The Atlanta Falcons announced today that guard Mike Johnson had agreed to a one-year extension. Johnson’s rookie contract had expired at the end of the 2013 season and he was set to hit unrestricted free agency tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern. Johnson missed all of the 2013 season with a dislocated ankle and broken leg that he suffered early in training camp. Terms of his deal were undisclosed.
Johnson was poised to start at right tackle this past season until he was sidelined with the injury. He was initially a third-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2010 out of Alabama and was slated to play guard. He was inactive for every game as a rookie and spent the bulk of the 2011 season on injured reserve. He then moved to right tackle in 2012, and spent that season playing primarily as the team’s sixth offensive lineman and blocking tight end. In four seasons, Johnson has logged just one start and 18 total appearances. His return adds valuable depth and a potential competitor for a starting position at right guard or right tackle for the Falcons.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted today that the Atlanta Falcons are “very aggressively pursuing” Miami Dolphins nose tackle Paul Soliai. La Canfora’s report comes in regard to today’s earlier news of defensive assistant Mark Collins’ promotion which has prompted the belief that Falcons will making a switch to the 3-4 as their base defense.
Soliai played under Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for the two years they shared together in Miami (2010-11) before the latter’s arrival in Atlanta. Soliai just turned 30 at the end of this past season, his seventh in Miami. He has served as a regular starter since Nolan’s arrival in 2010, combining for 129 tackles and 4.5 sacks over that span. He served as a Pro Bowl injury replacement in 2012.
Soliai initially was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round in 2007 and was a backup to Jason Ferguson for the early part of his career.
Picking up on the previous report that the Atlanta Falcons had hired a brand new defensive assistant in Andrew Thacker, Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that the team is promoting current defensive assistant Mark Collins to outside linebackers coach.
Collins first joined the Falcons in 2010, spending the bulk of his time assisting defensive line coach Ray Hamilton. Prior to his time in Atlanta, Collins spent several years as an assistant at various colleges. He worked under Falcons previous defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder at Georgia Southern in 2006. He spent two years following that as a graduate assistant at Georgia, before coaching safeties at Louisiana-Monroe. He was then hired by The Citadel as that team’s defensive coordinator before changing his mind and joining the Falcons.
Collins’ past has seen him working with several different elements of defenses, having spent time coaching linebackers, defensive linemen, safeties and special teams during his decade of coaching in the college ranks. Collins went to East Tennessee State and upon graduation in 1999 began his coaching career as a defensive assistant.
Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cites unknown league sources that the Atlanta Falcons are “extremely interested” in Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah, an impending free agent.
While the official start of free agency begins Tuesday afternoon, teams are currently allowed to legally “tamper” by talking with potential free agents until then. No reports yet on whether Asamoah and the Falcons are actively discussing a contract. But the Falcons are not alone in their reported interest in Asamoah, as reports surfaced early Saturday that the New York Jets were another team that intended to make a play for him.
Asamoah is considered one of the premier guards potentially available in free agency, along with teammate Geoff Schwartz. However, Asamoah lost his starting job to Schwartz last season thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 11. Asamoah missed the Chiefs’ season-opener with a calf injury, but started the next nine games at right guard before being sidelined and sitting the bench for the final six games.
Prior to last year, Asamoah started a combined 31 games at right guard in 2011 and 2012. He was originally a third-round pick by the Chiefs out of Illinois in 2010.
You can check out my assessment of Asamoah’s strengths, weaknesses and how he potentially fits in Atlanta.
Publishing weekly round-ups dealing with various Atlanta Falcons news was a regular event during the abyss known as 2011 NFL Lockout. Since then, I haven’t had much need for them but I figure that it is time to dust them off this offseason.
Partially because my day job has me traveling a lot during the week which limits the number of timely updates and posts I can have during the week involving Falcons-related items. So they will be partially house-cleaning for any stories I may not have written during the week.
I will also aggregate some articles, both Falcons-related and not, that I think are worthy of views that were posted during the past week.
The Falcons are actively working on retaining some of their own free agents including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Joe Hawley, and guard Mike Johnson according to reports.
Rounding up news involving Falcons free agents is that defensive tackle Peria Jerry is also unlikely to be retained, prompting some celebration.
North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron joins the list of potential draft picks being openly in favor of playing for the Falcons. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney previously voiced his favor for Atlanta as a potential landing zone. Here’s what Ebron had to say:
I would love to play for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan – I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.
Jason Munz of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that the Atlanta Falcons have hired former Southern Mississippi assistant coach Andrew Thacker as a defensive assistant.
Thacker spent one season on the Golden Eagles staff after three seasons as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma State. There he worked with the team’s linebackers. He also spent two years as a graduate assistatnt at Central Florida following his playing career as a safety at Furman.
During his time at Furman, Thacker earned All-Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll all four seasons. He finished his career with 43 starts at both free and strong safety, tallying 254 career tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, eight passes broken up, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a blocked kick. He also ran track at Furman as a member of the school’s 4×100 meter relay team.
Thacker, 28, is a native of Cumming, GA.
The Atlanta Falcons announced this evening that running back Jason Snelling has opted to retire
from the NFL after seven seasons as a pro. Snelling spent the entirety of his career with the Falcons after being a seventh-round pick in 2007. Only fellow ’07 draft selection Justin Blalock along with 2005 selections Jonathan Babineaux and Roddy White have longer tenures with the team.
Snelling turned 30 this past December, finishing a career in which he appeared in 96 games with six starts. His career marks of 363 carries and 1,420 rushing yards ranks 19th and 20th, respectively, on the team’s all-time list. He also caught 168 passes for 1,249 yards, and combined for 17 total touchdowns during his career.
Snelling played both running back and fullback during his time in Atlanta, serving as an injury fill-in at both positions throughout his career. His best season came in 2009 when he replaced an injured Michael Turner as the team’s lead rusher for the final six games. He finished that season with a career-high 613 rushing yards.
A notable special teams player as well, Snelling recorded 39 stops over his career in that capacity and led the team with 18 special teams tackles in 2008.
Snelling dealing with the possibility of life after football was hinted when he decided not to travel with the team for an away game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following an arrest in November. Snelling cited personal issues as the reason for his absence at the time.
He was entering the final year of a three-year contract he signed in 2012. His retirement frees up $1.375 million in 2014 salary cap space per Over the Cap.
The Atlanta Falcons announced today that defensive tackle Corey Peters agreed to a one-year contract. Peters was an impending free agent, as the period where players can officially join new teams begins a week from today. Per Scott Carasik of Draft Falcons, Peters’ deal is worth $1.5 million minus playing-time incentives.
Originally a third-round pick out of Kentucky by the Falcons in 2010, Peters has been a regular starter since joining the team. He is coming off his most productive season, tallying career-highs of 46 tackles and five sacks. Peters suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the end of this past season however, limiting his potential market. He had successful surgery in January and is currently in a walking boot for a few more weeks.
The Atlanta Falcons announced earlier this evening
that guard Garrett Reynolds was released from the team. Reynolds’ departure was expected
given his finishing the 2013 season on the team’s inactive list coupled with the recent signing of Gabe Carimi
, who potentially fills the same niche. Per Over the Cap.com
, Reynolds’ release frees up nearly $1.4 million in cap space for the Falcons in 2014.
Reynolds started the first nine games of 2013 at right guard, but was benched in Week 11 when the team inserted center Joe Hawley into the lineup and moved Peter Konz from center to right guard. But Konz performed poorly early in that game, and Reynolds finished the game at right guard. He would resume his starting position the following week against the New Orleans Saints, but would not finish that game due to his own struggles. He was reduced to a backup role with hardly any playing time for the next four games, before being inactive in the team’s season finale against the Carolina Panthers.
Reynolds was originally a fifth-round pick by the Falcons out of North Carolina in 2009. He spent his first two seasons as a backup to right guard Harvey Dahl, before getting first crack at replacing him in 2011. But he was benched after making seven starts that year in favor of Hawley, who finished the season as the starter. Reynolds would again resume the starting position in 2012, making six starts before injuries sidelined him for the remainder of the year. He was then replaced by Konz for the rest of the season.
The Falcons have had a revolving door at the right guard position since the departure of Dahl before the 2011 season. That has been partly due to the fact that Reynolds has not shown the consistency to hold the position long-term. However, Reynolds did make steady progress each year. Per the site Pro Football Focus, he graded out better each subsequent year as a starter finishing with a career-best +2.8 grade this year. That grade rated second-best on the Falcons behind left guard Justin Blalock in 2013.
The Atlanta Falcons announced the signing
of free agent offensive lineman Gabe Carimi today. Carimi was recently released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was traded to the Buccaneers last June after two unsuccessful seasons with the Chicago Bears, where he was coached by new Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice. Per multiple reports, Carimi signed a one-year deal.
Carimi was the Bears’ top selection in the 2011 out of Wisconsin, and according to Michael Holley’s book The War Room, would have been the likeliest target of the Falcons had they not opted instead to trade up for wide receiver Julio Jones. Carimi suffered through an injury-plagued rookie season with the Bears, starting just two games before landing on injured reserve. He returned in 2012 to start the first 10 games at right tackle before poor performances led to his being benched. He would be re-inserted into the starting lineup two weeks later as an injury replacement for right guard Lance Louis, and started three games there where he fared better. He would start one more game at right tackle before the season was done. However, when the Bears fired their coaching staff following 2012, the new regime decided to trade him after making several moves in the offseason to upgrade their offensive line.
This past year for the Buccaneers, he started the first two games of the regular season at left guard as an injury replacement for Carl Nicks. Nicks returned to the lineup for two games before his season was finally over. Instead of putting Carimi back into the lineup as a starter, the Buccaneers decided to shuffle around their offensive line, putting center Jeremy Zuttah at left guard and backup Ted Larsen at center. Eventually, the Bucs settled on Jamon Meredith at left guard, with Carimi serving out the remainder of the 2013 season as a sixth offensive lineman and tight end.
Carimi could potentially help the Falcons at multiple positions, but will likely be asked to play either right guard or right tackle in Atlanta. Click here to read a scouting report on Carimi from 2011.