Falcons' Umenyiora can now focus on 2014

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
6:50
PM ET
There was going to be talk about Osi Umenyiora's status with the Atlanta Falcons regardless if he had to take a pay cut or not.

The veteran turns 33 in November. He counts $4.75 million against the salary cap in 2014, with a base salary of $2.5 million and a $1 million roster bonus. And he became a designated pass-rusher at the end of last season, although he was the one who made the suggestion to the coaches.

[+] EnlargeDoug Martin
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIOsi Umenyiora said he's hoping that trimming down his weight will help his effectiveness this season.
And now the Falcons are set to move toward a 3-4-based defensive scheme, which makes you wonder how comfortable Umenyiora would be standing up as an outside linebacker rather than in his comfort zone at defensive end.

Whatever concerns surround Umenyiora, the Falcons did their best to diffuse them by saying he would be part of the plans in '14 without having to take a pay cut. The team must figure his value extends well beyond production on the field, with the leadership he provides in the locker room.

Umeyiora told ESPN.com in February he had hoped to be with the Falcons, with one year left on his contract. He also realized that business decisions had to be made as the front office aimed to improve the defense coming off last year's dismal showing.

"I know they are going to do whatever is necessary to better their team," Umenyiora said. "That's just part of it. It's never personal. I'll always have a tremendous amount of respect and love for Mr. Dimitroff. He gave me a great opportunity."

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff seems willing to give Umenyiora even more of an opportunity to prove his worth. Last season, Umenyiora led the Falcons with 7.5 sacks. But even he would say that number meant little based on what little pressure the Falcons got on opposing quarterbacks.

Now, the Falcons added two run-stuffers up front in nose tackle Paul Soliai and defensive end Tyson Jackson. Corey Peters is on track to recover from a season-ending Achilles tear and could join Soliai and Jackson up front. Jonathan Babineaux and Peria Jerry were re-signed for depth, while Malliciah Goodman put on some extra pounds to make an impact up front.

In terms of Umenyiora, he still could be a designated pass-rusher from one outside linebacker position. The Falcons are sure to count on Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi to fill the same type of role, with possibly a rookie being the other pass-rusher in the equation.

However it all comes together, Umenyiora should have a chance to make an impact.

Some wondered if Umenyiora might consider retirement after last season. Although that's fair to wonder, it doesn't seem likely based on what he said back in February.

"After this one, two more," Umenyiora said of how many more years he intends to play. "So, basically three more. That might be a pipe dream. We'll see what happens with that, but that's what I wish. I want to do a couple more things: I want to win another Super Bowl and I want to go to another Pro Bowl. I'll give myself another few years to do that."

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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