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Why Brent Grimes Didn’t Get a Long-Term Deal

July 17th, 2012 1 comment
Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Brent Grimes

The Monday, July 16 deadline for when franchise players could get long-term deals done passed without Falcons corner Brent Grimes getting one. That outcome was not a surprise given how little movement and noise had been made in recent weeks.

The Falcons appear to be in a position to play wait and see with Grimes. The team picked up Asante Samuel this off-season, and the team is trying to get a return on their substantial investment in Dunta Robinson this year by moving him inside in nickel situations. Essentially, if Grimes has a good season then he’ll likely land the long-term deal he seeks next off-season. But the Falcons want to be sure that they are not committing another huge deal to a player that does not deserve it. Because while the Falcons brass won’t admit it, they aren’t too thrilled about the Robinson deal they gave out two years ago.

Robinson received $57 million over six years, and nearly $25 million in guaranteed money. That was and remains roughly market value for a top No. 1 corner. Unfortunately, Robinson has been anything but that caliber of player. On the other hand, Grimes has been. You would be hard-pressed to find a corner outside Darrelle Revis and Samuel that has collectively played better the past two seasons than Grimes. Yet the Falcons appear to be reluctant to make such a big investment unless they deem that player to be essential. And right or wrong, it’s clear that this team doesn’t view Grimes as an essential piece.

And from a certain perspective that is understandable, now that the team has added Samuel and decided to move Robinson inside to the slot. If Samuel continues to play at a high level, and there is a significant uptick in Robinson’s play so that he appears to solidify a nickel spot that has been a major weakness for this defense for three years running, then committing $50 million or more to Grimes isn’t the smartest financial decision. Especially when you have players like Dominique Franks and Chris Owens on the roster. While they are not nearly the players that Grimes is, the Falcons only have to commit roughly $1.9 million to the pair over the next two seasons. Had the Falcons given Grimes the exact same contract as Cortland Finnegan received from the Rams this off-season (5 yrs., $50 million), that figure would be around $24 million. So while you may only be getting one half of the player, you’re getting him for one-twelfth the price.

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Deadline approaches for long-term deal for Grimes

July 9th, 2012 Comments off
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Brent Grimes

On July 16, the deadline for teams to sign their franchise players to long-term deals comes and goes. Which means that a week remains for the Falcons to lock up Brent Grimes to a long-term deal. If not, then Grimes will play out his one-year franchise tender in the hopes that a long-term deal will come after the 2012 season. A week ago, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports indicated the odds that Grimes receives a long-term deal from the Falcons as “fair.” La Canfora indicated that due to the money already invested in fellow corners Dunta Robinson and Asante Samuel, the Falcons may opt to take a wait and see approach to see how the 2012 season plays out between the three before handing out big dollars to Grimes.

Grimes already signed his tender in April, so there won’t be the threat of any holdout if the July 16 deadline comes and passes without a new deal. But the price tag for the Falcons will likely only increase if a deal isn’t struck sooner rather than later. Grimes will then become a free agent following the 2012 season and if the Falcons choose to tag him again, his tender will increase by 20% from the current $10.262 million to around $12.3 million in 2013. Next year, the Falcons most prominent free agents include Tony Gonzalez, William Moore, Vince Manuwai, and Todd McClure, thus making Grimes again the likeliest candidate for a tag.

Little word has been publicly noted about what type of deal Grimes is looking for. It’s likely a deal that approaches or exceeds $50 million in total value. Already this off-season, three free agents have received deals that exceeded that mark: Lardarius Webb (six years, $52.7 million), Cortland Finnegan (five years, $50 million), and Brandon Carr (five years, $50.1 million). It’s likely that Finnegan’s and Carr’s deals will be used to scaffold any potential deal for Grimes since they include the most guaranteed money ($24 and $25.5 million, respectively) and payouts over the first three years (both receive $33 million).

The Falcons gave out $22.5 million in guaranteed money to Robinson back in 2010 as part of a six-year, $57 million deal. They restructured his deal this past off-season, which makes his entire 2012 base salary of $5 million guaranteed, and $3 million of his $8 million base salary next year guaranteed if he’s on the roster on the fifth day of the league year starting in early March. Essentially it puts the Falcons in a position where they could part ways with Robinson or Grimes after this season depending on who proves to be the more valuable commodity in 2012. Robinson is a year older, but also serves the more valuable role as slot corner. For Samuel, his new three-year, $18.5 million deal only includes about $4.375 million in guaranteed money, but he has escalators in the deal tied to performance. Samuel and Grimes have similar games, both being undersized but highly instinctual ball-hawks. So if the Falcons opt to let Grimes play out his one-year deal and walk next year, they have a replacement already in Samuel. If they opt to part ways with Robinson, then it would require the team to get a new slot corner (although Dominique Franks is a possibility). But either way, the odds don’t appear to be greatly favoring the long-term viability of the triple threat of Grimes, Robinson, and Samuel at cornerback here in Atlanta.

Next year, the competition for new contracts for corners could heat up. Along with Grimes, potentially Tracy Porter (Broncos), Aqib Talib (Buccaneers), Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer (Chargers), Mike Jenkins (Cowboys), Sean Smith (Dolphins), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Eagles), Chris Houston (Lions), Jabari Greer (Saints), and Jason McCourty (Titans) will hit the open market. Jets corner Darrelle Revis is also looking for a new deal that doesn’t seem likely to come before the 2012 season starts, but could be done afterwards which could raise the price tag of Grimes.

For now, with what is estimated to be under $3 million in 2012 cap space, the Falcons don’t need to get Grimes signed to a long-term deal and lower his 2012 cap hit. But it certainly would help and allow the team to carry over whatever savings they reap this year into next year’s salary cap. So it would certainly benefit to create as much salary cap space as possible this year to benefit them next year.

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Why The Falcons Should Extend Ryan ASAP

June 14th, 2012 Comments off
USPRESSWIRE

Matt Ryan chats with Arthur Blank

The Falcons have a small window of opportunity to get a relative bargain deal by extending Ryan as soon as possible. But once Drew Brees signs his extension with the Saints, that window could potentially slam shut.

Matt Ryan has two years left on his contract, having been signed through 2013. He signed an initial six-year, $72 million deal as a rookie in 2008. Any extension he signs from this point on is almost certainly going to surpass that figure. But the Falcons could potentially save themselves a few million by signing Ryan as soon as possible.

Ryan is represented by the same agent that represents Brees, Tom Condon. Condon also represents the Manning brothers, Tony Romo, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman, and Matt Stafford. His partners at CAA in Jimmy Sexton and Ben Dogra represent Philip Rivers and Robert Griffin III, respectively. Collectively, they represent a who’s who of top NFL quarterbacks, making it such that they are often competing with themselves to top each other with subsequent contracts.

Currently, the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Manning signed a five-year $96 million deal this past March with the Broncos. It only includes $18 million in guaranteed money currently, but that could increase to $60 million depending on Manning’s health come 2013. Brady signed a four-year extension just prior to the 2010 season that was worth $72 million and included $48.5 million in guaranteed money. Another noteworthy deal was signed by Sam Bradford in the same summer that was worth $78 million over six years, including $50 million guaranteed.

Brees’ deal is expected to be on the plus-side of $18 million per year, with many reports indicating he’s looking for a deal that averages slightly over $20 million per year. The expectation is that his guaranteed money will be north of $50 million, and potentially matching or exceeding the potential $60 million of Manning’s deal.

If Brees does eventually get the contract he wants, then it’s going to push Ryan’s deal up even more. Ryan’s deal isn’t going to exceed that of Brees, but if Brees is able to push the ceiling for QB contracts up higher, it will have a trickle-down effect that will make all subsequent deals higher.

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Ewing’s addition should not spell end for Ovie

April 29th, 2012 Comments off
US PRESSWIRE

Ovie Mughelli

The Falcons used a fifth round pick on Saturday to take Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing. And it caused a lot of speculation that Ovie Mughelli’s tenure as an Atlanta Falcon will come to an end. And while that is certainly a possibility, given Ovie’s age (32), the fact that he’s coming off a knee injury, and cutting him can clear about $3 million off the Falcons 2012 salary cap. But if the Falcons are looking to make the best football decision, then keeping Mughelli is a must.

I’ve been vocal in the past about Michael Turner’s potential to have a detrimental effect on the Falcons offense. A big part of that is that Turner and Mughelli are tied at the hip. When Turner has big games, it almost always coincides with Ovie having big games as a blocker. The pair have worked together for four years, and much like the relationship between a quarterback and a wide out goes the relationship between a tailback and his lead blocker.

The Falcons are intent on keeping Turner, and having Mughelli block for him is the best strategy to getting the most out of Turner in 2012. While Ewing is a solid lead blocker, as a rookie he’s not likely to add significantly more value as a starter than Mike Cox would. Ewing just is not a physical, smashmouth pile-clearing lead blocker that Ovie is. And that style of football has made Turner one of the more productive runners over the past four seasons, and earned Ovie a reputation for being the league’s top blocking fullback alongside Vonta Leach.

Ovie’s knee injury is a concern, but unlikely to have lingering effects. All reports indicate that Ovie suffered an MCL tear which is not nearly as grievous as an ACL tear. In fact, most often MCL tears do not require surgery to properly heal, although Ovie did undergo season-ending surgery last season.

And while Ovie’s age might seem to indicate he is nearing the end, giving the longevity that other Pro Bowl fullbacks like Mack Strong (last season was at age 36), William Henderson (35), Lorenzo Neal (38), and Tony Richardson (39) in the past decade, there’s no reason to expect that Ovie has several years left in the tank.

As for the money issue, given that Ovie is entering the final year of his contract, the Falcon could easily lower his cap hit by adding another year to the deal. Ovie has a 2012 cap hit of $3.733 million, with $3 million of that being base salary. As a 10th year veteran, the minimum salary is $925,000. If the Falcons were to lower his 2012 base salary to $925,000, and add another year in 2013 for the same price, and then convert the difference ($3 million – $925,000 = $2.075 million) into a signing bonus, they could almost nearly cut Ovie’s 2012 cap hit in half. The savings of nearly $1.8 million would allow a much more palatable contract for the Falcons to handle this season.

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Robinson restructures, saves Falcons $1.75M

March 9th, 2012 Comments off

Pat Yasinskas of ESPN reports that cornerback Dunta Robinson agreed to restructure his contract, which resulted in 2012 cap savings of $1.75 million. Robinson opted to waive a $3 million option bonus that was due next week. He also lowed his base salary by $1 million. Robinson’s new 2012 base salary of $5 million is now fully guaranteed. His base salaries in 2013 and 2014 increase by $1 million each year (up to $8 and $10 million respectively), and his 2015 base salary increases by $2 million to $11.5 million.

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Can the Falcons afford Super Mario?

March 6th, 2012 1 comment
ICON SMI

Mario Williams

The more I think about it, the more it’s hard to imagine a good reason why the Falcons shouldn’t pursue Houston Texans defensive end Mario Williams on the open market come next week.

Williams is likely to be one of the most coveted free agents in recent memory. Teams are constantly looking for top pass rushers, and few would argue that Williams is not one of the best currently in the league. The Texans did not slap him with a franchise tag, and thus are likely to lose him to the highest bidder.

Given recent deals that Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware, and Elvis Dumervil have signed that included $40 million or more in guaranteed money, the market likely will dictate that Williams will make more. Basically, Williams will make as much money as a franchise quarterback, exceeding the guaranteed dollars that Philip Rivers and Eli Manning have received in recent years and potentially approaching the guaranteed dollars of Tom Brady ($49 million).

In fact, if the Falcons attempt to extend the contract of Matt Ryan in the next 18 months, Williams’ contract could potentially rival Ryan’s for who is the highest paid player on the team. And so the question becomes can the Falcons afford two players on the roster that are guaranteed $40-50 million. Especially in an off-season where the Falcons are likely to pay premium dollar deals to cornerback Brent Grimes ($20 million-plus guaranteed), and Curtis Lofton (potentially approaching $20 million).

I think the answer is yes, but the Falcons have to be smart about their spending. Let’s examine the biggest contract for a defensive end signed by Julius Peppers with the Chicago Bears in March 2010. That deal was worth $84 million over six years with $42 million guaranteed. Another $7.5 million could be earned via incentives. Any deal with Williams, is likely to be structured similarly.

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Falcons need to be wary of Lofton’s deal

March 2nd, 2012 Comments off
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Curtis Lofton

The Falcons want to bring back Curtis Lofton, and that is the right decision. But the Falcons have to be careful that they do not overpay Lofton on the open market, because Lofton is not likely to be a core piece on their defense going forward. The reason for that is the league is increasingly become a passing-oriented league. The rule changes favor offenses, and particularly those that can sling the football. And the issue with Lofton is that this is the weakest part of his game.

There are several reasons why the Falcons should want Curtis Lofton back. Firsly, he is coming off arguably his best season as a pro. While he is not a dominant run defender, he certainly is a good one that is a key reason why the Falcons run defense has been so stout the past three years. Secondly, he is also developing into a leadership role. While Mike Peterson has been the leader of the linebacker corps the past three years, his time in Atlanta is at or nearing its end. At some point in the near future, someone else is going to have to step up and Lofton is as good a candidate as any to do so. While Lofton is a bit of a mild-mannered guy off the field than his more loquacious teammate Sean Weatherspoon, Lofton certainly brings an aggressive, physical disposition on the field. Lofton is a good leader by example type and their two personalities can complement each other in the locker room going forward for young Falcons.

Thirdly, Lofton is also a good middle linebacker. He’s not one of the best in the league, as he’s often portrayed as, but he is certainly above average. He is fairly consistent in playing at a solid to good level on a weekly basis. And that sort of consistency is welcomed on any defense, particularly when it comes to the guy that is at a key position such as the middle linebacker. I’ve heard it said that teams should want to reward the best people as opposed to the best players with long-term deals. And Lofton is certainly one of those players.

But before the Falcons lock Lofton up to a highly lucrative contact, they must realize that there are also some limitations. As stated before, Lofton is not the best pass defender. The league has seen the rise of tight ends and slot receivers in recent years, making the middle of the field a fertile ground for explosive passing attacks.  While Lofton has improved there in recent years, he’s not helping the Falcons win that arms race. Playing in space over the middle and being stuck on an island against good receivers is not something Lofton does very well. And if he is to be the rock at the center of the Falcons defense for years to come, he will ever increasingly have to perform in those duties. And while Lofton can continue to improve there, he’s never going to reach a point where he is considered an asset in the pass defense. A comparable Falcon of yesteryear was Keith Brooking who was similarly adequate and effective at times, but often times was a liability when it came to the better players he would find himself matched up with.

There has been talk that the Falcons would prefer that Lofton become more of a two-down player. While that could minimize some of Lofton’s deficiencies in coverage, it will make his value to this football team significantly diminished. Two-down linebackers are a dime a dozen in the NFL because the overwhelming majority of guys currently in the league could be considered such. And therefore, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Falcons to make Lofton one of the higher paid players at his position when he could be lumped into that same group.

Basically, Lofton is a good player, but limited going forward. And therefore, the Falcons need to offer him a good, but limited deal. If Lofton balks at such a deal and can make a more lucrative contract elsewhere, then good for him. That will free up the Falcons to invest money where they need to, which is improving the pass defense.

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Falcons looking to extend Ryan

February 25th, 2012 Comments off

Jason La Canfora of NFL.com reports that the Falcons plan to explore a contract extension with quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has two years remaining on his rookie contract that he signed in 2008.

Ryan carries a cap hit of $13.5 million this year, with $2.5 million of that being guaranteed, the last guaranteed dollars to be paid on his rookie deal. By extending his deal, it would significantly lessen that cap figure and give the Falcons more money to potentially spend on the open market this off-season. Reports indicate the Falcons have roughly $30 million to spend under this year’s projected cap. It would also increase the amount of guaranteed dollars that Ryan could net in the coming years, making an extension mutually beneficial for both parties. Ryan’s cap hit in 2013 will be $10 million, none of which is guaranteed.

Fellow 2008 first round draftee Joe Flacco is seeking a contract extension from the Baltimore Ravens. Ryan signed a six-year contract worth $72 million with $34.75 million guaranteed in 2008, and any future deal is likely to exceed those totals. Since then, passers like Philip Rivers and Eli Manning have signed deals averaging around $15 million a year with between $35 and $40 million guaranteed. Top draft picks Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford signed deals that included roughly $42 and $50 million in guaranteed money as well in the past four years. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning signed deals over the past two seasons that averaged $18 million a year and had guaranteed money of $49 and $54.4 million, respectively.

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Gonzalez signs one-year extension

January 1st, 2012 Comments off

The Falcons announced that tight end Tony Gonzalez will be returning to Atlanta after signing a one-year contract extension today. ESPN reports that the deal is worth $7 million. Gonzalez’s contract expired at the end of this year, and there had been talks of potential retirement after last season. But he has decided not to hang up his cleats quite yet by returning to the Falcons for at least one more year.

Gonzalez earned a Pro Bowl bid this year, his second in three years with the Falcons. Prior to being traded to the Falcons before the 2009 season, he spent twelve seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. This past year, Gonzalez moved into second place all-time in terms of receptions for all receivers, and has been well ahead of all tight ends for a number of years. His 1,148 career receptions outpace the next best tight end by over 300 catches. He currently sits 11th all-time in receiving yards with 13,330. He has 867 yards this year with one game to play, and another year with similar production could move him past James Lofton (14,004) for seventh place. He is 9th all-time in receiving touchdowns with 95, and six more will move him past Steve Largent and Don Hutson (100) for sixth place.

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Falcons could get salary cap relief from Vick deal

August 31st, 2011 Comments off

The Falcons could receive future salary cap credits from the $6.5 million that former quarterback Michael Vick still owes them according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Such credits are reviewed on a case-by-case basis according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, and whether or not the Falcons can get some added cap relief is under review by the league.

Vick signed a six-year $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and owes creditors more than $20 million stemming from unpaid debts due to his 2007 incarceration. According to CNBC’s Darren Rovell those debts are expected to be paid in full by 2014 thanks to the money from Vick’s new contract.

In 2009, the Falcons sought to reclaim close to $20 million in bonus money paid to Vick from a previous contract paid in 2004 that exceeded $100 million. But a bankruptcy court ruled that Vick would only owe $6.5 million.

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