Brent Grimes is gone. Falcon fans should lament, although I’ve seen quite a few that are not. Are the Falcons defense doomed without Grimes? No. But they will miss him. How much remains to be seen. It seems very likely that cornerback will be one of the team’s top two picks in this year’s draft.
Will that mean that the Falcons won’t sign another player between now and then to help them at cornerback? No. I think it is possible, although I’m not sure I’d say it’s a likelihood. What is a likelihood is that the Falcons will let the market come to them. We haven’t received the details of Osi Umenyiora’s contract yet. But it was reported that $5 million of his deal was guaranteed, and according to other reports that encompassed his first-year salary. Given the way that the Falcons usually negotiate their contracts, it’s likely that guaranteed money includes his first-year base salary as well as an initial signing bonus. How that breaks up is unknown, but more than likely it will result in a cap hit in 2013 that is between $3 and $4 million. Regardless of where it falls on that spectrum, it means that the Falcons cap situation is relatively tight. I’ve calculated that if the Falcons don’t trade any of their picks, they will need roughly $5.65 million to sign all of them. From the cap numbers I have, if Umenyiora’s 2013 cap hit is $3.5 million, that gives the Falcons roughly $3.5 million in cap space for the season. Not enough to sign the rookies.
Now after the draft the Falcons will almost certainly get to work on extending Matt Ryan’s contract. When that deal is done, that should give the team at least $5-6 million in cap space, giving them them enough to sign their rookies and also have some room left over as insurance in the event of injuries. But in the mean time, the Falcons will likely be frugal with their spending. And that will likely result in the Falcons letting the cornerback market come to them. They probably won’t make huge efforts to pursue any free agent corners between now and the draft. But if some come to them at the right terms, then I believe we should see the Falcons add a veteran stopgap at cornerback before the draft. The right terms likely will be a one-year, veteran minimum deal that will include a very modest signing bonus (less than $100,000). If a veteran corner is willing to accept such terms, then he may be a Falcon. If not, then the Falcons will be content to try and answer their problems at the position solely via the draft.