Falcons Super Bowl Window is Small
Falcons receiver Roddy White made recent headlines with comments that the time is now for the Falcons to win a Super Bowl. I for one am not a person that typically agrees with many of the public utterings made by White, but in this case he’s 100% correct.
The Falcons do have a small window of opportunity to “get over the hump” and try and win a Super Bowl. While the powers that be in Flowery Branch probably won’t say as much publicly, the truth is in their actions.
And by actions, just look at the team they’ve constructued. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the Falcons are “all in” for a Super Bowl in 2013, they certainly are for the next two seasons.
Don’t agree? Well, here’s a thinking exercise… Name the Falcons current ten best players. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.
Okay done? Here’s probably the list you came up with, or very close to it…
Offensively, you probably immediately thought of Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez, White, and Julio Jones. You might have even thrown Steven Jackson into that mix. Ryan is signed through 2013. Gonzalez, White, and Jones are all signed through 2014, however it’s fully expected that Gonzalez will hang things up after this upcoming season. Jackson signed through 2015, but I don’t think anybody realistically expects him to last that long. By then, he’ll be 32 and counting $5 million against the Falcons cap. You’re realistically thinking that at most Jackson plays two more years with the Falcons.
Defensively, you probably named these five: Osi Umenyiora, Jonathan Babineaux, Sean Weatherspoon, Asante Samuel, and William Moore.
Babineaux’s contract expires after the 2013 season. Umenyiora, Weatherspoon, and Samuel are done after 2014. Moore is signed through 2017.
Sure, you’re saying that Ryan is on the verge of getting a big extension, as will Jones and Weatherspoon when their contracts are up. You’d be correct. But the point is that when you look at the top ten or so players on the Falcons roster, 70% of them are probably not going to be Falcons in three years. Even a player like Moore, will be turning 30 in 2015. His already well-established durability issues and the physical nature of the safety position likely mean that the Falcons would be lucky to get strong production from him beyond that year. Bob Sanders, another injury-prone safety played his last game of football at age 30. Troy Polamalu is 32 now, but he’s missed over a third of his games since turning 28. You can’t play the game as physically as Moore does and expect him to last until he’s 32. Sure, you might think a player like Lawyer Milloy did, as he was 35 when he started his last game in Atlanta. But Milloy also didn’t have the wear and tear that Moore has suffered early in his career. When Milloy joined the Falcons in 2006 at age 33, he had only missed 5 games up to that point in his career. Moore just turned 28 and he’s already missed 18 due to injury.
The point is that a significant portion of the Falcons top-end talent is going to be turned over in the next two or so years. While the Falcons do have a few prospects waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen if players like Levine Toilolo, Jacquizz Rodgers, Corey Peters, Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman, Desmond Trufant, etc. have the talent to be that top-end talent.
While I’m optimistic a few of those names will emerge, it doesn’t appear like the Falcons seven or more players the caliber of the veterans I previously mentioned that are ready to step in and be big-time producers on a Super Bowl-caliber team.
Next year, the Falcons will keep the majority of their current starting lineup. At this point, Gonzalez and Babineaux are probably the only starters likely to not be back in 2014. They won’t be easy players to replace, but the team should still be in a very good position to compete at the highest levels. They’ll be simply reloading for another run in 2014.
But after 2014, things get a lot murkier. The number of good, young players the Falcons will have to add in the next two off-seasons to be in a similar position in 2015 is pretty high. Probably too high to be realistic. One can’t completely write off Thomas Dimitroff, but it does appear that this two-year window is purposefully constructed by the team.
The past two off-seasons, they haven’t been looking to sign guys to long-term deals. Abraham and Samuel both got three-year deals last off-season. Jackson got a three-year deal this off-season. Gonzalez, Umenyiora got two-year deals. Moore got five years, but it’s structured that it is more likely to be a three-year deal. This team is built for the short-term, not the long haul. Giving up all those picks for Jones in 2011 wasn’t a decision that was going to benefit the Falcons down the road, it was one meant to add short-term gains.
That doesn’t mean that the Falcons won’t have a chance to compete for Super Bowls in 2015 and beyond. It just all means that there is probably going to be a period of time where the Falcons are trying to rebuild the upper tier of their roster, and it may take a couple of seasons before they have a level of talent relative to what they currently have. You have to take advantage of the opportunities you have, and in the next two seasons the Falcons will have two of their best opportunities. Beyond that, it’s too hard to tell.
And if the Falcons manage to win a Super Bowl this year or next year, it’ll all have been well worth it.