Atlanta Falcons released Michael Turner and John Abraham. Turner and Abraham once represented the heart & soul of the Atlanta Falcons. Contributing to 3 straight playoff appearances from 2009-2013, two players who changed the misfortunes of the Falcons. The two veterans played pivotal roles in leading the Falcons to the 2013 NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers. With these two leaders departing who will the Falcons lean onto to replace two franchise cornerstones?
The argument for releasing Turner is the fact that he has reached passed the "death age" for NFL running backs. Turner turned 31 back in February. There are several options available on the open NFL market and both under the infamous age of 30. Reggie Bush age 28 seems to be a good, yet expensive Free Agent who has worked hard and achieved the role of a every down back. Drafted by the New Orleans Saints, the Falcons have the most game tape and film study covering Bush, than any other franchise searching for answers at the running back position. Several rumor have emerged that Bush could end up pairing with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Representing one of the best triple threat combo’s in the NFL.
Steven Jackson (age 29) according to media reports has the greatest chance of replacing Turner in Atlanta. Jackson a powerful running back recorded 1042 yards on 251 carries averaging 4.1 per carry slightly under career average of 4.2, showcasing that Jackson can still be a solid performer for NFL suitors. Recently Jackson sat with Sirius XM NFL Radio "For where I'm at, going into Year 10, I'm not ready to step back and just become a primary backup or a reduced role guy to be part of a running back by committee,". Adding Jackson to the roster would give Falcons an Oregon State Beavers backfield of Rodgers and Jackson. Affording Jackson the opportunity for a featured role with a Super Bowl contender.
John Abraham was released and immediately Falcons soon to be NFC rivals started calling Abrahams agent. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers emerged as Abraham's first visits during free agency. Both franchises are set to contend for the 2014 Super Bowl next season. How will the Falcons feel the void of a Hall of Fame worthy Defensive End who recorded 10 sacks last season? Abraham’s ten sacks represented 1/3rd of the Falcons overall total as a team last season.
News has emerged that the Falcons could look take a look at Michael Bennett (Buccaneers) and Cliff Avril (Lions). Bennett recorded a career best nine sacks during 2012-2013 season. At age 27, 6ft 4in and 254 pounds Bennett is a defensive weapon entering into the beginning of his prime. Among 4-3 defensive ends Bennett is probably the best agent available meaning the price tag could be pricey for his services.
Avril tabbed as the best NFL defensive end on a open market that features Osi Umenyiora, and Richard Seymour is entering his sixth NFL season. Recorded 20 1/2 sacks over the past two seasons could anchor the Falcons defense for several upcoming seasons. While the two mentioned young defensive ends can produce at a Pro Bowl type level Thomas Dimitroff doesn't seem inclined on handing out huge contracts to outside free agents next season. ESPN's Pat Yasinskas reports "General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has made it pretty clear he wants to take care of his own guys first. That means cornerback Brent Grimes, safety William Moore and left tackle Sam Baker are tops on the list. Oh, and the Falcons also want to sign quarterback Matt Ryan to a long-term extension sometime this offseason. And tight end Tony Gonzalez might decide to return for one more season".
Personal Opinion: Dimitroff's statement leaves us with the impression that Falcons are looking to the draft or toward lower end free agency to replace Abraham and Turner. Leaving Chris Canty (Giants), Ricky Jean Francois (49ers), and Jason Jones (Seahawks) as the free agents Falcons might covet the most. Rumors have Falcons eyeing Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora, I don't buy the Freeney rumors of high interest. Yes some interest is there but its cliche' because every team has interest in a free agent player. Umenyiora I am buying as solid, age 31 a solid veteran who can provide a few seasons of strong play at a valuable position. Providing leadership and championship experience with a high level of play can send this Falcons team to a new level. Truth is Falcons have put themselves in a unsettling position by releasing Abraham and Turner. Atlanta would have to make a draft day trade to move up in the draft to acquire a young talent capable of "Filling the Void of T&A".
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