Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Thanks for the overwhelming amount of letters to the mailbag. There were over 300 that came in just in the last 24 hours. Obviously, I can't answer them all, but I'll try to touch on the questions that represent a lot of you.

We'll talk Atlanta Falcons here and come back in a bit with the Carolina Panthers. Also, my time slot on ESPNews to talk about Atlanta's draft possibilities has been pushed back to 3:20 p.m. ET, if you want to catch it.

BigB in Covington, GA writes: Hey Pat, Just wondering you know H ear alot of names being thrown around for the falcons on their number 24 pick in the upcoming draft. With names like Michael Johnson, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews and Louis Delmas, but what are the chances of the falcons trading out of the 24th pick to gain extra picks?

Pat Yasinskas: That's a scenario that's definitely possible. General manager Thomas Dimitroff comes from the New England school of stockpiling draft picks and I think trading down to add a pick or two is something he'll definitely consider. In fact, I'm thinking the Falcons are in an excellent spot to trade down because I anticipate a run on offensive linemen at the end of the first round. The Falcons don't need a lineman and I think they still can get very good value for a defensive player at the very end of the first round or the top of the second, as well as add an extra pick or two.

Zack in Atlanta writes: If your paying a guy 1st rd. money he will start for you,so what pos. does Atl. need a starter the most?

Pat Yasinskas: The needs are defensive line, outside linebacker and safety. The biggest need is probably safety. In your scenario, the Falcons could get someone like Western Michigan's Louis Delmas in the first round. Wouldn't be surprised if it happens.

Caleb in parts unknown writes: I've been wondering if the Michael Vick situation might have anything to do with the lack of free agent activity by the Falcons. I understand Dimitroff and Smith want to work through the draft but we don't even seem to going for many mid-levels at the moment. The Vick connection would arrise form the fact that when Vick is reinstated he goes back on the cap so I can understand the Falcon'snot wanting to sign contracts that they will have to renegociate when Vick comes back. I know Vick is never going to play for the Falcons again (nor would I want him to) but do you think that Blank and the Falcons will try to get Vick reinstated quickly to get rid of this looming cap room as soon as possible?
Pat Yasinskas: There's no doubt the Michael Vick situation has played into Atlanta's quiet offseason. They still have about $15 million in pro-rated bonus money that's just kind of hanging in limbo. Obviously, the Falcons have made it clear they don't want Vick back and they've made it public that they would gladly trade his rights, even before he's reinstated. Nobody seems to be jumping forward to trade for Vick because there's no guarantee the NFL will reinstate him. The Falcons may just have to keep waiting. If Vick is reinstated, they may just have to release him and take the salary-cap hit. Owner Arthur Blank has said he believes in second chances and would talk to commissioner Roger Goodell on Vick's behalf if he believes the quarterback truly is ready to move on from his legal troubles.

Alden in Roswell writes: I know this question seems a little out of place with the draft coming up, but I was just wondering whether or not you think it was that our recievers were really that bad before last year, or if it was Vick. I mean the year vick is not playing suddenly Roddy White doesnt stink, then the following year he's in the pro-bowl. Not to mention michael jenkins emergence. Seems like a little to much blame was thrown on the recievers when actually it was where the ball was coming from.

Pat Yasinskas: I think some of the blame can fall on Vick. But there are several other factors to be considered that may have come into play in the emergence of Roddy White and Michael Jenkins last season. First, it sometimes takes several years for receivers to really develop (see Dexter Jackson, Dwayne Jarrett and Robert Meachem elsewhere in the division). Second, and don't undersell this theory, I think the coaching last year was hugely important for White and Jenkins. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and receivers coach Terry Robiskie deserve tons of credit for putting these receivers in positions to succeed. Finally, I think Matt Ryan made a big difference. He came in and was accurate right from the start and he developed a chemistry with White and Jenkins that should continue to get better.

Greg in Cleveland writes: I have to question your insistence that TD is looking at Johnson of GT. TD is HUGE into the tape, and the tape on Johnson isn't that pretty when one factors in a) plays taken off, b) lack of variety of pass rush moves, and c) his inability to hold POA on rushes to his side. Do you know something we don't?
Pat Yasinskas: Not really. I'm not saying the Falcons are definitely going to draft Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson. I'm just saying there's a need at defensive end and he could be available at No. 24. I've also said repeatedly that linebacker or safety also could be possibilities in the first round. I'm familiar with the knocks on Johnson and they may scare Dimitroff and the Falcons away. But Johnson also has tremendous potential. His scouting report sounds a lot like Julius Peppers' did back when he was coming out in 2002 and Peppers has made it to four Pro Bowls. Again, the knocks on Johnson could be a concern. But, with pass rushers, you sometimes have to take a shot on potential.