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I just want to give my own further insights on what Cap was saying in his column. For the most part I agree with the plan of action that he expects the front office to take this off-season. Some of these things were also mentioned in the TSN report he posted as well.
QB: I hope the team can add a competent veteran QB in here behind Schaub & Vick. I like Schaub's development so far, but I think Tony Banks would make an excellent addition to our ballclub. He's 21-14 as a starter since leaving St. Louis, which shows he can win games. IMO, Banks is a good stopgap in case injury befalls Vick again. I don't want to hear any excuse that this team was not in at least the wildcard hunt in 2005 because they had to start a green Schaub for too many games. A 1 or 2 year deal averaging around $1-1.5 milion is about the going rate for a backup QB, and I don't think that is money poorly spent if its on Banks.
RB: As the season progressed, I suspected more and more than both Dunn & Duckett will be back in Atlanta in 2005. Only if Dunn refuses a paycut or a team offers an arm an d a leg for Duckett will either depart. I actually wouldn't be against this team extending Dunn's deal by 1 or 2 more years in order to lessen the cap hit. With the way he played down the stretch this past year, he showed that he can still have 3-5 more productive seasons in this league.
FB: As far as Pritchett and McCrary are concerned, whichever one receives the least amount of attention on the market will return. Pritchett is the better receiver, while McCrary is the better blocker. Both can start in this league. I give the edge to Pritchett returning, but it will depend on his health.
TE: I suspect the team may keep Beverly at TE. If not, then getting a #2 guy in here becomes a priority. I'd like to get a cheap vet or a late round draft pick, but we need a guy that can block. Blakely and Sanders were somewhat disappointments this year. I think Blakely can still develop into a decent #2 option, but I'm holding my breath.
OT: I still think Weiner and Shaffer can be reliable starters, although I wouldn't wager the Falcons future on it. I think the best option is to try and draft someone at this position rather than spend the huge sum of $$$ on a free agent. Although Diem would be a nice addition, I'm not sure how much of an upgrade he would be over Weiner or Shaffer.
OG: I suspect the team will be on the market for a quality LG. I suspect the team will go after Ben Hamilton (Denver), but I was very unimpressed with Hamilton over the past 2 years. He was overmatched at LG, and like Garza would be a better OC. Forney is going to get better on the right side. I hope the Falcons spend the $$$ on Wahle at LG, but again I'm not really expecting it. A guy like DeMulling would be a great #2 option, but again it would require the Falcons giving up at least $5 million in signing bonus most likely. I suspect Herndon will return since he can play 4 line positions.
OC: McClure is adequate to me. We could improve, but I want to see someone outplay him before we take his job away. So far Garza hasn't done that, and maybe Hamilton could, but we shall see. Both are a bit stronger than McClure, but whether they are as smart as him remains to be seen.
WR: I really don't see the team making any major moves in FA. They'll probably put the feelers out for Muhammad and Porter, but I don't expect them to fork up the coin to get them. Rather I see the team hoping they can get a quality guy in the middle of the draft to come and compete with our current group.
DE: Smith will probably be back next year, but at a lower cap figure. We really need to upgrade the depth behind them. At the very least we need a competent situational guy. I see the Falcons courting a guy like Greg Spires from TB, who had 8 sacks this past year, and would be excellent in the situational role (he can play both LE and RDE). But I also assume the team will go after an early draft pick, possible #1.
DT: With Jasper's likely retirement, we'll probably see the team add a middle-level vet and a draft pick. I'd like to see the team go after Tony Williams, since he's the style of DT the team loves, but he's 30 and coming off injury, and may cost a bit more than he's worth. I'm not ready to hand the starting spot to Lavalais, but it seems like at this point with a not so dominant DT class in FA or the draft, he may be our best option. Either way, depth must be upgraded.
LB: I don't see either Stewart or Duncan returning. Considering that several more teams may go the 3-4 route this off-season (SF, DAL, NO, and CLE?), Stewart should be in relatively high demand, and I don't expect the team to fork up the cash to keep him. Williams should slide into his position, and if that's the case the team needs to hopefully add another LB in the middle rounds and a veteran to provide depth/insurance in case Williams doesn't hit the ground running.
CB: I'd like to see Mathis and Rossum kept, but we really need to get younger, faster, and bigger at this position. The draft is the best place to do it.
S: I'd like to see Beasley and Carpenter brought back for veteran depth. McCadam, Shabazz, and Pruitt are just ST guys, so we really only need 1 of them next year. WHichever is the best (hopefully Pruitt) will be kept, the others can be cut in training camp. As far as Hall goes, he'll stay one more year, but the team really needs to get a playmaker in the draft. I'd prefer a guy that is a big-time run stopper that has good range, but it depends on whether the team thinks Scott has a brighter future at FS or SS (personally I think its FS).
K: the team can't afford to go into camp without a halfway decent guy to compete with Feely. I'd like to see them add Wade Richey, who is also a strong-legged KO guy that might be an upgrade in FGs. Either way, Feely needs to feel the heat on his back in order for his play to be stepped up.
P: Mohr wasn't that great this year, but he's still one of the league's most accurate placement guys. A young guy can be added to push him, but it's not necessary.
Overall, I think the Falcons will probably stay under the radar for most of the off-season, work on freeing up some cap space, and focus mostly on building through the draft rather than the temptation to make quick fixes in free agency. Like we saw this past off-season, I suspect a lot of bargain basement signings like we saw in White, Beasley, Duncan, Eric Johnson, Herndon, and Detmer rather than the big ones like Coleman, Webster, and Beverly.