, but the Falcons did have a lot of trouble tackling. If in two consecutive seasons a major player in the tackles department left the Falcons via free agency, what would happen to this defense?
It can’t get much worse for the 24th-ranked defense in 2012. Since the Falcons already cut two major defensive stars in defensive end John Abraham and cornerback Dunta Robinson, can they really afford to lose another in Moore? And how much would it cost to re-sign him?
Moore scared a lot of Falcons fans on Feb. 11 when league sources told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he wanted to test free agency. But when the Falcons had a chance to use the franchise tag on Moore to ensure that he stayed in Atlanta for the 2013 season, they decided not to use it.
Falcons’ general manager Thomas Dimitroff must have some inside knowledge—and of course he does—that makes him feel the franchise tag was unnecessary.
That confidence might be in the form of an extra $16 million in cap space the Falcons freed when the team cut running back Michael Turner, Robinson and Abraham.
"Given these three moves, again, our focus has always been that we hone in on our players that are currently on our team and our attempt to try to re-sign our football players," Dimitroff said in a phone conference with AtlantaFalcons.com. "That's going to be our focus first and foremost."
Moore is definitely on that short list of must-haves for Dimitroff from the 2012 Atlanta roster. And he has desire to stay with the Falcons, telling 790 the Zone that he loved Atlanta and wanted a mutually beneficial deal to be constructed.
Moore is no financial dummy, and neither are the folks representing him. By letting it be known he wanted to test free agency, he ever so slightly did a good job of nudging the Falcons offer up just a bit. But his comments on the air Wednesday, while likely some part of a friendly PR campaign, do have a modicum of truth.
I expect Moore to sign a deal with the Falcons early in the free-agency period and I expect him to get a healthy deal in the $5 million to $6 million range. The deal will probably be cap friendly and not break the Falcons’ bank.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.