Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
We'll work in alphabetical order with our team-by-team mailbags. That means we'll start with the Atlanta Falcons.
Jimmy in Dalton, GA writes: Pat, this is why the Falcons do have leverage. Why does no one consider this scenario except me. If Vick refuses to rework his contract and is reinstated, the Falcons could wait until the day before the season starts or until the 53 man cut down to release Vick. This way his salary isn't guaranteed, only his bonuses that will count against the team anyways. If a team traded for the rights to Vick they could have a playbook in his hands ASAP at prison or the halfway house with tons of time on his hands. Why would a team want to wait until the regular season to sign him when he would be so much more valuable with preseason and training camp if the commisioner is willing to reinstate him. Hopefully the commisioner would keep him out of camp or delay his reinstatement similar to what he did before his conviction and with the way he handled Favre last year by not reinstating him from retirement until something was worked out. No one wants the media circus to be even greater than what it will be. I don't think it would play out like this because I believe he will be traded before the draft but at least the Falcons would have some leverage to work out a trade this way. Hopefully it will force Vick to restructure his deal so that his value doesn't drop and he can make the salary he's promised the bankruptcy judges that he'd make.
Pat Yasinskas: Love your enthusiasm, but I think you're looking at this from an absolute best-case scenario that I can't see playing out this way. Sure, that would be nice for the Falcons, but I don't think they'd carry Michael Vick on the roster until just before the season starts because that would create the kind of media circus you mentioned. Also, Vick's base salary wouldn't be guaranteed, but it (along with his pro-rated bonuses) would count against Atlanta's salary cap once he is on the roster again and that wouldn't change until he's off the roster. I don't think the Falcons really would be looking to clear up major cap room as they start a season. I think the Falcons want to wash their hands of Vick as quickly as possible. Yes, they'd love to trade the rights to Vick before the draft and have this all out of their hair. But I don't know that teams are going to line up to trade for Vick. The Falcons may simply have to release him and I think they're well aware that's a good possibility. Also, there are no guarantees on Vick being reinstated in time for this season.
Shane in Wisconsin writes: With the falcons looking to trade the right to Michael Vick, do you think the Vikings should give this serious thought? Micheal Vick and Adrian in the same back field is very intriguing.
Pat Yasinskas: I'm definitely of the belief that Vick can help a team, assuming he gets reinstated. This guy was a decent NFL quarterback before and he certainly has plenty of talent. I'll leave it up to our NFC North friend, Kevin Seifert, to discuss Minnesota's scenarios in more detail. But I will say that if I were the Vikings and the options were Vick and Tarvaris Jackson, I'd go with Vick.
Stan in Atlanta writes: Hey Pat, you do a great job with the blog, wanted to thank you for keeping us abreast of all the happenings in the NFC South. We all know the Falcons have massive needs on the defensive end. I completely agree with you that Dimitroff and the Front Office will be focused on building through the draft and that we shouldn't expect any big FA signings or really any "sexy" draft picks. My question is, and it might be a bit early to ask, but what players do you think might provide value 1) outside of the first round of the draft and 2) at the mid-level of free agency? In other words, who can we hope to see suited up and playing for the Birds that will make other teams go "how did we miss him?" Thanks a bunch for the great columns.
Pat Yasinskas: I'm going to hold off just a bit on the draft question (until we at least get through the scouting combine and see how players are sorting out). As for mid-level free agents, I'm always hesitant to name too many names at this point. We're still almost two weeks away from the start of free agency and the list of free agents is going to change repeatedly as teams re-sign their own guys and teams cut players to create salary-cap room. However, since you asked, I'll throw out a few names that I think could fit the profile for the Falcons. Start with a couple of Tampa Bay defensive backs. Safety Jermaine Phillips and cornerback Phillip Buchanon are scheduled to become free agents (although I think the Bucs will make an effort to keep both). I think those guys, or players with similar talent, could fit nicely in Atlanta's secondary. I also think the Falcons need to look at defensive ends and the guy I like is Arizona's Antonio Smith, who is scheduled to be a free agent, although, again, I think the Cardinals will make an attempt to keep him. I was impressed with Smith in the playoff game between Arizona and Atlanta. He's still a young guy with upside and I don't think his price tag will be too high -- if he makes it to free agency.
Matt from Lawrenceville writes: Hey Pat. I'm a big Falcons fan, and I agree with you about our defense. What players do you think we should go after in free agency to strengthen our linebacker and cornerback positions? Also, who do you think would be the Falcons' best bet with their first round draft pick? I've read a lot of draft predictions and I've heard BJ Raji, Brandon Pettigrew, and a lot of other names thrown out there, and I'm not sure who the best choice would be. Who's their best option? Thanks Pat.
Pat Yasinskas: I touched on free agency in the previous question and I'll throw in cornerback Leigh Bodden, who already is a free agent because he was released. I think Bodden is a guy who still has upside and I think that's what Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith are looking for. As far as the draft, we're still a long ways off. And the scouting combine is going to cause some guys to rise and fall. I like what I've heard about Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. He's the kind of big, run-stuffing tackle who could take over for the aging Grady Jackson. Only problem, right now, is I don't know that Raji will last long enough for the Falcons to have a chance. Again, that could change in the next few months, but I think defensive tackle will be a big priority. If you could pair someone like Raji with Jonathan Babineaux, you'd be very solid in the middle of the defensive line. As far as Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, that's a nice idea, but I don't see it happening. I do think the Falcons will look for a tight end who can catch some passes, but I think that will come later in the draft or in free
agency. As much as everyone would like Matt Ryan to have another toy, I don't think the Falcons will go crazy to get a big-name tight end. The position never is going to be used in Mike Mularkey's offense as a spot that gets a tremendous amount of passes. I think the Falcons will be looking more for a tight end who can give them 30 or so catches in a season and you don't use a first-round draft pick or a lot of free-agent money to get that.