As I wrote when the hiring of OC Dirk Koetter was announced, he was not exactly an inspiring choice. The same cannot be said for new DC Mike Nolan. As a longtime Tom Landry and Dan Reeves fan, I think Mike Nolan is going to be a good fit.
Nolan faces three major problems, listed in no particular order.
- Key free agents – John Abraham, Curtis Lofton, Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud.
- Poor secondary play.
- Abysmal pass rush.
Normally you would build via the draft, but without a 1st round pick, the Falcons cannot look to rebuild the defensive line or shore up the secondary. The front office can look to build via free agency, but the Falcons cannot afford to overpay (see Dunta Robinson and Ray Edwards).
Should be interesting to see how this turns out, but we will not know the full picture until after the pre training camp salary cap casualties. Yes, the draft will carry a lot of weight as GM Thomas Dimitroff looks to add value picks, but expect the Falcons to plug in a few gaps via salary cap pick-ups.
The Future of Turner
Under the topic of lack of draft picks and salary cap casualties, look for Michael Turner. Speculation is growing that Turner could be shopped or even dropped. It is true that Turner is hitting the magical train wreck for HB known as being 30.
One key point in the Turner discussion that seems to be missing is that losing Ovie Mughelli impacted the Falcons ability (inability) to run effectively. Not to mention poor offensive line play.
The AJC’s Jeff Schultz points out that Turner has a significant cap hit that cannot be overlooked:
Turner is scheduled to make $5 million in salary next season, but has a cap hit of $7.5 million (factoring $2.5 million for his original signing bonus).
True enough and Schultz didn’t weigh in a strong opinion for keeping or moving (or dropping) Turner.
ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas points out that it is unlikely that ATL will get much return (in the way of draft pick compensation) for the aging Turner:
If they went this route, you’d like to see the Falcons get a nice draft pick in return. But, for all the reasons we covered above, I’d have a tough time seeing another team give up an early draft pick for an aging running back. At best, the Falcons might be able to get a middle- or late-round pick for Turner. That team also would have to pick up a contract that would pay Turner $5 million in 2012 and $5.5 million in 2013, so I’d say a late-round pick is a more likely scenario.
Simply cutting Turner isn’t totally out of the question. He’s scheduled to count $7 million against the 2012 salary cap. But I just checked the specifics of his contract. The Falcons would take a $4 million cap hit if they cut Turner. But they’d also free up $3 million in cap space.
I don’t think it is realistic to talk about moving Turner until there is some decision made on Jason Snelling (also a Free Agent). If the Falcons resign Snelling, I think that will point to a Turner move (one way or the other). Of course they resigned Snelling last year, so I could be totally off base.
I just don’t see the Falcons getting anything in return for Turner, and it would be disappointing if they just dropped him, but freeing up $3 million in cap space may allow the Falcons to push for more pressing needs.