Originally posted on cover32 - Falcons  |  Last updated 3/20/14
Early in this offseason Falcons owner Arthur Blank said that he didn’t want any “splash” free agent moves, and it appears that the front office is taking his words to heart. When Paul Soliai , Tyson Jackson, and John Asamoah came in it hardly moved needle on the national buzz-meter. Which makes sense, those guys are all “bricks and mortar” type players who fill some of the Falcons biggest deficiencies and I believe will go a long way toward turning around the fortunes of the Falcons next season. But they aren’t “splashy”. The last two free agents the Falcons have brought in, however, appear to be head-scratchers. Last night, while contract talks with Devin Hester were heating up, the Falcons made the under the radar signing of Javier Arenas. If you are looking for Arenas to be the Falcons featured return-man next year then I am afraid you will be disappointed. As of now Hester is still in Atlanta, and still trying to work out a contract that would make the 31 year old return ace a Dirty Bird. So he is still in play. If you look up Arenas’ return yardage from last you’d see that he failed to notch a single yard returning kicks last season. (He did have one fair-catch, so there’s that.) Now to be fair, he was third on the KR/PR depth chart last season when he was a member of the Arizona Cardinals. He was behind Patrick Peterson, who might be the best at it in football, and Tyrann Mathieu who is dynamic returning the ball in his own right. But the fact remains that Arenas was not look at as a return asset in this area at all. The other recent Atlanta signing that might confuse some fans would be the return of Peria Jerry. Many assumed with the personnel brought in to run a 3-4 front that the middling DT Jerry would be let go. But it is not so. I for one believe that the criticism directed toward Jerry has always been over the top, due to his high draft spot, his ACL injury the really destroyed the trajectory of his career, and his only-ever-average production. Has he played like a first round pick? Well honestly, no. Not even close. And does he fit a 3-4 scheme? Not exactly. He is a One Gap penetrator that tries to squeeze in between OLs to get into the backfield. He is not the block absorbing space eater that is best suited for the 3-4, But there absolutely are some reasons that these two signings will help the Falcons in 2014. The first is depth. The Falcons Fandom has bemoaned the picks we lost in the Julio Jones trade, and the consequential lack of depth it represented. So why get frustrated over quality depth signing? We’ve trusted our backup positions to UDFAs and camp bodies. Why does it hurt to bring guys in who have legitimate NFL experience? This helps the team. The more experienced players in Training Camp breed competitive practices that make the team better. You can point to Paul Worrilow and Joplo Bartu as guys who came in as UDFAs and contributed, but if we were to lose a starting player again it’s best to not ask undrafted-college-rookie-lightning to strike twice. There are also some specifics that point to positives in these signings. I am of the opinion that the recent Falcons moves have pointed to an increased role for current Nickel CB/PR Robert McClain. Atlanta has brought in multiple PR specialists and has signed the Nickel/PR Arenas. We could get wild and speculate that McClain is the in house solution to the Falcon’s free safety situation. But I believe these players have been brought in because defensive coordinator Mike Nolan envisions a much bigger role for McClain because of the guys brought in that could handle his ancillary roles. The resigning of Jerry is probably a strong indicator that the much more effective Corey Peters will start the season on the designated IR or PUP list. Even though Peters will have had an entire off season to recover from an Achilles injury, it happened late last season and the timetable for recover from those injuries is typically a year. Bringing Jerry back is a nice insurance policy and a good body for depth until Peters gets back. He is known by the organization and will be looked at as a rotational piece. Not every FA will be a stunner. But these guys will help the Falcons in 2014. You may also be interested in:Free Agency head scratchersBreaking: Falcons re-sign embattled former first round pickMeet your newest Falcon: Javier Arenas
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