Super Bowl Sunday is now just four days away, and while the Ravens and the 49ers are busy preparing for the biggest game of their lives, the other thirty teams are left sitting at home and planning for the 2013 season. The Atlanta Falcons find themselves in the exact same position as the other teams outside of the Emerald City and the city by the Bay, as their 28-24 loss to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game ended their season one game shorter than desired.
With the 2012 season now in the rear-view mirror for the Dirty Birds, it is time for Thomas Dimitroff and the rest of the front office to set their sights on the offseason moves that must be made, namely which free agents from this year’s squad will be re-signed for 2013 and the seasons to follow. While the jury will probably be divided on the future of several of these players, here’s a look at Atlanta’s ten free agents and whether or not they will be playing in the Georgia Dome come September:
PlayerTime with Falcons/2012 StatsStay or Go?
Luke McCown, Quarterback
One season with the Falcons/0 passes along with 2 rushes for -3 yards in two games. Stay. McCown’s future will ultimately be decided on whether or not the Falcons are comfortable with Dominque Davis, who just completed his first season in the NFL, backing up Matt Ryan and being just an injury to Matty Ice away from hitting the field. Eventually Davis will be the second string for Atlanta, but at just $825,000, it would be a mistake to not re-sign McCown for at least another season.
Tony Gonzalez, Tight End
Four seasons/93 receptions for 930 yards and 8 touchdowns. Go. This decision has absolutely nothing to do with the Falcons’ front office, as I am sure they have tried every pitch in the world to convince the future Hall of Famer to give it one more go around. Gonzalez has said for quite some time that 2012 would be it for his legendary career, and I believe that he will stay true to his world and hang it up.
Todd McClure, Center
Fourteen seasons/Started fifteen of Atlanta’s sixteen regular season games.Go. McClure is one of the unsung heroes in Falcons’ franchise history, serving as a rock for an offense and a team that had its fair share of bad years (the Bobby Petrino experiment, which almost convinced McClure to retire, comes to mind). However, I think that McClure will opt to retire due to both his age and the fact that Peter Konz, who played guard for the team this year, played center at Wisconsin and was drafted to eventually replace McClure at that position.
Sam Baker, Offensive Tackle
Five seasons/Started fifteen of the Falcons’ sixteen regular season games.Stay. Part of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith’s first draft class back in 2008, Baker has had an up-and-down career on the line for the Falcons, partly due to injury (Baker has already had three back surgeries). From the outside looking in, it seems like Baker’s return is up in the air, but it is never a bad idea to try and return all the pieces of an offensive line that ranked 7th in the league in sacks allowed with twenty-eight.
Will Svitek, Offensive Tackle
Four seasons/Out for the entire season with an upper arm injury.Go. Svitek did a commendable job for Atlanta back in 2011, stepping in at left tackle in place of Sam Baker, who was injured. However, Svitek missing all of 2012 with an arm injury puts him at a major disadvantage as a free agent, which will most likely leave the thirty year old looking for work outside of Atlanta.
Lawrence Sidbury, Defensive End
Four seasons/One tackle in ten games.Go. Most of the players on this list have a legitimate chance at returning in 2013, but it does not seem that way for Sidbury, who has a grand total of five sacks in forty-five games with the team. The Falcons will be in the market for a defensive end this offseason, which means that Sidbury will probably be relocating.
Mike Peterson, Linebacker
Four seasons/Seven tackles in fourteen games this year (just three starts)Go. Peterson, a former player for the Jaguars during Mike Smith’s tenure as defensive coordinator, was signed by the Falcons as an insurance policy following Lofa Tatupu’s season-ending injury back in July. The linebacking core was a major disappointment for Atlanta this year, as the group combined for a single digit in the sack department, so expect the team to branch out from the likes of Peterson for 2013.
Brent Grimes, Cornerback
Seven seasons/Six tackles in one game (torn Achilles).Stay. The Falcons have to be hoping that their issues in pass coverage were due to the loss of Grimes, who had proven over the last few seasons that he is Atlanta’s best corner in terms of coverage. It will do the Falcons a bit of good to take a chance on Grimes and re-up him for a few more years.
Chris Owens, Cornerback
Four seasons/Thirteen tackles with one forced fumble in twelve games.Go. The trade for Asante Samuel in the offseason left Owens in no man’s land as far as the depth chart is concerned, and it showed in the amount of playing time he had this year. Re-signing Owens would be a move made just for the sake of depth, but Atlanta could very well find another free agent that will provide them more bang for their buck.
William Moore, Safety
Four seasons/60 tackles along with four interceptions and a sack, enough to earn Moore his first Pro Bowl appearance.Stay. Despite most of the defense’s struggles in 2012, Moore was one of the bright spots in an otherwise abysmal season for the Dirty Birds’ D. It looks like Moore has a promising future, one that could very well see him rise up to the status of one of the best safeties in the game.
If the Falcons indeed handle their free agents as predicted above, that would mean six open spots on the roster. Check in later this week to see the five free agent players from the rest of the NFL that I think the Falcons should strongly consider adding.