Already previewed what to expect as far as competiton at quarterback, now it’s time to move on to the running backs.
Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood are entrenched at the top two spots at running back, and won’t have to worry about their jobs being up for grabs. Ovie Mughelli isn’t going anywhere as well as far as the starting fullback position goes. Meaning that leaves probably two roster spots open to the rest of the team.
Most likely to grab one of those spots is Jason Snelling, who offers versatility both to play either fullback or running back. Snelling’s playing time increased as last season wore on, and assuming the coaching staff is still high on him, it’s unlikely he’ll be left out in the cold.
The other spot will come down in a battle between Thomas Brown and Verron Haynes. Brown has the edge, given that he was a draft pick by the team a year ago. Brown gives them another potential option on third downs as well as special teams. Haynes is a bigger back, that like Snelling has played some at fullback in the past, and is a capable receiver and blocker on third downs too.
But Haynes is set to go to trial in September for writing some bad checks when purchasing a car a few years back. And while it’s not a terrible black eye, it’s not likely to grant Haynes any favors when it comes down to roster decision time.
Snelling’s ability to play either running spot means the team only really has to keep four backs when most NFL teams keep five. But the fifth back is more likely to be Brown if one is kept. The team also still has the option of throwing Brown on the practice squad if need be.
Training camp is just little more than a month away, so it’s time to talk about some of the upcoming battles we may see.
The battle at quarterback this summer will be for depth. Matt Ryan won’t be looking over his shoulder for a second. Chris Redman is currently the No. 2, but there’s no guarantee he will keep that job. A strong summer from D.J. Shockley could unseat him. But Shockley’s grasp on the roster is even more tentative. The Falcons signed undrafted rookie John Parker Wilson, who with a strong summer could take over the No. 3 role.
Both Redman and Shockley are free agents after this season, which could contribute to the chances that Wilson makes the final roster. Unless the Falcons see both as long-term options as reserve quarterbacks, it may mean they dump one for the other and try to develop Wilson for down the road.
The most likely outcome and most conservative bet at this point seems to point to both Redman and Shockley keeping their jobs, and the Falcons putting Wilson on their practice squad.
Scout.com reports that the contracts signed by three of the Falcons recent draft picks have been disapproved by the league. The specifics of what exactly in the contracts was disapproved is unknown, but according to the report they were all minor and all should be fixed and up to league standards by early next week.
The three contracts disapproved were offensvie tackle Garrett Reynolds, cornerback Chris Owens, and linebacker Spencer Adkins. Per Scout.com, all three players signed four-year deals. Reynolds received a signing bonus of just over $180,000 while Owens got $688,000 in bonus money. All three players signed their deals within the last ten days.
The team announced the signing of sixth round linebacker Spencer Adkins today. He becomes the fifth draft pick to sign with the team, following the signings of Chris Owens and Garrett Reynolds last week.
Adkins is expected to add depth for the team at linebacker, having played both inside and outside linebacker at Miami during his collegiate career. The team only has three remaining unsigned rookies: first rounder Peria Jerry, second rounder William Moore, and fourth rounder Lawrence Sidbury.
Terms of Adkins’ contract were not announced, but it is expected to be a four-year deal like the others signed by the team’s draft picks.
The third Falcons draft pick signed a contract with the team when fifth round pick Garrett Reynolds signed a four-year deal worth about $1.93 million. According to Scout.com, Reynolds received a signing bonus of just slightly over $180,000, likely falling in between the bonuses given to Xavier Fulton ($181,000) and Victor Harris ($180,000) who were selected one spot ahead and behind Reynolds. Both Fulton and Harris signed their deals last week. Reynolds was the 156th overall selection in the draft.
The team announced today that it signed free agent center Jeremy Newberry. Newberry is an 11-year veteran who started 3 games last year for the San Diego Chargers. Pro Football Talk.com reported in April that the Falcons were sniffing around Newberry, in relation to speculation that Todd McClure was going to be a holdout or retire. However subsequent reports indicated that McClure was not expected to miss any time.
Newberry spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers where he started 90 games between 1999 and 2005. He earned two trips to the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN reports that the Falcons will release quarterback Michael Vick according to a league source.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has stated in the past that Michael Vick’s future with the team is non-existent, and the team has been shopping him since February seeking a late round draft pick in exchange for his contract rights. So a release seemed inevitable if the Falcons could not find a trade partner in the coming months. Vick is not slated to be reinstated into the league until he’s released from federal custody in late July.
UPDATE: The Falcons formally announced that they were releasing Vick today on their website. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff had this to say about releasing the former Falcons quarterback:
“We spent a significant amount of time this off-season trying to trade him to another NFL club, and we had some conversations with a few teams, but nothing materialized. At this point, we feel releasing Michael is best for him and best for us. Our entire organization sincerely hopes that Michael will continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard.”
Dan Parr of Pro Football Weekly reports that the Falcons plan to extend running back Jerious Norwood right after they work out a new deal for wide receiver Roddy White.
Earlier reports indicated that White is a high priority to get a new deal done in the near future. Both White and Norwood are entering the final years of their contracts. Due to the uncertainty of the future of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, it is unknown if the Falcons face any real danger of losing either player to free agency next year. Without an extension of the CBA before next March, both White and Norwood will become restricted free agents instead of unrestricted, and much easier for the team to retain.
Per Parr’s report, the Falcons see Norwood as a valuable commodity that can form a solid 1-2 punch with starting running back Michael Turner for years to come.
The team announced today that they signed two of their eight draft picks, cornerback William Middleton and defensive tackle Vance Walker.
Middleton was the teams’ fifth round pick out of Furman. Walker was the seventh round out of Georgia Tech. Both players are expected to fill depth roles with the team this year. Middleton and Walker are among the first rookies around the league to sign, as only a dozen or so have signed contracts thus far.
Adam Caplan of Scout.com reports that the Falcons are among roughly a dozen teams that could have interest in recently released pass rusher Greg Ellis. Ellis was cut by the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday after eleven seasons with the team in which he recorded 77 sacks. Ellis has played the past few seasons as an outside linebacker in Dallas’s 3-4 scheme, while beginning his career as a defensive end.
Caplan reports that the Falcons could have interest in Ellis based off need and/or scheme fit.