Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/19/12
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said that the roster would be closely scrutinized and heavily evaluated after the team's third ouster from the playoff over the last four seasons. "We know that we need to get better in many, many areas," Dimitroff said. "It is my job to make sure that I step back with coach (Mike) Smith and obviously, Mr. Blank, and look at all aspects of the football operations and determine where we need to make changes and where we need to adjust going forward." Dimitroff noted that there would be no "sacred cows" on the roster. "I don't care where we drafted them or how we acquired them in free agency," Dimitroff said. One of the areas where they clearly plan to get better is on defense. They have a new coordinator in NFL veteran assistant and former head coach Mike Nolan. They also let their leading tackler and leading sacker become unrestricted free agents. With under 5 million under the cap, there is no apparent way to sign both of them back. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, thought to be one of the cornerstones of the unit after amassing more than 500 tackles in four seasons, is searching for a new home. Defensive end John Abraham, who has 112 career sacks and 58.5 over six seasons with the Falcons, is seeing what the market value is for a 34-year-old pass-rush specialist. Both Lofton and Abraham played key roles as the Falcons amassed a 43-21 record, the fifth-best mark in the league over the past four seasons. They are now free to negotiate contracts with all 32 teams after the NFL's new business year started at 4 p.m. Tuesday. After just three days, Abraham re-signed with the Falcons March 16 on a three-year contract. Over the past week, the Falcons re-signed five of their players and placed a 10.281 million franchise tag on cornerback Brett Grimes. They also signed linebacker Lofa Tatupu and offensive guard Vince Manuwai. After those dealings, the Falcons didn't have enough room under the 120.6 million salary cap to accommodate the contract demands of Lofton, Abraham and to a lesser degree veteran center Todd McClure. "Every player is going to want as much money as they can get," Dimitroff said. "That's human nature." Abraham, who turns 34 in May, has been the team's top sacker since being acquired in a trade in 2006. In 2008, he had 16.5 quarterback sacks. Lofton, the team's leading tackler over the past four seasons, was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft. He had 577 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions and seven forced fumbles. The Falcons will attempt to replace Lofton with Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowler who did not play last season. Also, Akeem Dent will get a chance to win playing time. The Falcons don't have a proven defensive end on the roster who's had a 10-sack season. Ray Edwards, who had two knee surgeries last season, has a career-high of 8.5 sacks. Nolan will be under pressure to get better results for a unit that will be playing without it's two most productive performers.
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