Posted on: April 29, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 11:30 am

Falcons expected to target Vikings DE Edwards

Even if the Atlanta Falcons select a defensive left end in the third round Friday night, filling what many observers feel is the team's most pressing need, the club is still likely to try to essentially fill the void in free agency.

Remember, the Falcons surrendered their second-rounder to Cleveland as part of the mega-package to move up 21 spots in the first round on Thursday night and to choose Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. So the options at left end in the third round, particularly players who might quickly contribute, could be iffy at best.

Still, a number of league sources told The Sports Xchange on Thursday night and early Friday morning that they expect Atlanta to choose the veteran route to try to address the left end need. And the player many expect the Falcons to target when the veteran free agency period eventually begins is Ray Edwards of Minnesota.

Any pursuit of Edwards, 26, could be tricky because his status as a free agent is tied to a new collective bargaining agreement or to the rules the league imposes as part of re-opening for business after the lockout. A five-year veteran, Edwards can only be an unfettered veteran if there is an agreement which reduces the number of accrued seasons for unrestricted free agency to four years.

Four years was the prior requirement, but the uncapped season in 2010 raised the level to six years, and the league could decide to play under those guidelines again.

Edwards was offered a one-year restricted free agent tender, at $2.521 million, by the Vikings, but obviously would prefer to be unrestricted. If he gains the latter status, the Falcons could chase him and pair him with right end John Abraham, the 11-year veteran who enjoyed a resurgent campaign in 2010 with 13 sacks.

Owner Arthur Blank, as he has demonstrated in the past, most recently with corner Dunta Robinson last spring, is not shy about opening his coffers to target and pay a premier free agent. The Falcons awarded Robinson a six-year, $57 million contract, with $25.5 million guaranteed, last year. The price tag for Edwards, if the Falcons do go after him, will also be pricey. But Blank wants a Super Bowl champion, and as illustrated Thursday night with the Jones deal, is willing to go "all in" to get one.

A fourth-round choice from Purdue in 2006, Edwards is regarded as one of the NFL's top left ends, and a productive pass rusher. He has five or more sacks in each of the last four seasons, which coincides with his tenure as a starter. The last two years, Edwards has 16.5 sacks. He had a career-best 8.5 sacks in 2009.

The lack of pass rush from the left end spot in 2010 was a glaring deficiency for the Falcons and certainly contributed to the club registering only 31 sacks for the season. Only 10 teams notched fewer. The trio of players who had quarterback kills at left end for the Falcons - Kroy Biermann, Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis - totaled just six sacks as a group.

Biermann regressed as a rusher, netting only three sacks, while starting 14 games. The previous season, he had five sacks as a situational player.

There is still some hope that third-year veteran Lawrence Sidbury, a fourth-round choice in 2009, might develop into a viable rusher. But Sidbury has just one sack in 22 appearances, and no starts, in two seasons. So the Falcons could turn to a proven commodity, and many, even in the Atlanta organization, seem to feel that Edwards might be the target.

Add to that the fact that Abraham is now 33 and the team in the next few years may need to find a replacement, and the consideration that Edwards has conceded in the past that he wants to play right end at some point in his career.

In his five NFL seasons, Edwards has 182 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 11 passes deflected, six forced fumbles and two recoveries. He has appeared in 72 games, with 58 of them as a starter.

--Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange

Posted on: April 13, 2011 9:55 am

Atlanta Falcons draft preview


   2010 record: 13-3, first place NFC South

2011 draft rundown

   Nine total picks -- 27th overall, 59, 91, 124, 158, 192, 209, 228, 229 

Top needs

   Defensive end: All-Pro defensive end John Abraham will turn 33 in May. He's set to enter the last year of his contract. Despite taking defensive ends in three of the last four drafts, general manager Thomas Dimitroff knows that Abraham's heir apparent isn't on the roster. Missouri's Aldon Smith, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Georgia's Justin Houston could all help the Falcons at the position.

   Right tackle: Tyson Clabo has likely played his last game with the Falcons. If Garrett Reynolds is not ready to take over, the Falcons could look at Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod.

   Outside linebacker: Mike Peterson is expected back, but Stephen Nicholas could be an unrestricted free agent when the labor fog clears. California's Mike Mohamed and Georgia's Akeem Dent are possible mid-round picks.

   Wide receiver: Mike Smith has made the call for more explosive plays. He knows that the Falcons need more than Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in order to open up the offense and take the reins off quarterback Matt Ryan. 

First-round focus

   27th overall

   --If the Falcons can revert to fortune they had in the 2005 draft, when they unearthed then-UAB sleeper receiver Roddy White with the 27th pick, they'd have reason to extend the draft-day party through the weekend and beyond. By comparison, they drafted Michael Jenkins out of Ohio State 29th overall in 2004 and DE Patrick Kerney 30th in 1999. Wide receiver and defensive end are needs for the Falcons, and Dimitroff is from the Patriots' personnel pipeline that isn't afraid to draft with direct needs in mind.

   Tight end Tony Gonzalez's prolific, Hall of Fame-worthy career is nearing conclusion and the Falcons don't have a developmental option under contract. They've shown plenty of interest in tight end prospects leading up to the draft and might pull the trigger on Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph in the first round depending on what shakes out in front of them. If an NFL-ready defensive end slides, the Falcons won't blink in turning in their card to acquire a bookend for Abraham. Dimitroff has had some success unearthing value in the middle rounds, and might target a tight end on the second or third day. Adding pass-rush help and/or solidifying the defensive backfield shredded by Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in the Falcons’ season-ending playoff loss should take priority but Atlanta won’t reach to get that done at No. 27.

Five names on the Falcons' board

   DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

   DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

   CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

   TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame

   WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy


--Jeff Reynolds, NFLDraftScout.com Senior Editor




Category: NFL Draft
Tags: Falcons
Posted on: March 30, 2009 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2009 2:36 pm

OT Joel Bell, CB Brian McCain Flying up boards

Each year there are relative unknown players whose eye-popping workouts in February and March force scouts back into the film room. Many times scouts are quick to acknowledge the impressive athleticism of prospects to local media covering the event, but once they review the players on film, realize that the speed, agility and strength shown on the track or weight room doesn't translate onto the field. 

And then, sometimes, there are players whose workouts go well and scouts return to the film room to discover that perhaps they had simply overlooked or undervalued the prospects. Two such players moving up the charts this year are Furman offensive tackle Joel Bell and Utah cornerback Brian McCain.

Bell, a three-time all-conference selection at left tackle, was invited to the Combine and put forth one of the more impressive all-around workouts, earning top-ten marks in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical, broad, 3-cone, and 20-yard shuttle at a shade under 6-7, 315 pounds. His workout was good enough that he didn't need to workout at Furman's Pro Day, though an eye-popping 25 teams still showed up to see him go through positional drills. 

Indianapolis Colts' scout Bob Guarini put Bell through a 20 minute workout while the other team scouts' watched. Besides the Colts, the teams represented were the Eagles, Titans, Saints, Jaguars, Browns, Steelers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Texans, Patriots, Lions, Chiefs, Falcons, Cowboys, Bears, 49ers, Rams, Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Giants, Panthers, Chargers, and the Packers.

Like Bell, Utah's McCain is hardly just a workout wonder, though the workout he put forth at the Ute's Pro Day could technically classify him as one. McCain was clocked in the low 4.3s and the buzz around scouting circles is that he's been timed even faster before. McCain's 20-yard shuttle (3.99) and 3-cone (6.74) drill times would have ranked among the best among the cornerbacks tested in Indianapolis. McCain, however, was not invited to the Combine, despite earning All-Mountain West accolades each of the past three seasons. While fellow defensive Sean Smith has the size scouts covet, McCain is the more athletic of the duo and has the rare speed and agility for man to man coverage. Among the estimated two dozen teams represented at McCain's workout were the Panthers, Lions, Dolphins and Seahawks. Considering the lack of speed shown by this year's cornerback class, some believe McCain could continue to rise as the draft approaches -- perhaps all the way to the 5th round.




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