Posted: 5:24 pm Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Falcons’ moves should improve both lines 

By Jeff Schultz

Thomas Dimitroff had a busy first day in NFL free agency. (AP photo)

Thomas Dimitroff had a busy first day in NFL free agency. (AP photo)

A makeover was needed. This was a good start.

The Falcons didn’t sign any of the major names on the first day of free agency but they signed three players who should significantly improve their offensive and defensive lines.

By doing so, the team acknowledged personnel mistakes of the past, while also sending a signal about a change in philosophy on defense.

A quick recap:

– Signed: Nose tackle Paul Soliai (from Miami). He’s 6-4, 344 pounds and his signing pretty much confirms what has been hinted over the past several days that the Falcons will shift their base defense to a 3-4. Soliai immediately gives the defensive line a greater physical presence.

– Signed: Defense end Tyson Jackson (from Kansas City). He was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft and largely was viewed as one of the failures of former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli (now an assistant to general manager Thomas Dimitroff in the Falcons’ front office). But Jackson has proven to be an effective end in the 3-4 — even if not worthy of the No. 3 pick — in the last two seasons after three pretty mediocre ones, primarily as a run-stopper. He also has seven sacks in the last two seasons (only nine in five years overall).

– Signed: Guard Jon Asamoah (from Kansas City). He’s another of Pioli’s former players and his likely signing was the worse-kept secret in Flowery Branch. Asamoah won’t fix all of the problems on the offensive line but he fills a huge hole at right guard, occupied last season by Garrett Reynolds (since released) and Peter Konz. Asamoah is 6-4, 304 pounds.

– Re-signed: Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and center/guard Joe Hawley. Babineaux has been the team’s best defensive lineman (granted, not a significant statement). He has the flexibility to play inside in the 4-3 and at end in the 3-4. Hawley is expected to compete with Konz for the starting center spot and can back up both center and guard positions.

– Released: Free safety Thomas DeCoud. He could’ve been cut after the 2012 season because of his horrendous tackling. The Falcons gave him one more year and it was a mistake. The team will need to find another safety in free agency or the draft.

I’ll have more on the Falcons’ decisions later in a full column on MyAJC.com.

Recent ramblings on Braves …
— Blog: With Medlen, others hurt, Braves hurt by offseason decision
– Blog: Braves’ rotation can’t afford Medlen’s loss
– MyAJC ($): McDowell has been guide for Braves’ young pitchers
– Blog: Braves’ Medlen to shave head for charity
–MyAJC ($) Can Teheran, young rotation carry Braves?
– MyAJC ($): Jason Heyward’s time as a Brave could be nearing end
– Blog: Kimbrel gets new deal — and closer’s value should be obvious
– Blog: Poll time: Can Braves’ Uggla or Upton turn it around? (vote)
– MyAJC ($): Dan Uggla: ‘I was a mess’ last season
– MyAJC ($): Braves about to find out if no move was right move
Recent ramblings on other stuff…
– MyAJC ($): Gregory says Tech needs to be tougher next season
– MyAJC ($): Nobody’s laughing at Ron Hunter, Georgia State now
– Blog: Denver to cut Champ Bailey, should Falcons cut him?
– MyAJC ($): Any use of ‘N’ word by athletes disrespects history
– Blog: Will a Georgia school get NCAA bid? Here are odds
– MyAJC ($): Hawks’ season unravels — does anybody care?
– Blog: Inaction shows Hawks care more about future than current collapse
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– MyAJC ($): Mark Fox deserves to return for Georgia
36 comments
Kennyd_va
Kennyd_va

TD made some very good moves......  I guess he thought about the bad moves he make in 2012 offseson. Now hopefully the Falcons can keep Matt Ryan upright ...      RISE UP!!!!! Falcons Nation

BeastOPS
BeastOPS

People need to relax about the Byrd signing.  I would've liked to have had him in Atlanta as much as the next guy.  But just because he was the best available safety doesn't mean he was the second coming of Ronnie Lott.

The Saints overpaid for him as well.  Hopefully it will come back to bite them.

LeftisnotRight
LeftisnotRight

Linemen, linemen, linemen.........Keep it going.....solid signings.....Go Falcons!

RX
RX

To all you supposed 'experts' on here, I AM THE TRUE EXPERT!

I have 49 years of experience with the Falcon organization. I see what everybody sees, that Dimitroff as a GM, although brilliant in some things, is desperately lacking in others. Enter the parade of GM 'helpers'.


These 3 players are solid acquisitions and positionally better than anything we have on this roster. Unfortunately that isn't saying much after the disaster Dimitroff made of our O & D Lines over the past few years.


Good signings (with more to come), plus we are picking obscenely high in the upcoming draft where even our 2nd round pick is the equivalent to a low 1st rounder (where we usually pick).

TheMonger
TheMonger

I like the 3 signings so far to beef up the OL/DL, well 7 if you include the resignings of Babs, Peters, Hawley, and Johnson.  The problem is the Falcons are still sitting on around 13 million of cap room after these signings and still don't have the difference maker on defense that they need, and guys are getting scooped up left and right.  I was begging and I MEAN BEGGING to at least go after DeMarcus Ware when he got cut, and now he is with Denver of course.  Julius Peppers was cut, and I think the Falcons should make a hard push after him.  We need to stockpile all the talent we can on defense after how bad we were last year, and then let everything else sort itself out.  I say get Julius Peppers and a veteran safety and cornerback in Free Agency this year to finish it out and then Draft either Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr with the number 6 pick and then the best OT available in the 2nd round, possibly someone like Tiny Richardson out of Tennessee.  Get a another Safety, DT, WR, RB, and TE with the rest of the picks and we should be good to go.

EricEllis
EricEllis

I don't understand why any of you supposed experts thought the Falcons would even be interested in Byrd to start with?  We already have alot of money tied up in Moore and Safety is hardly the position of most need on this team (or defense for that matter).  Getting bigger and tougher along both lines is the number one, two and three priorities of this team right now, not Safety.  They can get any number of decent Safeties in the draft or FA and still be in fine shape with Willie Mo back there (not to mention that both our CB picks from last year really seemed to come on down the stretch).  


Soliai immediately makes us stronger and meaner up the middle of the line and Jackson gives us a nice pass rusher on the outside.  The LB starters suddenly look pretty decent now with Jackson, Weatherspoon, Worrilow, and Biermann as well.  We still need another true defensive end out of this draft but there are plenty to choose from so I'd look to trade down for some more picks if I were Dimitroff.


The OL still needs a ton of work but Asomoah  is a good start.  Our interior startering trio is pretty decent now with Blalock, Hawley and Asomoah.  If Baker can get back to 2012 form (50/50 shot there) and we pick up one of the stud tackles in the draft we will have improved our position immensely (will still need more depth though).  


Skill positions are pretty set right now in my opinion.  Jackson and Rodgers are a good tandem at RB, Toilolo will become a stud at TE I predict, Douglas got some much needed experience last year with Jones and White down so that trio will be even more dangerous in 2014.  


Because it was such a terrible year for the Falcons I think Matt Ryan took a lot of unwarranted heat but if you look at his actual numbers last year combined with who he had to throw to and how much he was abused in the pocket you realize that he actually did a very good job all things considered.  I think that kind of season will actually help him going forward as he will have gained mental toughness from it and he knows now that he can produce even under terrible circumstances.


I really feel that if Dimitroff handles the draft well and adds a few more FA pieces that 2014 could be our year.  The defense will be massively improved through additions and experience gained.  Our starting CB's are no longer rookies and Moore is a perrennial Pro Bowler.  The LB core will be one of the best in the league and the line will be addressed even more so.  This in combination with one of the most dangerous offenses in the league set Atlanta up for a really good season!  Go Birds!

BuckheadBenny
BuckheadBenny

You guys are freaking idiots that think these are bad picks-  l- they solidified the interior of both lines-  mainly you stopped the run now which we had the worst ranked run defense in football-  If you know people are going to pass and are predicable, i.e. Falcons last year- its easier to get sacks since you know they are throwing the ball- If someone can run on you - you never get the ball back like last year, fyi-

You stop the run- you can afford to blitz more too-


In addition, you idiots why do you think teams would dump their supposed best players that have such great name recognition if they were truly that great??    Worst thing you could ever do is lock up a free safety that was hurt half the year at almost 10 million a year in my opinion-


We got beat at the line of scrimmage last year-  Draft Khalil Mack- they run the 3-4 next year- you have 4 linebackers with Witherspoon, and Bierman that can rush the QB- 2nd pick draft Antonio Richardson OT from Tennessee- he benched 225 36 times and held his own in 2012 against Clowney- 3rd pick TE or RB- 4th pick- DT- 5th Pick- big full back- 6th pick- wide receiver- 7th best available-


Falcons will pick up a veteran free safety to replace Decoud-


We all of sudden have lineman and a good defense and a potential pro bowler on defense with Khalil Mack- Mack has more upside short and long term by making that pick-

HonestInformed
HonestInformed

Sign Demarcus Ware.


Draft Greg Robinson OT or Jake Matthews OT.


Draft best available safety with 2nd round pick.


Draft best available LB, RB, TE and then best available player starting in the 6th.

Sportsfather
Sportsfather

While the signings are a good start, still no impact players on offense or defense. To be a strong defense these days I appears proven you need 2 bonafide pass rushers (and especially with 2 still green CBs); we still have none, assuming Osi is indeed going to be gone. Now a gap in safety that will be no better or worse than what we had. Can only try to outsmart the room with scheme so much before you realize it takes talent to win. Look like its going to be up to the draft to get it.  I'd say from what I've seen as of today 8-8 might be the ceiling for 2014.

KDinFL
KDinFL

The Falcons cut DeCoud and let the Saints pick up Jairus Byrd.  How ignorant is that.  They let the best FS in free agency get away and on top of that he went to our rival.  2 GM's and still can't get it right.  Dimitrov has not impressed me at all.  It may be time to move on from him and his Patriots philosophy.  It hasn't worked for any other team except the Patriots and that's because they have Tom Brady.

traderjoe9
traderjoe9

Not experts on the new hires, but after reading all the comments I wonder if we're trying to build a team to be good and maybe make the playoffs like in previous years, or we're trying to build a team to win the superbowl. We obviously need some difference makers on both sides of the ball.

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

the falcons still need as lot and they stop at 1 brated player and 2 c rated players , and let byrd go to the sap sucking saints for 6 yrs .

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

HIRE DAN REEVES AND BILL POLIAN TO BUILD A DAMN SUPER BOWL TEAM

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

ALSO JULIUS PEPPERS RELEASED TODAY I MEAN OLDER YES , BUT LOOK AT WHAT YOU GAVE UP LAST YEAR TO ARIZONA OLDER JOHN ABRAHAM , YOU NEED VETERANS TO WIN SUPER BOWLS , NOT ROOKIES , YOU HAVE REVIS AVAILABLE TOMORROW, WARE, JARET ALLEN, STOP BEING SO DAMN STUPID AND CHEAP , GIVE A BAD PLAYER 25 MILLION, AND YOU COULD GIVE A GGOD PLAYER LIKE B.J.RAJI  15 MILLION , AND THE TIGHT END FROM HOUSTON WHO THEY CUT TONIGHT BECAUSE OF THE SALARY CAP CASUALTY IF YOU DON;T HAVE HIM ON SPEED DIAL, WELL YOU CAN KISS YR JOB GOODBYE I WILL GET IN TOUCH WITH BLANK MYSELF AND TELL HIM ALL YR SHORTCOMINGS ., AND THERE ARE PLENTY.

reallygroovy
reallygroovy

this team will not make playoffs again this year , they as I said earlier got players from the chiefs, and Miami that were 77 , 37 and 31 on the top 150 freeagents , you had allen, ware, ericdecker , and look if you are that stupid then look the tight end from Houston, is a playmaker he can be got for 4 million or less, the guy is as touchdown maker , sign him , asap  , don't you think us fans who has been watching this IDIOTIC TEAM SINCE 1966 I REMEMBER NORM VAN BROCKLIN ON THE SIDELINE ,  Arthur blank hire me I guarantee I can get you a super bowl roster in 2 years scott peoli , and Thomas dimitroff , are 2  of the stupiest people that has yr open check book, and they you will never see asuper bowl tropHy in yr office with these clowns in charge .NO HOPE IN GEORGIA

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

So the bucs signed michael johnson and verner while we signed soliai and tyson jackson?? Pathetic

atlfalconno1fan
atlfalconno1fan

My fALCON WISH LIST..beat the hated new orleans stinkin aints twice in one season faturing a blowout in that 55 yr old cave in new orleans...that would bring me joy..then win super bowl 

RunningBanker
RunningBanker

SERIOUSLY?!?!  The two deepest positions in this year's free agency, by all accounts, were O-line and D-line.  All that available talent that can help the team NOW and we take these guys?  No offense (no pun, intended) to Messrs.Jackson, Soliai, and Asamoah, who have talent.  But not only weren't they on the top half of the list of available free agents, they didn't even MAKE the list!  These moves, coupled with past dubious choices, lead me to one of two conclusions; ONE, Dimitroff and staff are lacking in ability to go after and sign top-shelf talent or TWO, Arthur is too cheap to pay for any top-shelf talent!  Granted, between Matty Ice, his ex-wife, and the new stadium, Arthur may not have the $$$ to spend.  And to applaude the resigning of the best two linemen of two bad units?  Very disappointed!!!

gfw
gfw

I'm good with these moves except the re-signing of Hawley.  So Hawley & Konz will battle it out for center, huh?  Then the team loses.  The fans lose.  Neither guy showed the kind of power, the kind of dominance, needed in our division to be competitive.  I know we can't just let everyone go, but really, these two guys were major under-performers. 

St_Simons_he-ne-ha
St_Simons_he-ne-ha

25 mil for a bust? reeeeally? While the Oakland guy was available cheaper?

Oh lord all we need is Matt Millen to have the 3 worst GMs evahhhh, all on 1 team

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

We need to sign a KR/PR. How can ur SLOW second string running back be your best hope at KR?? Pathetic, we havent had a steady PR since rossum. We have NO talented offensive lineman either lol. I just dont understand how you think you can win rings with ZERO stars combined on ur O AND D LINE???

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

This will be our defense lmfao jackson, soliai, babs, warrilow (LMFAO @ thinking he is even decent), dent (worst middle lb in nfl), beirmann (so bad), two 2nd year corners as STARTERS. No free safety yet, and willy mo at SS. Now you gone sit here and say thats championship caliber???? LMFAOOOO NEVERRRR. We dont have ONE player on our entire defense that will start for the seahawks or niners. Not ONE defender thats PATHETICCCCCCC. We have a defense full of average players which is why we will be an AVERAGE team smfh.

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

I seriously almost threw my iphone 5s out the window when I saw we paid Jackson 25+ MILLION and 33+ MILLION to a 30 yr old DT SMFH. Why not overpay for a TIGHT END or PASS RUSHER then????????????? Why why why????????? We had over 30 million and we didnt sign OR resign one LEGIT pro bowler lmfao. Thats how you waste the 2014 season folks. If ATL finishes better than 9-7 I'll pass out.

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

Every atl fan wanted michael johnson (8mil) and byrd (8-9 mil) but of course we pass on them to let our division rivals snag them both SMFHHHHH. Bucs get johnson and saints will get bryd. Atl would rather pay 33 mil to a 30 yr old aging DT instead of 43 mil to a young and in his prime PASS RUSHER LMFAOOOOOOOOO I see why we went 4-12 last year. We just spent 58 MILLION on two DECENT run stoppers rofl. We ranked 30th in sacks and course we spend 58 million on run stoppers lmfao Dimitroff is OVERRATED. Name one free agent he aquired who did ANYTHING besides Turner? I'll wait.

RangeRover
RangeRover

Dimitroff,


When are you going to shave that preadolescent pubic hair off your lip and chin?  You look ridiculous, pal!

Ugadogs123456789
Ugadogs123456789

LMFAO @ ANYONE who thinks ATL did a good job today. We once again overpay for scrubs lmao. Tyson Jackson??? Rofl we pay this clown 25+ million are u serious?? Then We over pay for a 30 yr old aging NT named Soliai LMFAOOOOO. Lamar Houston who is a STUD gets 7mil a year and we pay an aging NT 6mil per year are you kidding me?????? All these STUD left tackles on the market and they got ONLY 7mil per yr yet we pay sam baker (never has played a full year yet) more then these STUDS LMFAOOOO and we about to pay 5mil a year to Tyson Jackson Lmfao. Might be the worst off season ive seen from ANY NFL TEAM EVER.

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

The schedule is tough next year, but the Falcons have made the adjustments they needed to make to get back into playoff contention. Excited to see what the rest of the offseason holds.

RickinGrayson
RickinGrayson

The Falcons did a great job on this first day!  We needed a big NG like Soliai on defense to take on another blocker and allow our DE's a chance at getting to the opposing teams QB.


Between Mike Johnson, Lamar Holmes, Ryan Schreader, and Terren Jones, we should be able to handle RT and backup Sam Baker.  


The offensive and defensive lines are already vastly improved.


Take Khalil Mack at #6 and pick up the best TE in the second round.


How about taking WR Sammy Watkins with #6 if he is still there or Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State in the second as a future replacement for Roddy White over the next couple of years.  


Look at Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State in the second round or the best available safety to replace DeCoud.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

I don't what to speculate too much about the two guys the Falcons brought in from Kansas City and Soliai from Miami. But it's got to be a step in the right direction. I'll have to see who they get in the draft-- and who they let go. Plus what's left in free agency, they maybe able to acquire who can help this team.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

Ok so who starts? Does Peters start at one DE spot and Tyson Jackson start at the other?


Does Babineaux start at one DE spot? Where does Osi fit in in all this? He seems to be lost in the shuffle. Does he move to OLB? Lots of questions to be answered. But that's the good thing about having DEPTH.

BigCrimson75
BigCrimson75

Watch out for Tyson Jackson!!

He's gonna take off on Team #2 the way Justin Smith did in SF.

Easy to forget Smith was a top 5 "quasi-bust" in Cincinnati.

Jackson & Poe eating up 3-4 blockers certainly made Hali, Houston, Johnson & Berry look better for KC last year.

JSSN
JSSN

@BuckheadBenny

"Falcons will pick up a veteran free safety to replace Decoud-"

Please, never leave Buckhead.

iamlistening
iamlistening

@RickinGrayson  If Dimitroff drafts another receiver in the top 10, 2 in the past 4 drafts, he needs to be beaten. This would be following the Matt Millen model (dude kept drafting receivers) or in basketball, the Billy Knight model (dude kept drafting forwards) . The Falcons need to take the best OLman or  DLman. 



JSSN
JSSN

@BigCrimson75  

Smith wasn't a bust in Cincinnati. They were just a highly dysfunctional franchise. He was racking up consistent sack numbers and made tackles. They used the franchise tag on him when was getting ready to bolt. 


You are right about taking up blockers, es muy importante!