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Friday, January 10, 2014
Free-agent-to-be Jerry still recovering

By Vaughn McClure

Atlanta Falcons Falcons defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent, is recovering from a posterior cruciate ligament knee sprain suffered in the season finale, according to a league source familiar with Jerry’s status.

Jerry
It is unclear what grade of sprain Jerry suffered, but PCL sprains typically take four-to-six weeks to heal. Such injuries usually don’t require surgery.

In a sense, that’s good news for Jerry. It doesn't appear to be a serious injury that would significantly alter his standing should he draw any type of interest on the open market. However, Jerry hasn’t performed up to first-round expectations, in large part, due to injury. He played in two games as a rookie in 2009 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. This past season, he endured a toe injury throughout the season but played in all 16 games, starting 14.

Jerry had a base salary of $905,000 in 2013 and counted $2.10 million against the salary cap. He had 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks and showed flashes in the final game against Carolina prior to exiting with the knee injury.

Of course, the Falcons want better production from the defensive line as a whole, so changes are expected up front. If the Falcons can keep Jerry for a reasonable price, he might get another chance at living up to his first-round potential. The Falcons are highly unlikely to overpay for him.

Jerry isn’t the only Falcons defensive lineman headed to free agency. Defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters also have expiring contracts. General manager Thomas Dimitroff recently praised Babineaux and expressed a desire to keep the 32-year-old veteran, and Babineaux was the most consistent defensive line performer this in terms of pressure.

Peters, 25, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the second-to-last game and is recovering after surgery. The ability of players, such as Terrell Suggs and Michael Crabtree, to quickly recover from Achilles injuries is a positive sign for Peters moving forward.

Peters was second on the team with five sacks, behind defensive end Osi Umenyiora (7.5).

The Falcons are likely to have their new defensive line coach evaluate the entire group before deciding which players will be let go or brought back, although the front office might already have those plans mapped out. Defensive line coach Ray Hamilton was fired after the end of the season, leaving a void on the staff.

A source told ESPN.com the Falcons were in the process of interviewing former Tampa Bay assistant coach Bryan Cox for the defensive line coach position. Cox was designated as the Bucs' pass rush specialist but was not retained by new coach Lovie Smith.

The Falcons previously requested permission to interview Cleveland Browns defensive line coach Joe Cullen, but Cullen joined Smith and the Buccaneers.

Jerry, Babineaux, and Peters officially become free agents on March 11 after 4 p.m. ET.