Reports on Saturday indicated that the Falcons signing Osi Umenyiora was very imminent. Not sure if by the time this posts Monday morning if that deal will be official, but given the sources (Pro Football Talk and Adam Schefter), I trust them.
I don’t have a problem with that move. The problem with the move is that it is at best a lateral move for a team that struggled with their pass rush throughout 2012. It’s a toss-up between the lack of pass rush and the run defense as to what was the Achilles heel of the Falcons defense last year. At least for the run defense, there were some strong performances down the stretch. Not sure, if I can say the same for the pass rush.
I don’t think Osi is better than John Abraham, but the dropoff is not huge. If you asked me who I would rather have for one season, my answer is definitely Abraham. If you’re asking me who I would rather have for three seasons, then I’d probably choose Osi just because he is a few years younger. But I definitely don’t think Osi is going to be as good or better than Abraham is at age 34.
This is why I think adding pass rush help will remain a priority for the Falcons going into the draft. I think there is a strong possibility that the Falcons will use their top pick to help there.
Once Osi signs, the focus will shift firmly to cornerback as the Falcons top need. While I won’t say that the team won’t draft a corner with their top pick, there is still a lot of time left before the draft (31 days to be exact). There are just too many good veteran corners available, that I’d be surprised if the Falcons didn’t try and pursue one in that time span. It seems inevitable that Brent Grimes won’t be returning to the Falcons at this point, despite my overwhelming desires. So if not Grimes, then the Falcons still have options. Antoine Winfield is probably the best, but he’s 36 and at that age is really only a one-year stopgap. But Winfield would be a good player to pair with Asante Samuel for a season. Winfield still played at a high level last year, and is one of the league’s most consistent run-defending corners in the league. You could possibly make the argument that Winfield is one of the best run-support corners in the last twenty years. Terence Newman brings many of the physical traits to the table that Robinson did that had Falcons officials gushing over him three years ago. He was decent last year in Cincinnati, but it’s hard not to forget his struggles in Dallas the previous two years. Quentin Jammer is another corner with a reputation for physicality, but I’m not sure he can really run anymore, which is the same complaint about Nnamdi Asomugha. Rashean Mathis is a guy that Mike Smith is very familiar with, but he’s struggled with injuries the past two years, so may not be a reliable starter. There are other players such as DeAngelo Hall, Mike Jenkins, Kelvin Hayden, Marcus Trufant, Stanford Routt, Cedric Griffin, and Tracy Porter that will also potentially be in the mix. And I can’t forget about Charles Woodson either.
That’s just too many serviceable to good starters out there for the Falcons to stand pat at cornerback. Right now, there cornerback position consists of Samuel and Robert McClain, and that’s about it. Dominique Franks is on the roster bubble. He didn’t contribute anything as a returner last year, and has not contributed anything on special teams coverage, making his hold on a reserve spot tenuous at best. Backup defensive backs have to contribute on special teams, and Franks does not. So unless the Falcons really like Terrence Johnson and/or Peyton Thompson, you can be fairly confident that at least two significant additions will be made at the position. Probably one on the first two days of the draft, and likely one in free agency.