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Ranking the Falcons 2014: No. 21 Osi Umenyiora

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Osi Umenyiora

I’m counting down the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, and let’s continue with 21st-ranked player: defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

To read the methodology I devised to rank the Falcons players, click here.

Total Score: 54/100

Last year’s rank: 8
Player Grade: 57/100
Teams he is starter: 10 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 1 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 30 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +1
Positional Bonus: +4

When the Falcons brought in Umenyiora as a free agent last offseason, they likely envisioned him as a younger, cheaper option than long-time Falcons pass-rushing stalwart John Abraham.

Umenyiora was after all more than three years younger than Abraham and over the course of the two-year deal he signed with the Falcons was expected to only count $8.5 million against their cap. Abraham on the other hand, was slated to count roughly $12.3 million against the team’s cap over the course of 2013 and 2014, making Umenyiora roughly a two-thirds of the cost.

Thus when Umenyiora finished 2013 with 7.5 sacks, about three-quarters of the average of Abraham (9.8 sacks) over his seven seasons in Atlanta, it seemed superficially like a successful bargain. However, diving a bit deeper below the surface revealed that Umenyiora’s production was significantly less than Abraham.

Using the metrics of Moneyball, my own review system, Umenyiora finished the season 12.5 “positive pass rushes” or PPRs, which include sacks, pressures and hits.

In contrast, Abraham earned 33 PPRs in his final season in 2012. That came off seasons of 31.5 PPRs in both 2009 and 2011, with 23 in 2010. So while the Falcons were paying two-thirds of the cost, they were more closely getting one-third of the production. And that lack of production contributed significantly to the fact that the Falcons finished dead-last in third-down defense in 2013.

The Falcons appear hopeful that Umenyiora will be better in 2014. At the tail end of last season, he was relegated to a situational pass-rusher coming onto the field in nickel situations. Unlike the rest of the Falcons defenders, who will alternate between three and four-man sets, Umenyiora’s role will strictly be a defensive end in a four-man front.

The goal being that should keep him fresher, which should equal more production. Whether it is effective remains to be seen. Umenyiora had a similar role with the New York Giants in 2012, but it did not pay dividends and prompted the team to let him walk after the season.

If the Falcons can’t get increased production from Umenyiora and others this year, it’s very likely that there will be a dramatic revamp of the pass-rush unit next season. And then Umenyiora’s brief time in Atlanta will draw more comparisons to that of Ray Edwards than Abraham.

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Author: Aaron Freeman

Aaron is the founder of FalcFans.com.

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