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Ojinnaka traded to Patriots

August 22nd, 2010 Comments off

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Quinn Ojinnaka

Adam Caplan of FOX Sports tweeted late Sunday night that the Falcons had agreed to trade offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka to the New England Patriots. Later reports established that the agreed compensation is an undisclosed draft choice.

Ojinnaka was a 2006 draft pick by the Falcons out of Syracuse. In four seasons with the Falcons, he played in 39 games, starting 12. Last season, he started 5 games at right guard in place of an injured Harvey Dahl. In 2007, he started 7 games at left tackle as an injury replacement for Wayne Gandy. Ojinnaka has experience playing all five offensive line positions, and adds depth and insurance for the New England Patriots due to a lengthy contract holdout from left guard Logan Mankins, and a recent injury to his replacement Nick Kaczur.

Ojinnaka is set to serve a single game suspension this season stemming from a battery arrest in 2009.

The Falcons depth up front had been improved this off-season with the additions of draft picks Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley. Second-year player Garrett Reynolds had been working throughout the preseason as the first right guard off the bench. Ojinnaka had mainly been working at both tackle positions, but has been pushed by Jose Valdez at right tackle.

While compensation hasn’t been disclosed, most summer trades usually involve conditional late round picks. Usually those conditions are contingent on the traded player making the new team’s final roster.

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Camp Battles ’10: Offensive Line

July 21st, 2010 Comments off

The offensive line may be the only area of the team’s offense that might see a change in the starting lineup this season.

That would likely come at guard, as third round pick Mike Johnson pushes for playing time. More than likely, Justin Blalock will be looking over his shoulder more than Harvey Dahl, since Johnson should have an easier transition to the pros playing on the left side rather than the right. But more than likely, Blalock will retain his starting gig as the Falcons try to build and maintain continuity up front.

Even with the starting lineup likely to go unchanged, there will be a ton of competition for the reserve spots. A typical NFL team only has to keep eight linemen, although the Falcons kept nine for most last season. Because the team will have one or two less players than there are positions on the line, versatility is very important.

Will Svitek can play either tackle position. Quinn Ojinnaka has experience at all five positions. Garrett Reynolds worked both at guard and tackle last summer. Brett Romberg has also played both center and guard in Atlanta. And rookies Johnson and Joe Hawley also have experience playing more than one position in college. Those five players will be the most likely to land the four likely to be available reserve spots.

More than likely, the Falcons would like to keep both rookies on the roster. But just in case neither is quite ready to contribute right away off the bench, the need for the two remaining veterans to be able to play all five positions increases.

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James suspended for 4 games

July 8th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons announced that linebacker Robert James will be suspended for the first four games of the 2010 regular season due to violation of the league’s substance abuse policy due to performance enhancers. James will remain eligible to participate in the Falcons preseason and training camp activities.

James was a fifth round pick for the Falcons in 2008. He sat out his rookie season with a head injury. He spent most of last season on the Falcons practice squad, but was promoted to the active roster for the season finale and appeared in that game.

He is the second Falcon player to be suspended for the beginning of the season. Guard Quinn Ojinnaka will also be suspended for the season opener due to a May 2009 battery incident against his wife.

No word on whether the suspensions will impact either players’ ability to make the teams’ final roster. The addition of top pick Sean Weatherspoon coupled with his suspension could impact his ability to make a reserve spot. Ojinnaka will also be competed with rookies Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley for a reserve guard position.

Falcons keep restricted free agents

April 15th, 2010 Comments off

The Falcons announced today that four of their restricted free agents signed their one-year tenders today. Those players that signed their tenders were offensive linemen Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, and Quinn Ojinnaka, and running back Jason Snelling.

Today was the last day that restricted free agents could sign offer sheets with other teams. No word on whether or not punter Michael Koenen or running back Jerious Norwood signed their tenders, but since they did not sign offer sheets with other teams, they aren’t going anywhere.

Clabo and Dahl will earn $2.521 million in base salary this year. Snelling will make $1.684 million and Ojinnaka $1.176 million. When Koenen and Norwood sign, they will be set to earn $2.73 million and $1.759 million, respectively.

Ojinnaka gets low tender

March 3rd, 2010 Comments off

Adam Caplan of Scout.com tweeted that a source told him that guard Quinn Ojinnaka received the low tender as a restricted free agent. As such, he will receive $1.176 million and the Falcons will receive a fifth round pick as compensation if he were to sign with another team. Earlier today, the AJC reported the tenders of Tyson Clabo and Michael Koenen.

The Falcons have until tomorrow to extend tenders on their remaining restricted free agents. If they do not, those players will become unrestricted free agents and free to sign with other teams starting at midnight Thursday evening.

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Falcons have decisions to make on restricted FAs

March 2nd, 2010 Comments off

We don’t know quite what the Falcons will do with their restricted free agent tenders. They have until Thursday to make decisions. But here is what I think should and could happen.

Chief among the Falcons restricted free agents are Jason Snelling, Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Jerious Norwood, and Michael Koenen. The Falcons will almost certainly tender all five of these players.

Because of the rules of the uncapped season, restricted free agents won’t be just fourth year players, instead fifth and sixth year players will also be restricted. And thus, because of their different levels of experience, players will have different tender levels. The way restricted free agency works is that teams tender players at certain levels to determine potential compensation if another team signs them to an offer sheet. If the original team chooses not to match the offer sheet, then they sign with the new team and the original team gets some sort of compensation, usually equaling the original round in which the player was drafted.

Snelling as a fourth year player at a minimum will be tendered with a $1.101 million tender. If that is the case, the Falcons will receive a 7th round pick in terms of compensation if another team was to sign him. But since the Falcons saw how valuable Snelling was last year both as a reserve fullback and tailback, it’s likely they will tender him at a higher level. That next highest level will be $1.684 million, which allows them to receive a second round pick as compensation.

Clabo, Dahl, and Norwood are fifth year players. Both Clabo and Dahl were undrafted free agents, which means if the Falcons tendered them at the lowest level they would receive nothing in terms of compensation. More than likely, the team will tender both starters at the first round level, which for players with their experience would be worth $2.521 million. Norwood as a former third round pick probably can be tendered at the minimum level of $1.176 million.

Koenen is a sixth-year player but since he was tagged with the Franchise tag last year his minimum tender will have to be 110% of what he made last year. The franchise tag for last season was $2.48 million, which means that the Falcons will have to tender him at $2.73 million.

The other restricted free agents on the roster include safeties Antoine Harris, Charlie Peprah, and Jamaal Fudge, and offensive linemen Quinn Ojinnaka. Ojinnaka is the most likely to get tendered because of his value as a utility backup on the offensive line. As a fifth round pick, he’ll likely be tendered at the minimum level for a fifth year player ($1.176 million).

The three safeties will be harder to decide. All three players can contribute on special teams, but more than likely next summer there will only be one roster spot available for any. So more than likely, the Falcons could probably get away with tendering one of them, whichever they see as the most valuable and most likely to win a camp competition, and let the other two walk. That player will more than likely be either Harris or Peprah. The team cut Fudge at the end of last year’s camp, and only brought him back after Brian William’s injury. So they’ve already seen him as expendable. Harris ended the season on injured reserve after tearing a PCL in December. The team can’t cut him because he’s injured, but not tendering him is a way of letting him go without having to come to an injury settlement. But a PCL tear is considerably less devastating as an ACL tear, and usually doesn’t require surgery (see Brian Finneran). Time to rest typically can heal them, so more than likely unless any complications come up during Harris’ rehab, he should be healthy enough to compete for a job come August. Peprah also ended the season injured with a sore hamstring, but that should also be healed in time for OTAs.

More than likely the team will tender both at the minimum level ($1.176 million). That would mean no compensation for Harris because he was undrafted, and fifth round pick for Peprah. If they decide to tender Fudge, it would put him in the same boat as Harris because he too was undrafted.

Camp Battles: Offensive Line

July 7th, 2009 Comments off

Barring some unforseen injury, it’s doubtful the Falcons five starters will change from last year. Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Todd McClure, Harvey Dahl, and Tyson Clabo are all set to open the season as the team’s starting five, and something significant would need to happen in order to change that.

The battles here will come for who will sit the bench. Most NFL teams keep a rotation of eight linemen, but usually keep a ninth guy for emergency purposes, meaning that there are probably four open spots on the roster for competition.

The three players that are likely best suited to land three of those spots are Jeremy Newberry, Brett Romberg, and Garrett Reynolds. Newberry is highly experienced and Romberg is a favorite of Paul Boudreau as he played under him in both Jacksonville and St. Louis. Reynolds is the team’s fifth round draft pick and expected to compete for the utility backup position. While the team counts Baker as healthy for the time being, his injuries the past two seasons mean there is some concern over whether he can stay healthy for 16 games, meaning the need for a guy that can fill in at left tackle (and preferably right tackle as well) is key this summer. Last year, the job was filled by Todd Weiner.

Reynolds draft status insulates him somewhat to possibly landing that job. If he does not get that gig, then the most likely option for the fourth reserve is the guy that does win that role. And most likely that will be either Quinn Ojinnaka or Will Svitek. The team likes Ojinnaka’s versatility as they feel he can play all five line spots, but with having players like Newberry and Romberg on the roster, that doesn’t carry as much weight now as it did in the past.

Also in the mix are Ben Wilkerson, who was the top backup to McClure last year, along with Mike Butterworth, Ryan Stanchek, and Jose Valdez. In all likelihood all three of the latter are longshots to make the roster, and instead will hope to impress enough to land on the practice squad. Wilkerson will be hard-pressed to win a job since the team brought in both Romberg and Newberry, implying that aren’t overly impressed with Wilkerson’s ability to provide depth.

This is one of the few positions on offense that you could potentially see the team still looking to address at the end of camp. If either Reynolds, Ojinnaka, or Svitek has filled the team’s confidence on their ability to fill in as a reserve tackle, you may see the team try to target a veteran on the waiver wire.