Atlanta Falcons: Latest Combine News and Rumors
The NFL Scouting Combine is the event announcing that the league's new offseason is open for business. Anybody who is anyone—upper-management, personnel executives, coaching staffs, analysts and other media personalities—all converge on Indianapolis to watch the annual "Underwear Olympics."
Hundreds of NFL hopefuls get poked, prodded and interviewed ad nauseam, in addition to having to perform a variety of on-field drills. For the Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a 4-12 season, executing a picture-perfect draft is of the highest priority.
Atlanta is armed with a triumvirate of personnel gurus: general manager Thomas Dimitroff, assistant GM Scott Pioli and director of player personnel Lionel Vital. All three served together under future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick and his New England Patriot dynasty.
With a draft as stacked as this one, Atlanta has an excellent chance to acquire cornerstones for a future dynasty of its own.
Let's check into a few of the stories floating around the combine as it pertains to the Falcons.
Possible White and Jones Extensions?
According to Daniel Cox of AtlantaFalcons.com, the Falcons are open to extending the contracts of receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones. While it makes sense for the 24-year-old Jones to be extended, as he's an ascending superstar, doing so with White is a bit puzzling.
Now before all you "Rowdy" White supporters start spewing vitriol in the comments section, remember, it's business—never personal.
White will be 33 years old next season and is coming off the first injury-plagued season of his career. Winning franchises like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Patriots know exactly when to turn aging veterans into profitable assets.
It's very possible that White will once again be injured next season, as that's how Father Time works. He sneaks up on the best of us and rides us into the sunset like the thoroughbred horses we once were.
It's also possible that White will continue on the path he's established during his illustrious career, a path he regained once his injuries seemed to subside during the latter part of last season. If so, the decision to not flip White for possibly a high second-round pick is further puzzling.
Furthermore, White's arrest for failing to appear in court, per the AJC.com, is another situation he's found himself in that escaped him the first nine years of his career.
Parting ways with vets is the hardest things franchises have to do. But it's an inevitable decision that will happen sooner rather than later. However, doing so on your own accord can ensure your franchise never goes through down periods.
Ask the Steelers...or Patriots.
Open to Trade Up For...
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is an absolute freak. This 6'6", 266-pound athletic marvel has the ability to potentially change an entire franchise. At least that's what the media is leading us to believe.
Reality reveals that Clowney is coming off a season in which he generated three measly sacks. While many have pointed to the fact that he was doubled and schemed against, it begs the question: What happens when NFL teams, with professional personnel, scheme against him?
Clowney has repeatedly had his heart and practice habits questioned by everyone from pundits to his own coach, per NFL Network (h/t to Yahoo! Sports).
Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei speculated that the Falcons could move up in an attempt to acquire Clowney's services.
Clowney himself wishes the Falcons could trade up for him, as told to ESPN, as Atlanta is a good team that has a couple of his ex-South Carolina teammates on it.
And, of course, Atlanta is close to his hometown of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Potentially mortgaging a part of your future for a player with questionable work ethic seems kind of strange huh?
Not for the Falcons regime.
But if they were to trade up, it should only be for a potential transcendent player like Clowney. Atlanta is a star-driven city that is starved for iconic players. If Clowney pans out, he could be the defense's answer to Jones.
Having a superstar on each side of the ball is what this city is all about. Too bad Atlanta is not about winning and building dynasties...
If the Falcons were about that, then staying put or even trading back for additional picks and drafting the best player available would be the ideal strategy.
Osi Umenyiora Back in 2014?
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal is reporting that veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora is likely to remain a Falcon next season—much to the chagrin of Falcons fans (I'm noticing a theme here).
Not sure what the Falcons are thinking here other than the fact they seem to be afraid to admit mistakes.
Sure Umenyiora led the team with 7.5 sacks last season, but finishing first in the "loser's bracket" does what exactly? Four of his sacks came against rookies Geno Smith (New York Jets) and Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay) who had a penchant for holding on to the ball entirely too long.
Cutting Umenyiora would save $3.5 million against the cap which Atlanta could use to acquire young, explosive talent—as he'll be 33 years old next season.
Holding onto aging players retards the growth of the younger talent behind them. Fellow end Jonathan Massaquoi, 25, turned in a 46-tackle, four-sack season as part of the defensive line rotation. Imagine what he could do with all of Umenyiora's playing time?
Not to mention it's been widely speculated the Falcons will bring in an edge-rusher through the draft. Does Atlanta really need Umenyiora cutting into the playing time of someone like Clowney or Khalil Mack (University of Buffalo)?
Do the right thing, Dimitroff!
Jairus Byrd Getting Franchised
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that the Buffalo Bills plan to franchise free agent safety Jairus Byrd if they can't reach a long-term deal with him. This is disheartening to Falcons fans who had Byrd all but penciled in to be the Falcons' starting safety next season.
Incumbent starter Thomas DeCoud is one of the worst players at his position. His inability to make plays or tackles is one of the reasons for the Falcons' poor pass defense.
Byrd's versatility could've potentially transformed the 21st-ranked pass defense (29th in average per attempt) into one of the best young secondaries in the league—along with second-year corners Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant and strong safety William Moore.
Now that the Falcons know Byrd won't be hitting the market, they focus their efforts on acquiring a safety through the draft, targeting another safety in free agency or promoting a promising player like Zeke Motta to the starting lineup.
If all else fails, DeCoud will more than likely be back at his post missing tackles and trailing receivers and tight ends as they score touchdowns. I know how much you love to hear that Falcons fans.
Billy Devaney Back in the Fold
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Falcons reached back into the past and rehired former assistant general manager Billy Devaney to the personnel department. When you factor in the aforementioned triumvirate, you can plainly see the gravity of the situation.
Devaney served under former GM, now team president, Rick McKay for two seasons (2006-07) before taking over the general manager role for the St. Louis Rams from 2008-11. Although the Rams were just 10-38 during his tenure, he stocked the cupboard with talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Devaney was the first of the Falcons brass to be hired to a GM role—followed by Les Snead, who coincidentally took over for Devaney in St. Louis, and Dave Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars). If you've caught his work on ESPN's NFL Insiders, you saw his vast knowledge of the game on full display.
Devaney is a bright NFL mind who will contribute in earnest to Atlanta right away. But you have to think that the Falcons may have too many cooks in the kitchen having already hired Pioli last month.
But one thing is certain: If the Falcons have another losing season, there will be a ton of blame to be spread throughout the front office.
Game on, Atlanta.