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Archive for February, 2007

Crumpler part of USO tour

February 28th, 2007 Comments off

Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler will be among four NFL players that will travel to U.S. military bases throughout the Persian Gulf as part of the league’s annual NFL-USO tour. Joining Crumpler will be Patriots tight end Ben Watson, Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shelton Quarles.

The NFL began this in 1966 during the Vietnam War. Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney was part of the tour last season.

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Falcons may be interested in Bly

February 27th, 2007 Comments off

Recent reports indicate that the Atlanta Falcons may attempt to acquire two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dre’ Bly. Bly has spent the past four seasons with the Detroit Lions, and he and his agent were given recent permission by that organization to seek a trade.

Over the weekend, NFL.com’s Adam Schefter reported that Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall had begun lobbying the team’s front office in order to acquire Bly. Hall and Bly are close friends that grew up in the same hometown of Chesapeake, VA.

Lee Rasizer, of the Rocky Mountain News has reported that the Denver Broncos may be another team interested in Bly. Rasizer’s report suggests that the Lions could be seeking a third round pick as compensation for Bly.

Bly will have a $4.2 million base salary in 2007. Any team that acquires him would have that salary added to their 2007 salary cap. Various sources have reported on the status of the Falcons cap space in 2007. John Clayton of ESPN.com has reported that it may be as low as $3.8 million. If that is the case, then it means that if the Falcons were to attempt to acquire Bly, they would need to restructure contracts and/or release veterans.

A veteran of eight years, Bly was originally a second round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 1999. After four years in St. Louis, he signed a lucrative contract with the Lions in 2003. He has 33 career interceptions, 5 of which he has returned for touchdowns. Last season, he finished the year with 54 tackles and 3 interceptions.

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Outrage over Babineaux case

February 27th, 2007 Comments off

Judy Battista of the New York Times writes that there has been an outpouring of outrage over the circumstances surrounding Jonathan Babineaux’s involvement with the death of his girlfriend’s dog. From e-mails and phone calls to the Humane Society, as well as promptings by PETA for Babineaux to face year-long suspension and/or release.

Babineaux has maintained his innocence in the matter, after being charged with felony animal abuse last week. Reports indicate that an autopsy on the dog named Kilo, will shed further light on Babineaux’s involvement in the near future.

Battista writes that an unofficial league source indicates Babineaux is not in danger of being released by the Falcons. But Babineaux is likely to come under scrutiny of the league’s personal conduct policy which may result in a fine or suspension.

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Falcons eye several prospects in Indy

February 27th, 2007 Comments off

KFFL.com reports that the Falcons have interviewed a number of prospects over the course of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Several prospects indicated they have spoken with the Falcons, including defensive ends Adam Carriker (Nebraska), Ikaika Alama-Francis (Hawaii), and LaMarr Woodley (Michigan). NFL Draft Countdown rates Carriker as the third best defensive end prospect in the draft, and all three ends are given “Day One” grades by that website.

The team has also spoken with running backs Brandon Jackson (Nebraska) and Tyrone Moss (Miami FL), wide receiver Aundrae Allison (East Carolina), and offensive linemen Leroy Harris (N.C. State) and Ben Grubbs (Auburn). Both Allison and Grubbs receive “Day One” grades from NFL Draft Countdown as well.

None of the players are widely rated as potential options for the Falcons with their tenth overall pick. However, all are candidates to be chosen by the Falcons in the second round or later.

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Evaluating the Falcons: Linebackers

February 27th, 2007 Comments off

Linebacker, as far as the roster goes, is probably the most set position. The Falcons have experienced veterans and youth talent worth developing, so I don’t see any significant additions, just like there were none a year ago.

Michael Boley and Keith Brooking will definitely be starters next year, but exactly where is not sure. Boley isn’t going to be moving from his strongside spot in 2007, but Brooking has the ability to start at either middle or weakside linebacker.

The biggest determining factor will probably not be Brooking himself, but the play of Ed Hartwell and/or Demorrio Williams. Hartwell was signed 2 years to be the man in the middle, but injuries have hampered him and he has been largely ineffective when he has managed to play. Some suspect he could be released, but I doubt it. His collegiate coach, Brian VanGorder has taken over the Falcons linebacker position, and I’m sure Hartwell knows his performance in 2007 will have a significant impact on his future with the Falcons and in the league as a whole. A good year, and he stays in Atlanta. A bad year or another injury-riddled one, and he’d be very hard-pressed to find a starting job for the rest of his career.

Williams is a restricted free agent, and could be traded if the right deal is met. But there rarely is a shortage of decent outside linebackers either via free agency or the draft, so it’s doubtful he’ll be in high demand. He should be back in Atlanta, because he provides such valuable depth considering he can play either outside spots.

Brooking will simply fill in the other spot that either one of those two players does not earn. I’m sure the front office and coaches would prefer Hartwell to be the other guy, but the past two years have shown that the team won’t be missing a lot if it winds up being Williams.

Then there is Ike Reese and Jordan Beck. Both are valuable special teams players. Although Reese hasn’t quite lived up to his Pro Bowl billing. But he is a steady veteran, that is provides quality depth since he can play all three linebacker positions. Some believe he will be cut, but I think his ability to be a nickel guy and utility guy override any perceived failure on special teams. Beck too has not made much impact on defense. He should finally get a chance to push for playing time, and it’s time the Falcons give him an opportunity to showcase his skills. He was solid during his rookie summer before an injury sidelined him for the whole season. If he can pick up from there, he has the makings of a solid pro down the road.

The only reason to make any significant additions this off-season would be if Williams, Hartwell, or Reese are lost. But considering the wealth of needs elsewhere on the roster, making changes here should be the very last thing on the Falcons minds.

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Falcons make a decision on Schaub

February 27th, 2007 Comments off

property of Atlanta Falcons.com Steve Wyche of the AJC writes that the Falcons plan to tender quarterback Matt Schaub at the highest level allowed for a restricted free agent. That level is $2.35 million.

By tendering him at that level, any team that signs Schaub will have to compensate the Falcons with a first and third round draft pick in this upcoming year’s draft. Teams will be allowed to submit offer sheets to Schaub, and if he accepts, the Falcons will then have seven days to either match the deal or let Schaub walk. If the latter course of action is chosen, then the Falcons will be compensated with the two draft picks.

In the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed last March, the NFL decided to expand restricted free agency by adding a fourth option. In the past, teams had three levels of tenders. With the highest tender, teams received compensation in the form of first and third round picks. The second highest tender, a team would receive just a first round pick. The lowest level, teams would be compensated based upon the original round in which a player was drafted. And in the case of undrafted players, would receive no compensation. Now the league has added a fourth level, which will allow teams to be compensated with a second round pick. It will be the third highest level.

The Falcons have other restricted free agents to tender, most notably linebacker Demorrio Williams. Most sources believe he will be tendered at a level in which the Falcons receive at least a second round pick in terms of compensation.

Other players scheduled to be restricted free agents are guard P.J. Alexander, tight end Dwayne Blakley, and offensive linemen Ben Claxton. All three could receive the minimal tenders. Claxton was a fifth round pick of the Denver Broncos in 2002, meaning the Falcons would be compensated if he were to sign elsewhere this off-season. Both Alexander and Blakley however were undrafted free agents, so if tendered at the lowest level, the Falcons would not be compensated by their losses.

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Falcons won’t tag Kerney

February 22nd, 2007 Comments off

NFL Analyst Adam Schefter reports that even if the Falcons wanted to place the franchise tag on defensive Patrick Kerney, they could not. Kerney’s contract does not officially void until February 23, with the deadline for tagging players on February 22.

The last two years of Kerney’s seven-year contract that he signed in 2002 voided due to him meeting performance levels. Kerney will become an unrestricted free agent on March 2.

Three other defensive ends have already received the tag, including Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis Colts), Justin Smith (Cincinnati Bengals), and Charles Grant (New Orleans Saints). Kerney would have been the most expensive out of the group, since his tender would have been $10.6 million instead of the regular $8.644 million tender. That is because, Kerney’s franchise tender would have amounted to be 120% of his 2006 salary which was higher than the franchise tender.

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Falcons’ Babineaux denies abusing girlfriend’s dog

February 20th, 2007 Comments off

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux denied responsibility on Tuesday for the death of his girlfriend’s dog, which led to felony animal abuse charges against the former Iowa Hawkeye.

Gwinnett County police said officers were dispatched Sunday evening to the Animal Emergency Center, where the staff told them that 24-year-old Blair Anderson had arrived with a pit bull mix that was dead upon arrival.

Police said Anderson told them she and Babineaux, 25, had argued at their home. She said she went to the movies, and upon returning found Kilo, her year-and-a-half old dog, in “severe physical distress.”

Babineaux, a second-round draft pick from Iowa in 2005, met with officers at the hospital, where he said he was not responsible for the dog’s death. Police said his account of what happened was inconsistent with the information about the dog’s injuries provided by the animal hospital. He was arrested.

Police said they are still awaiting test results, but added that preliminary information indicates Kilo died from a massive blow to the head.

Lt. Derrick Locklear, shift commander for the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, said Babineaux was released just before 8 a.m. Monday on a $2,300 bond.

Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts said that until the team has the information it needs, there would be no comment.

Babineaux played in all 16 games and recorded 28 tackles last season.

– THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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First round of interviews over in San Diego

February 19th, 2007 Comments off

AP sports writer Bernie Wilson writes that the San Diego Chargers have completed their first round of coaching interviews. The Chargers interviewed six candidates including Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Saturday. The Chargers finished up their first round of interviews by talking to Saints defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs on Sunday. No word if former Falcons head coach Jim Mora will also be interviewed for the job.

With the first round seeming over, the Chargers are now expected to evaluate what they have learned from the six candidates. That could include a second round of interviews for a few select candidates. Among the candidates, Norv Turner and Gibbs are the only ones with head coaching experience. But it’s clear the team wants to continue it’s 3-4 scheme. Zimmer, Gibbs, MIke Singletary, and Rex Ryan are the candidates with the most experience in the 3-4 scheme. However, Zimmer indicated when he was hired with the Falcons, his preference for the 4-3 scheme.

If Zimmer does get the job, it will mean the Falcons will be forced to hire a new defensive coordinator. One candidate for the position is former Lions defensive boss Donnie Henderson. Henderson coached with Bobby Petrino for two years at Idaho in 1989 and 1990. Henderson is also considered a storng candidate to become the next defensive coordinator in San Diego, as speculation indicates he will be the prime candidate if Rex Ryan is hired as head coach.

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Evaluating the Falcons: Defensive Line

February 18th, 2007 Comments off

This unit as a whole was a disappointment this year. Going into the season, many thought that the Falcons could have arguably the best starting four in the business with Kerney, Abraham, Coleman, and Jackson. But it proved not to be.

Kerney, Abraham, and Coleman all battled injuries throughout the season. Jackson too was nicked up often, but didn’t miss a game. Coleman only missed one, but for much of the middle portion of the year he seemed less than normal, which could be attributed to probably not being 100%.

The biggest concern here going into 2007 is the defensive end spot. Jonathan Babineaux played well in Coleman’s absence at times, and if he can build on those performances, he should be very productive this year. Darrell Shropshire and T.J. Jackson didn’t do much, but Jackson had his moments. If Coleman is healthy, and if Grady is in shape, there’s no reason to believe defensive tackle will be relatively strong next year.

But as for defensive end, there are serious concerns about the durability of John Abraham. Abraham only played in 8 games all year long, and played well when he was on the field, but the Falcons have to get more from him. On the other side, there are questions on whether Patrick Kerney will and should come back. Kerney will be 30 at the start of this season, and hasn’t had a double-digit sack season since 2004. He missed 7 games with a chest injury. He is no longer that top flight pass rusher he used to be, and when you consider the potential price tag it would take to retain him, I personally don’t think he’s worth it.

But if we lost Kerney that would leave a void at the defensive end position. Paul Carrington, Josh Mallard, and Chauncey Davis each had their moments last season, but none are ready to be starters in the NFL, including Davis who started 14 games last year. Davis is not a pass rusher, with only 2 career sacks. Carrington and Mallard showed potential as situational guys, but neither are ready to be starters. The Falcons should address this in the off-season.

They could sign a free agent. Perhaps someone like Dewayne White from the Bucs, who was the top pick for that team in McKay’s last draft there. White has shown he is a very effective player coming off the bench, and was arguably their best defensive end last year with disappointing years from both Simeon Rice and Greg Spires.

Or the team could look to draft one. This is a pretty strong defensive end class near the top, and the Falcons have a chance to get any of the top pass rushers in this class with the tenth overall pick.

Either way, the Falcons will make a significant move at defensive end this off-season, whether it’s re-signing Kerney, drafting a top rookie, or signing a free agent. As for off-season plans at defensive tackle, the Falcons could draft someone, but it would only be to try and boost the rotation. Defensive tackle looks like it might be a need next off-season as opposed to now, so it won’t hurt the team if they don’t acquire someone significant, just yet.

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