The Falcons had some great news last week as they reached an agreement with Matt Ryan on a contract extension that will keep him in Atlanta for several years. While it is a huge relief to have Matty Ice locked up for the foreseeable future, there are a few moves the Falcons could make to improve the roster as they have around $6-7 million remaining as Dimitroff stated in a radio interview with 790 The Zone (hat tip to @timwilliamsart, who does some great Atlanta Sports art work by the way). That being said, I want to dispel a couple of rumors before anybody gets any crazy ideas.
Let me say this loud and clear. SHAWN MERRIMAN IS NOT COMING TO ATLANTA. Despite his recent tweets that he would like the Falcons to sign him, I do not expect the Falcons to be interested. This is because he has been a very ineffective player ever since being busted for PEDs early in his career, and he could be detrimental to young players in the locker room as a result of his alcohol and drug problems. While I wish him the best and would like to see him get his life in order, I don’t want or anticipate it happening in Atlanta.
Now that the absurd Shawn Merriman idea has been thrown out the window, the other thing I am going to make mention of is that the Falcons are expected to be done talking to Richard Seymour with the intent of saving their money for emergencies during the season per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC. That being said, there are a few cheap moves that the Falcons may make to address a few areas of need if the opportunities present themselves. These are moves that would still leave the team with money for emergencies and may actually address a few emergency scenarios.
The Falcons have needs along the defensive line rotation and at backup quarterback. Many teams have scouts looking for players to pick up off waivers during the preseason, and I’m sure the Falcons are looking at this as an avenue to add depth to their roster. Teams will often waive players with the hope of stashing them on the practice squad, but this leaves other teams with the window of opportunity to steal them via a waiver claim. NFC South division rival Tampa Bay took advantage of this sort of opportunity a few years ago to claim running back LeGarette Blount off waivers, and he went on to have a breakout rookie season before slumping the last couple of years. While teams won’t often find a starter in this manner, they will sometimes use this as an opportunity to build depth in some weak areas.
It just happens that another team that I follow closely, the Tennessee Titans, has an abundance of rotation type players along the defensive line, which I mentioned as a position of need for the Falcons. It also works out that the Falcons will play the Titans in the preseason after scrimmaging and practicing against them in Dalton, Georgia, last August. This gives the Falcons extra familiarity with some players on the Titans roster, and it may influence decisions that the Falcons make when players go on the waiver wire. A player may get cut who impresses the Falcons in the preseason matchup with the Titans, or the Falcons may have gained extra knowledge that allows them to decide not to place a waiver claim on a player. Regardless, this gives the Falcons an extra opportunity to evaluate players who have potential to become available and add depth to the Falcons.
The other need for the Falcons that could be addressed through the waiver wire is the addition of a veteran backup quarterback. The Falcons currently have Dominique Davis and Sean Renfree as their backup quarterbacks, and they seem to be pleased with those two. There is concern, however, that if Matt Ryan goes down the Falcons will struggle with an inexperienced quarterback until Ryan returns. While this probably falls under an emergency situation, having a veteran backup quarterback is important for a Super Bowl contending team. For reference of concern, we can look back to the Indianapolis Colts when Peyton Manning was out for the season. A playoff team was suddenly the worst team in the NFL without its starting quarterback at the helm. While the Falcons have more weapons and should not struggle as badly, this is still an area of concern for this team. Last year’s backup, Luke McCown is competing with Chase Daniel and Seneca Wallace for the backup quarterback spot with the New Orleans Saints, and the Saints are not expected to carry all of them on the roster during the season. If McCown is cut by the Saints, then I expect him to be the best option for the Falcons to add to the roster for this season.
While we don’t know who will be available at this point, I am sure the Falcons are doing their due diligence in evaluating players across the league and that Thomas Dimitroff will likely make good decisions in filling out the few remaining holes. Get ready to rise up because kickoff is almost here.