Falcons to revamp talented core


The Falcons’ dismissal of three veteran starters last week shows that the organization’s top priority continues to be building its roster through the draft above all else. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have shared this mantra of drafting the core of the team and developing the “in-house talent” into capable starters for bargain contracts. Fifteen of the Falcons’ 22 consistent starters last year were draft picks and 10 of the 15 came to Atlanta after Dimitroff took control in 2008. The releases of Michael Turner, Dunta Robinson and John Abraham frees up three starting jobs, three roster spots and, more importantly, the combined savings will gives $15.9 million plus an additional $2.4 million after the NFL raised the salary cap to $123 million.

“I think there are some solid core guys in the middle rounds this year,” said Dimitroff.


With some breathing room under the salary cap, the Falcons can now look to reach deals and keep their top free agents. Sam Baker, Brent Grimes and William Moore are priorities right now and should benefit from the extra spending money. It looks like the Falcons will re-sign Baker, but Moore is going to have a much stronger market when free agency opens. Moore was Atlanta’s second-round pick in the 2009 draft and is coming off a Pro Bowl season. Grimes was out with an Achilles injury for all of the 2012-13 campaign and has had two injury-plagued seasons in a row that enable him to be re-signed at a lower price.

The greatest consideration will be on building the defensive side before the season starts. Replacing John Abraham, who holds the franchise record for most career sacks with 68.5, is just one of the necessary steps. The Falcons only had five linebackers on their active roster last season and Mike Peterson is likely going to either sign with a new team or retire. If the draft does not offer a capable linebacker, a free-agent stud like Oakland’s 28-year-old Phillip Wheeler could be on the Falcons’ shopping list. Wheeler played at Georgia Tech and played at Shaw High School in Columbus. The Falcons have had internal discussions about defensive end Osi Umenyiora who is expected to be dealt a contract in the ballpark of four years, $20 million.

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