Despite the ominous tone of labor negotiations, we march forward with our running series looking at each team’s free agent priorities.
We’ve already featured the Packers and Steelers. Next up: The Atlanta Falcons. We focus on what players are scheduled for unrestricted free agency using the old rules (four years) and the list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. (We list players if they are interesting.)
The Big One: Tackle Tyson Clabo.
Three Falcons offensive line starters are set to be free agents. Clabo, who developed from an undrafted player to a standout right tackle, is our pick as the most valuable. There is local speculation the Falcons won’t overpay to keep him, but a franchise tag isn’t out of the question.
If the Falcons like ’09 fifth-round pick Garrett Reynolds, they could let Clabo walk.
The Key Ingredients: Guard Justin Blalock and guard Harvey Dahl.
The Falcons have essentially rolled out the same offensive line the last three years running. Blalock has been steady since getting taken in the second round in 2007. Dahl is less talented, but one of the nastiest players in the league. We’d guess Blalock gets priority here. The Falcons will be able to keep two of the three linemen above at best.
Role Players: Running back Jason Snelling, Kicker Matt Bryant, punter Michael Koenen, linebacker Stephen Nicholas, and wide receiver Brian Finneran.
Snelling’s agent doesn’t know his client’s status. We think Snelling is one of the more underrated backups in the league and fits what the Falcons do perfectly. Nicholas is versatile, while it seems like Finneran has been on his last legs four years running.
Could be on the way out: Running back Jerious Norwood, cornerback Brian Williams, linebacker Mike Peterson, and defensive end Jamaal Anderson.
Norwood is explosive, but never learned how to pass protect. Snelling is more reliable, and the team will probably only re-sign one of the two. The Falcons may have to choose between Peterson and Nicholas. Anderson is under contract for almost $3.6 million and could be cut.
Looking ahead: Linebacker Curtis Lofton, cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Kroy Biermann.
The Falcons have plenty to worry about with this year’s free agent crop. When they have time, Lofton should be a priority to re-sign long term. Grimes and Biermann are also core players with contracts that end after 2011.