NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - INSIDE SLANT
Following a weekend rookie camp, the Atlanta Falcons feel they may have managed to steal a couple of linebacker prospects after failing to address that need during the draft.
Linebackers Nick Clancy and Joplu Bartu, both undrafted free agent rookies, were impressive in the three-day camp that ended Sunday.
"Clancy and Bartu did a nice job in the special teams stuff and that's really where those young linebackers are going to get their first opportunity to contribute," Falcons coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "They both can run. We definitely saw that and I like the size of them."
Clancy took over last year for Luke Kuechly, who was the Carolina Panthers first round pick and made many lists as defensive rookie of the year after setting tackle records at Boston College.
Clancy, who had only 19 tackles as a backup in 2011, collected Kuechly-type stats with 145 tackles in 12 starts last year, good for fourth in the country.
However, scouts noted that too many tackles were well beyond the line of scrimmage and the type defense used should result in the middle linebacker making an inordinate number of tackles. However, his many stops downfield may have been explained in his poor 40-yard time of 4.93 seconds. So, despite the fact he looks the part at 6-2, 237, and had the numbers, Clancy was not even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and went undrafted.
Bartu, listed at 6-2, 230, began last season at defensive end for Texas State, but was moved to linebacker. He made 71 tackles over his last five games, including 16 tackles against Louisiana Tech and Navy.
"They are very athletic," Smith said. "This is a big, athletic group in terms of the size of the guys. We have some guys with some really good size."
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - NOTES, QUOTES
-- Defensive end John Abraham, who turned 35 Monday, not only retracted his tweets suggesting retirement, but according to ESPN's Adam Schefter is close to signing with the Tennessee Titans.
Abraham tweeted "Retiring 13" and "Done" last Saturday night. He then deleted the tweets.
Abraham, who collected 68.5 sacks in seven years with the Falcons, was released on March 1 and has visited Denver, Seattle, New England and Tennessee.
The Falcons have signed former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and drafted two defensive ends -- Malliciah Goodman (fourth round) and Stansly Maponga (fifth round).
Abraham is still a fan favorite and the Falcons faithful have put pressure on the team to get him back. "We never say never," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. "There is a lot on the horizon. We have some decisions to make across the organization, but we never say never as far as acquiring or bringing people back." Now that depends on what happens between Abraham and the Titans.
--Last season, the Falcons signed three players off of their performance during the rookie minicamp -- tight end Aron White, fullback Lee Meisner and wide receiver Kenny Stafford. Smith thinks the team may have found more nuggets this last weekend.
"I think there were some guys who really showed the skills that they had," Smith said. "We'll be making some decisions over the next couple of days in terms of if there is going to be any roster moves. There were some guys that came in here on a tryout basis who did a really nice job."
--Former Falcons offensive lineman Tyson Clabo signed with the Miami Dolphins Sunday.
--The Falcons will have three weeks of coaching sessions before starting their organized team activities on May 28. The mandatory minicamp is set for June 18-20.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Probably the one position that we were focused on thinking that we might be able to walk away with was the (weak-side) linebacker spot or a linebacker spot. As we started looking at other positions and the values and what we thought was the talent there, we thought it would override what we were looking at in the linebacker area." -- Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, discussing how it was the Falcons did not draft a linebacker.
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Falcons' picks:
Round 1/22 - Desmond Trufant, CB, 6-0, 190, Washington
He will become the third Trufant to make it to the NFL. His brothers, Marcus (Seattle) and Isaiah (Jets), already are in the league. The youngest Trufant is a big corner and is plenty fast. He ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the combine. He was a captain for the Huskies. He played in 12 games as a freshman in 2009, starting the last nine at cornerback. He started all 13 games as a sophomore and junior. Last season, he had a string of 45 consecutive starts snapped when he missed the Colorado game with a hamstring injury in November. "It's a perfect place for me," Trufant said. "I want to make an impact in the league from Day 1."
2/60 -- Robert Alford, CB, 5-9, 188, Southeastern Louisiana
Alford was the first player from an FCS school selected in this draft. After last season the College Sports Journal named him the FCS national defensive player of the year, and The NFL Draft Report and Sports Network selected him to their All-American teams. Alford signed to play wide receiver, but he switched to cornerback after sitting out 2008 because of eligibility issues. Alford started 31 of 32 games at cornerback and recorded 137 tackles, 20 passes defended and 10 interceptions.
4/127 -- Malliciah Goodman, DE, 6-3, 276, Clemson
Goodman, a defensive end, was a Parade All-America selection and played in the U.S. Army All-American game. He was described as having "violent hands" in his NFL.com bio. He started two of 27 games over his first two seasons and had three sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss as he backed up Da'Quan Bowers. Over his final two seasons, he increased his effort level and started his final 27 games for the Tigers. As a junior, he set a new school-record for defensive linemen by playing 767 snaps. He finished with nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, 11 pressures and five forced fumbles as a senior.
4/133 - Levine Toilolo, TE, 6-8, 265, Stanford
Toilolo was used mainly as a blocker. He also caught 24 passes for 393 yards last season. He also has three uncles -- Dan Saleaumua, Edwin Mulitalo and Joe Salave'a -- who played in the NFL. "At Stanford we ran a pretty pro-style, West Coast offense," Toilolo said. "So we utilized a lot of tight ends which was big coming out of high school for me. This year we ran a lot of two tight-end sets for me and Zach (Ertz). For me, I was more of an inline tight end with my hand down the majority of the time."
5/153 -- Stansly Maponga, DE, 6-2, 265, Texas Christian
The speed rusher is recovering from March foot surgery. He broke a metatarsal bone in his left foot in a game against Baylor. Maponga played in 11 games and made nine starts last season. He was selected to the All-Big 12 first-team and the Associated Press All-Big 12 second-team.
7/243 -- Kemal Ishmael, S, 5-11, 206, Central Florida
The safety is from the same school that produced Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel. He was voted defensive player of the year in 2012 by Conference USA coaches. Ishmael also was named to the Jim Thorpe award watch list. Ishmael, a Miami native, finished his career as UCF's all-time top tackler among defensive backs and ranked third overall with 368 tackles. He played in 53 games for the Black Knights.
7/244 -- Zeke Motta, 6-2, 213, Notre Dame
Recruited as a linebacker out of Vero Beach, Fla., Motta became a full-time safety for his sophomore season at Notre Dame. He played in all 51 games with 29 starts and recorded 179 tackles and two interceptions. Motta was a team captain during his senior season at Notre Dame. His time of 4.83 seconds for 40 yards was the slowest among safeties at the NFL scouting combine.
7/249 -- Sean Renfree, QB, 6-3, 219, Duke
Renfree was a three-year starter for the Blue Devils and last season led them to their first bowl game appearance since 1994. Renfree set a school record with a 65.4 career completion percentage while passing for 9,465 yards, 50 touchdowns and 40 interceptions. Renfree suffered a torn right pectoral muscle on the final play of the Belk Bowl. He had surgery to repair the injury and wasn't able to participate in Duke's pro day.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (3)
--FB Mike Cox came on strong, but will have to compete with Bradie Ewing for the lead role.
--S Chris Hope was a valuable reserve and on special teams. He played in the playoffs in some three-safety alignments.
--LB Mike Peterson was a good insurance policy last season. He likely has played his last snaps in the league.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--TE Michael Palmer (not tendered as RFA) is a solid blocker and deceptive route-runner.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--T Sam Baker: UFA; $41.5M/6 yrs, $18.25M guaranteed.
--TE Tony Gonzalez: UFA; $14M/2 yrs, $3.5M SB.
--S William Moore: Potential UFA; $29.512M/5 yrs, $8.25M SB/$14M guaranteed.
--G Garrett Reynolds: Potential UFA; $2.58M/2 yrs, $500,000 SB/$700,000 guaranteed.
--RB Antone Smith: Potential RFA; $1.425M/2 yrs, $65,000 SB.
--RB Steven Jackson: UFA Rams; $12M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB/$4M guaranteed.
--DE Osi Umenyiora: UFA Giants; $8.5M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB/$5M guaranteed.
--DE John Abraham (released).
--T Tyson Clabo (released/post-June 1 designation).
--CB Brent Grimes: UFA Dolphins; $5M/1 yr, $2.25M SB/$3M guaranteed.
--C Todd McClure (UFA; retired).
--QB Luke McCown: UFA Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Kerry Meier (released).
--CB Christopher Owens: UFA Browns; $1M/1 yr.
--CB Dunta Robinson (released.
--DE Lawrence Sidbury: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--OT Will Svitek: UFA Patriots; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--RB Michael Turner (released/failed physical).
--DT Vance Walker: UFA Raiders; $1.3M/1 yr.