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Posts Tagged ‘free agency’

Falcons Bring Back Mike Johnson For One More Year

March 10th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that guard Mike Johnson had agreed to a one-year extension. Johnson’s rookie contract had expired at the end of the 2013 season and he was set to hit unrestricted free agency tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. Eastern. Johnson missed all of the 2013 season with a dislocated ankle and broken leg that he suffered early in training camp. Terms of his deal were undisclosed.

Johnson was poised to start at right tackle this past season until he was sidelined with the injury. He was initially a third-round draft pick by the Falcons in 2010 out of Alabama and was slated to play guard. He was inactive for every game as a rookie and spent the bulk of the 2011 season on injured reserve. He then moved to right tackle in 2012, and spent that season playing primarily as the team’s sixth offensive lineman and blocking tight end. In four seasons, Johnson has logged just one start and 18 total appearances. His return adds valuable depth and a potential competitor for a starting position at right guard or right tackle for the Falcons.

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Report: Falcons ‘Aggressively Pursuing’ Paul Soliai

March 10th, 2014 Comments off

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweeted today that the Atlanta Falcons are “very aggressively pursuing” Miami Dolphins nose tackle Paul Soliai. La Canfora’s report comes in regard to today’s earlier news of defensive assistant Mark Collins’ promotion which has prompted the belief that Falcons will making a switch to the 3-4 as their base defense.

Soliai played under Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan for the two years they shared together in Miami (2010-11) before the latter’s arrival in Atlanta. Soliai just turned 30 at the end of this past season, his seventh in Miami. He has served as a regular starter since Nolan’s arrival in 2010, combining for 129 tackles and 4.5 sacks over that span. He served as a Pro Bowl injury replacement in 2012.

Soliai initially was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round in 2007 and was a backup to Jason Ferguson for the early part of his career.

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 59 “That Bad Taste In Your Mouth”

March 10th, 2014 Comments off

Aaron is back with me to discuss free agency! Allen gives his long-awaited thoughts on the Falcons cuts made in the month of February, which includes a brief history lesson on the team’s free agent history. Later, we get into a discussion on which positions of need and possible targets the Falcons could target when free agency kicks off. During the course of our debate, we bring up Osi Umenyiora’s possible pay cut, Corey Peters and nose tackles, Robert McClain’s restricted free agent status, T.J. Ward’s ability, Champ Bailey’s value, and what are the differences between Lamarr Houston, Michael Bennett and Michael Johnson. In the end, we discuss how Antone Smith will quickly replace Jason Snelling as the team’s most underutilized player.

Episode 59: That Bad Taste In Your Mouth [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Allen covers the Falcons for Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Last Week – March 10, 2014

March 10th, 2014 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah

This weekend the NFL instituted it’s second “legal tampering” signing period, allowing free agents to begin negotiating with prospective teams before the official free agency period starts on Tuesday afternoon, March 11.

Already the Atlanta Falcons have been linked to a number of potential free agents, including guard Jon Asamoah, safety Mike Mitchell, and cornerback Champ Bailey.

But the Asamoah linkage seems strongest with multiple outside sources indicating that the Falcons interest in Asamoah is high.

While I like Asamoah quite a bit as a player, I’m not sure that he is a good fit in Atlanta. But apparently it seems like I’m in the minority in that regards.

As for Caplan’s assessment, I would have to respectfully disagree. Asamoah is a player that ideally fits in a zone-heavy blocking scheme because he’s very athletic, but not overly powerful.

The Falcons have incorporated more zone-blocking into their ground attack under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter the past two years, but still primarily a man-blocking team.

The Falcons have made an effort to emphasize size with their line acquisitions in recent years, evidenced by additions like Terren Jones, Lamar Holmes, Phillipkeith Manley and Peter Konz the past few years since Koetter joined the team. If you’re trying to be an offense that features a lot of zone-blocking, targeting plus-sized linemen, many of whom weigh in excess of 330 pounds is largely counterintuitive.

And the lines that Mike Tice and Wade Harman coached in Chicago and Baltimore respectively emphasized size and/or man-blocking.

Could the team’s interest in Asamoah suggest a shift in their blocking? Perhaps, but more than likely the answer is no.

Read more…

Report: Falcons ‘Extremely Interested’ in Asamoah

March 9th, 2014 Comments off

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post cites unknown league sources that the Atlanta Falcons are “extremely interested” in Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah, an impending free agent.

While the official start of free agency begins Tuesday afternoon, teams are currently allowed to legally “tamper” by talking with potential free agents until then. No reports yet on whether Asamoah and the Falcons are actively discussing a contract. But the Falcons are not alone in their reported interest in Asamoah, as reports surfaced early Saturday that the New York Jets were another team that intended to make a play for him.

Asamoah is considered one of the premier guards potentially available in free agency, along with teammate Geoff Schwartz. However, Asamoah lost his starting job to Schwartz last season thanks to a shoulder injury suffered in Week 11. Asamoah missed the Chiefs’ season-opener with a calf injury, but started the next nine games at right guard before being sidelined and sitting the bench for the final six games.

Prior to last year, Asamoah started a combined 31 games at right guard in 2011 and 2012. He was originally a third-round pick by the Chiefs out of Illinois in 2010.

You can check out my assessment of Asamoah’s strengths, weaknesses and how he potentially fits in Atlanta.

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FalcFans Weekly Round-Up – March 9, 2014

March 9th, 2014 Comments off
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Ebron

Publishing weekly round-ups dealing with various Atlanta Falcons news was a regular event during the abyss known as 2011 NFL Lockout. Since then, I haven’t had much need for them but I figure that it is time to dust them off this offseason.

Partially because my day job has me traveling a lot during the week which limits the number of timely updates and posts I can have during the week involving Falcons-related items. So they will be partially house-cleaning for any stories I may not have written during the week.

I will also aggregate some articles, both Falcons-related and not, that I think are worthy of views that were posted during the past week.

***

The Falcons are actively working on retaining some of their own free agents including defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, center Joe Hawley, and guard Mike Johnson according to reports.

Rounding up news involving Falcons free agents is that defensive tackle Peria Jerry is also unlikely to be retained, prompting some celebration.

***

North Carolina tight end prospect Eric Ebron joins the list of potential draft picks being openly in favor of playing for the Falcons. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney previously voiced his favor for Atlanta as a potential landing zone. Here’s what Ebron had to say:

I would love to play for the Falcons. Julio Jones, Roddy White and Matt Ryan – I would love to play with those guys. Those are big shoes to fill, which I’m not afraid of. I can’t walk into the league expecting to be Tony G. I’m just going to compete as hard as I can as myself.

Read more…

Free Agent Focus: Lamarr Houston

March 5th, 2014 Comments off

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lamarr Houston

As mentioned earlier this week, the next of potential free agent targets for the Atlanta Falcons worth examining is Oakland Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston.

Houston doesn’t distinguish himself as the best available pass-rusher this offseason, but is probably the best fit for the multiple defense run by Mike Nolan here in Atlanta.

Houston spent the bulk of his first three seasons in Oakland playing left defensive end, where he excelled as a run defender. He finished in the top 10 according to Pro Football Focus’ run-stopping grades among 4-3 defensive ends in those years, with top 5 finishes in each of the past three seasons.

But Houston’s role in 2013 changed. In their attempts to feature him more as a pass-rusher, the Raiders switched Houston to the right side of the defense where he no longer rushed with his hand on the ground. Instead he spent the bulk of the season playing with his hand off the ground. Essentially Houston was transformed into the league’s largest rush linebacker.

He responded with a career-high six sacks and two forced fumbles and matched his career-high of 69 tackles from 2012. Clearly those numbers don’t indicate a world-class pass-rusher, but Houston is able to consistently get pressure despite not tallying a bunch of sacks. He has totaled 126 pressures (according to Pro Football Focus) combined over the past four years, compared to the 107 that current Falcon edge-rusher Osi Umenyiora has accumulated.

Listed at 300 pounds, it’s likely that Houston played at something closer to 280 this past season. He looked very similar in his build to Jonathan Babineaux back when he was listed at 285 in his younger days in Atlanta.

Strengths:

  • Good first step that does a good job bull-rushing because he can convert speed to power.
  • Adept at getting leverage against the run and making stops in pursuit.
  • Athletic and rangy for a big man that is comfortable dropping into coverage and playing in space.

Weaknesses:

  • Complementary rusher that is not a guy that you want anchoring a pass rush as the “top dog.”
  • Doesn’t have the bulk or size to consistently hold up inside against bulkier guards.
  • Lacks top-end burst and quickness to beat premier left tackles.

Read more…

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Peters Re-Ups for One Year

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons announced today that defensive tackle Corey Peters agreed to a one-year contract. Peters was an impending free agent, as the period where players can officially join new teams begins a week from today. Per Scott Carasik of Draft Falcons, Peters’ deal is worth $1.5 million minus playing-time incentives.

Originally a third-round pick out of Kentucky by the Falcons in 2010, Peters has been a regular starter since joining the team. He is coming off his most productive season, tallying career-highs of 46 tackles and five sacks. Peters suffered a torn Achilles tendon at the end of this past season however, limiting his potential market. He had successful surgery in January and is currently in a walking boot for a few more weeks.

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Free Agent Focus: Jon Asamoah

March 3rd, 2014 Comments off
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Asamoah

Ranking just behind his Kansas City Chiefs teammate Geoff Schwartz on a lot lists about the top free agent guards in 2014 is Jon Asamoah, making him a potential target for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason.

Asamoah (pronounced AH-suh-MO-uh) is not coming off his most successful season, losing his starting job at right guard to Schwartz towards the end of the year. But that doesn’t really portray the reality of how Asamoah’s career in Kansas City could potentially end if he walks in free agency.

Asamoah lost his job due to both injury and less than ideal play. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 11 against the Denver Broncos, being limited the following week in practice. Schwartz replaced him as the starter at right guard, and his performance against the San Diego Chargers in Week 12 led to his keeping the job for the remainder of the season.

But Asamoah gave the Chiefs mostly solid production over the past three seasons since assuming the starting right guard spot after the departure of long-time veteran stalwart Brian Waters. His +8.9 Pro Football Focus grade in 2011 was second-best on the team behind only left tackle Branden Albert that year. He followed that up with a +15.0 grade in 2012, tying right tackle Eric Winston for the best on the roster. While there was a decline from Asamoah in 2013, his +7.9 grade still earned him third-highest on the roster and better than all but 19 of 80 other guards with significant playing time last year.

And it’s more than likely the decline of Asamoah had more to due with a shift in blocking scheme installed by new head coach Andy Reid than any decline in skill. Clearly, his Pro Football Focus grades indicate Asamoah fared well in the zone-blocking scheme employed under the previous regime. While the Chiefs didn’t completely scrap zone-blocking under Reid, there was more of an effort to become more of a straight-ahead smash mouth rushing attack, which is more in line with what Reid had in Philadelphia.

Over the years, the Eagles offensive lines under Reid featured massive blockers such as Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan and Jason Peters at offensive tackle and Shawn Andrews, Jermane Mayberry, Jamaal Jackson and Todd Herremans inside at guard and center, all of whom are north of 320 pounds and some over 340. When Reid made the decision late in his tenure to switch to a smaller group coached by Howard Mudd, it resulted in disaster for the Eagles.

The lighter, 305-pound Asamoah just doesn’t fit that sort of style as well as the 340-pound Schwartz.

Any questions surrounding Asamoah center on whether he could fare better with the Falcons, a team in desperate need of upgrading the play at right guard.

Strengths:

  • Athletic and very effective blocking on the move on stretch plays and getting downfield on the second level
  • Has good feet and does a nice job staying in front of speed in pass protection
  • Young, developing player with still room to grow

Weaknesses:

  • Not very big or powerful to create consistent push off the line
  • Will give up ground to powerful interior pass rushers
  • Has had a few nicks and bruises the past two years causing some slight durability concerns

Read more…

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Free Agent Focus: Geoff Schwartz

March 3rd, 2014 Comments off
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Geoff Schwartz

There’s no doubt the Falcons need an upgrade at right guard, and Kansas City Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz might be able to provide that. He is considered the top-rated guard this offseason by Pro Football Focus, Yahoo Sports! Shutdown Corner and Rotoworld.

Schwartz has had an interesting career, serving as a journeyman with three separate teams after being a seventh-round pick out of Oregon by the Carolina Panthers in 2008. He spent his rookie season on the Panthers practice squad, unable to make the final roster behind first-round pick Jeff Otah and veteran backups Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale. But the following year with Bridges and Omiyale elsewhere, Schwartz got the opportunity to backup Otah. He wound up starting the final three games of that season as an injury replacement for Otah.

In 2010, Schwartz picked up where he left off the previous season starting the first five games at right tackle as Otah missed the entire season due to injury. Then the poor play of Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard prompted Schwartz to switch to that position thereafter. He finished the season starting the remaining 11 games at right guard and earned the second-highest grade among Panthers linemen according to Pro Football Focus behind only left tackle Jordan Gross.

However, Schwartz’s career got off track in 2011 as he missed the entire year with a hip injury. In his stead, Geoff Hangartner started at right guard while Byron Bell filled in at right tackle for a once-again injured Otah. With Schwartz hitting free agency after the season, the Panthers opted to keep Hangartner at guard, and also were willing to give Otah another shot to return healthy to compete with Bell at right tackle. Thus Schwartz walked via free agency and signed with the Minnesota Vikings. That decision did not prove fruitful for Carolina, as Hangartner struggled in 2012 and would be replaced a year later at that spot. Otah was unable to get healthy and was traded to the New York Jets in July, but failed his physical, voiding the trade. He would be cut by the Panthers shortly thereafter and has yet to get another opportunity in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Schwartz managed to split snaps with right guard Brandon Fusco for a couple of games in 2012 with the Vikings. But the Vikings opted to let Schwartz walk after the season and he signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs for the veteran minimum.

It proved to be a fortuitous turn of events for the Chiefs. While Schwartz began last year as a backup, his steady play over the course of the year won him the starting job at right guard and a chance to return to the Chiefs at a much higher salary.

Schwartz started the 2013 season-opener for the Chiefs at right guard since regular Jon Asamoah was nursing a calf injury. He got his second start in Week 4 at left guard due to a groin injury to Jeff Allen. But in Week 11, the Chiefs opted to replace Asamoah at right guard with Schwartz and the latter finished out the season there. Schwartz also got reps in Week 17 at right tackle when Eric Fisher went down with a groin injury.

Schwartz is looking for stability with a long-term deal from some team this offseason, whether that’s with the Chiefs or another. He obviously could find that in Atlanta, as well as a number of places that are looking for upgrades at their guard position.

A 6-6, 340-pound guard like Schwartz, noted for his effectiveness both as a run blocker and pass protector should be highly coveted by a number of teams. And that could lead to a bidding war for Schwartz if he manages to hit the open market, driving up his price.

While most don’t expect Schwartz to garner a deal on par with what the Tennessee Titans gave Andy Levitre last offseason (six years, $46.8 million), if multiple teams get involved in seeking Schwartz, it’s certain that he’ll make a lot more than the $665,000 he earned in 2013.

The Falcons should have the ability to spend this offseason, which means they should certainly be in the mix if money talks in regards to Schwartz.

Strengths:

  • Good size and strength to get consistent position and push as a run blocker
  • Has good feet for his size plus strength makes him effective in pass protection
  • Versatile and has started at three different positions (LG, RG, RT) in NFL

Weaknesses:

  • Lacks elite feet and athleticism which can lead to struggles against quicker interior rushers
  • Not as dominant a power blocker as size would merit
  • More of an inline blocker and not quite as effective when asked to block on the move or in space

Read more…

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