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Falcons have decisions to make on restricted FAs

March 2nd, 2010

We don’t know quite what the Falcons will do with their restricted free agent tenders. They have until Thursday to make decisions. But here is what I think should and could happen.

Chief among the Falcons restricted free agents are Jason Snelling, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Jerious Norwood, and Michael Koenen. The Falcons will almost certainly tender all five of these players.

Because of the rules of the uncapped season, restricted free agents won’t be just fourth year players, instead fifth and sixth year players will also be restricted. And thus, because of their different levels of experience, players will have different tender levels. The way restricted free agency works is that teams tender players at certain levels to determine potential compensation if another team signs them to an offer sheet. If the original team chooses not to match the offer sheet, then they sign with the new team and the original team gets some sort of compensation, usually equaling the original round in which the player was drafted.

Snelling as a fourth year player at a minimum will be tendered with a $1.101 million tender. If that is the case, the Falcons will receive a 7th round pick in terms of compensation if another team was to sign him. But since the Falcons saw how valuable Snelling was last year both as a reserve fullback and tailback, it’s likely they will tender him at a higher level. That next highest level will be $1.684 million, which allows them to receive a second round pick as compensation.

Clabo, Dahl, and Norwood are fifth year players. Both Clabo and Dahl were undrafted free agents, which means if the Falcons tendered them at the lowest level they would receive nothing in terms of compensation. More than likely, the team will tender both starters at the first round level, which for players with their experience would be worth $2.521 million. Norwood as a former third round pick probably can be tendered at the minimum level of $1.176 million.

Koenen is a sixth-year player but since he was tagged with the Franchise tag last year his minimum tender will have to be 110% of what he made last year. The franchise tag for last season was $2.48 million, which means that the Falcons will have to tender him at $2.73 million.

The other restricted free agents on the roster include safeties Antoine Harris, Charlie Peprah, and Jamaal Fudge, and offensive linemen Quinn Ojinnaka. Ojinnaka is the most likely to get tendered because of his value as a utility backup on the offensive line. As a fifth round pick, he’ll likely be tendered at the minimum level for a fifth year player ($1.176 million).

The three safeties will be harder to decide. All three players can contribute on special teams, but more than likely next summer there will only be one roster spot available for any. So more than likely, the Falcons could probably get away with tendering one of them, whichever they see as the most valuable and most likely to win a camp competition, and let the other two walk. That player will more than likely be either Harris or Peprah. The team cut Fudge at the end of last year’s camp, and only brought him back after Brian William’s injury. So they’ve already seen him as expendable. Harris ended the season on injured reserve after tearing a PCL in December. The team can’t cut him because he’s injured, but not tendering him is a way of letting him go without having to come to an injury settlement. But a PCL tear is considerably less devastating as an ACL tear, and usually doesn’t require surgery (see Brian Finneran). Time to rest typically can heal them, so more than likely unless any complications come up during Harris’ rehab, he should be healthy enough to compete for a job come August. Peprah also ended the season injured with a sore hamstring, but that should also be healed in time for OTAs.

More than likely the team will tender both at the minimum level ($1.176 million). That would mean no compensation for Harris because he was undrafted, and fifth round pick for Peprah. If they decide to tender Fudge, it would put him in the same boat as Harris because he too was undrafted.

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