At issue: Should the Falcons pursue DE Charles Johnson?

FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2015, file photo, Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) is shown during a press conference in San Jose, Calif. The Carolina Panthers released longtime defensive end Charles Johnson on Thursday, a move that will save the team $11 million under the 2016 NFL salary cap. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Charles Johnson: He’s from Georgia, you know. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Another fairly famous pass rusher has hit the open market. Today it’s Charles Johnson, once a Georgia Bulldog and long a productive Carolina Panther. On Monday it was Mario Williams, the man drafted ahead of Reggie Bush in 2006.

Given that the Atlanta Falcons haven’t had a decent pass rush since Claude Humphrey — OK, I exaggerate; John Abraham was great when the mood struck, and Chuck Smith made the biggest defensive swoop in franchise history — we around here get all abuzz at such developments. Should the Birds sign Johnson? Sign Williams? Sign both?

And here’s where I say, not for the first time: NFL free agency is, in the main, wildly overblown.

A few recent local examples: Tyson Jackson, Paul Soliai, Jon Asamoah, Brooks Reed, Justin Durant, Steven Jackson, Ray Edwards. None made a smidgen of a difference. Now, Michael Turner — he was a free agent who made a difference. But he’s the exception who proves the rule.

Granted, a few franchises have been changed by free agents: Reggie White to the Packers, Drew Brees to the Saints, Peyton Manning to the Broncos, Kurt Warner to the Cardinals. You’ll note that three of the above are quarterbacks, and few first-rate NFL quarterbacks are allowed to become free agents.

Much of this has to do with cold reality: Pro football players don’t last as long as they did. The NFL Players Association has claimed the average length of a career is 3.3 years. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal — using data from Pro Football Referencemaintained the average career now spans 2.66 seasons, having dipped from 4.99 seasons in 2008.

Williams is 31. He had 38 sacks from 2012 through 2014. He had five last season. (He contends it’s because Rex Ryan’s defense didn’t emphasize his talents.) Johnson turns 30 this summer. He had 62.5 sacks from 2008 through 2014. He had one last season. (He played only nine games due to injury.)

Baseball clubs have become more cognizant that free agents shouldn’t be paid on what they’ve done but what they’re apt to due after they sign the new contract. (Then, being baseball clubs, some of them turn around and shell out nine-figure deals.) The same should apply doubly if not trebly to the NFL, where players get hurt more often and burn out more quickly and not many non-quarterbacks are viewed as truly indispensable.

Were I the Falcons, I’d be leery of signing any free agent who’s 30 or thereabouts. Bruce Irvin, lately of Seattle, might not be worth the $9.5 million per year John Clayton of ESPN suggests he’ll command, but he does have this going for him: He’s 28. At his peak, Irvin hasn’t been the player either Williams or Johnson was. Irvin has 22 career sacks. (He’s also a linebacker; the other two are hand-in-the-dirt D-ends.)

And yet: Irvin’s NFL career began in 2012. Williams has been a pro since 2006, Johnson since 2007. I don’t know that Irvin would be a difference-maker, either, especially at that price. I do think he’d be a sounder investment than Williams or Johnson.

Further Falcons reading:

Cutting Roddy White was the right move.

Shoves at the combine: The Falcons are at it again.

Yikes. The Falcons’ 2016 schedule is the NFL’s toughest.

The Falcons cut Durant after one year, and I say, “Hmmm.”

A defensive coach to offense? The Falcons again stump the band.

Value bet to win the next Super Bowl? ESPN’s Tuley says the Falcons.

The Falcons retain Dimitroff, so I guess it’s still all Smitty’s fault.

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
DBDavid
DBDavid

I agree with much of what was written in regards to free agents usually being busts for the $. Most teams don't let players go if they think they are still valuable. That said the Falcons had 19 sacks. Beasley the new kid lead with 4. Even in a new system Williams had 5! Lot of times these free agents we bring in don't work because they were never "the guy" on that team or in their careers. Mario has always performed and so has Johnson. If the price is right sign one and get another pass rusher in draft. Though I like Irvin be careful as he fits that tag of being part of great group and never "the guy".

Jeffery Tadyak Lowe
Jeffery Tadyak Lowe

Roddy White was the Falcons , I'm very hurt about this !#&$ .They could have let him played

in the new Dome before cutting him, the Falcons

are loosing class, that was underhanded, low

down and dirty.

Jeffery Tadyak Lowe
Jeffery Tadyak Lowe

I say we sign free agent LB and get pass-rusher

in the draft along with a good receiver.

Lester Norton
Lester Norton

We are all gun shy of TD free agents but I think Charles is what we need to get pressure on the QBs this year.  So I say sign him now!

kumon
kumon

Falcons, don't do it. Free agents have been a curse.

madburro
madburro

that sounds good! pay millions for some washed up retread from a big name team!!! yes!!! that will take :ATL to the top! thomas is a genius!! rise up!!!!

Roger0922
Roger0922

To MikeS777:  Richard Smith's defenses have always finished in the bottom half of the league in sacks.  It's his MO.  Look it up.


As for letting Roddy White go.  It may have needed to be done and may have been the right move, but this organization(namely Quinn and Dimitroff) went about it in a gutless and classless way. They were asked about this since January and said a decision hasn't been made. We all knew it was coming but didn't know what they were waiting on. Obviously, they were waiting on Roddy to leave the country so they could tell him in a text message. This organization used to have integrity.  It does no longer. That shows you what kind of person Quinn is. And then he lies and says they waited until now to release him so he would have plenty of time to find another team. If that was the case you could have released him Monday.  I no longer trust this organization and I've been a Falcons fan my entire life. The Falcons first season I was 2 years old. I'm now 51 and I will not be a Falcons fan any longer until this organization fires Dimitroff, Shanahan, and Quinn. I will be pulling for whoever their opponent is.  Wake up Falcons fans.  This is only going to get worse. They are getting rid of all these players  and they only have 5 draft picks to fill all the holes. That means they will have to overpay in FA yet again and continue to make the same mistakes of the past. I"m looking forward to JAN 2017 when I get to say goodbye to the aforementioned trio. I'll be the one holding the good riddance side outside of flowery branch when it happens.  GO FALCONS OPPONENTS!!!!!

MikeS777
MikeS777

Statistically, the Falcons' defense ranked 14th in total defense.  That's a lot better than you'd expect.   They weren't bad in any category other than Sacks where they were ranked dead last.

The D line showed a lot of improvement as did their top pick Beasley as the season progressed.   Adding Johnson could push this into a top 10 unit and he could be a mentor to young players like Beasley.

Then use the draft to continue to improve both lines. 

DBDavid
DBDavid

Agree. Think Mario if price is right may be better choice, healthier

RangeRover
RangeRover

This team isn't one or two players away from contending for a Super Bowl; more like 8-10.  We still need a back that can get a 4th and one, we need a center, an OG, 3 NFL caliber Linebackers, 2 NFL Caliber DE's and at least one Safety...that's 9 right there!.

NO! Not now!  When this team is legitimately no more than one or two players away (like the Broncos, The Saints, the Cardinals, and the Packers) then that's the time to sign a key free agent or two...just lock Dimitroff in a closet when the selection is made!

MikeS777
MikeS777

@RangeRover They are one or two players away from the playoffs though and/or a winning record.   You have to start with that before worrying about the Super Bowl.   The Broncos and Packers have been playoff teams for years.   The Cardinals have won 10+ games for 3 seasons now.   The Saints aren't any closer than the Falcons.

The Falcons were there in 2012, but panicked and blew the team up.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@RangeRover Besides your list of needs among the on-field talent, Falcons could also use a competent GM and OC.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@MikeS777 @RangeRover

Please do tell me of whom the "one or two players away from the playoffs" you refer?  Superman and Batman wouldn't be enough!

And if you're good enough to make the playoffs you should be good enough to win the 2 or 3 games that puts you in the Super Bowl, lest you forget the recent 10-6 Wildcard Packers or 9-7 Wildcard and lowest seed Giants, both of  whom plowed their way to a Super Bowl Championship!

MikeS777
MikeS777

Free agency isn't the problem.   it's the Falcons and their inability to use it right.  If I recall right, they signed Edwards but didn't use him at the same position that he excelled at in Minnesota (left defensive end).  Then they sign Umenyiora to help the pass rush, but release Abraham the same offseason.   On top of that, they gut a very good secondary by releasing Grimes and Robinson.  How is that supposed to help?

Same offseason they cut Turner as if he's washed up, then sign Steven Jackson who's only two years younger.  Jackson spent 2013 mostly injured.

Denver's defense this year got a huge boost off Demarcus Ware in free agency who happens to be 33 years old, so age is irrelevant as well.   The year before New England won the Super Bowl thanks in large part to a much improved defense after signing Browner and Revis in free agency.

Lets not forget New England's history 2007 run was in large part thanks to the free agent signing of Randy Moss and Wes Welker.


DBDavid
DBDavid

Agree. You can't add and subtract at same time. Falcons add a Williams or Johnson and if affordable a vet LB that actually is not injury prone and has something still left ...add a pass rusher in draft and think we are on the right path.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@MikeS777 Age is not irrelevant. There are exceptions to this rule, but the rule itself is perfectly valid and applies to all pro sports. It also helps to have a GM who has a clue about what his goals for the team are.

UGA76
UGA76

The long term successful teams build thru the draft.  The falcon's have an inept person doing the drafting and thus the team is full of holes.  The last 4 drafts have been terrible.  Atlanta won't get better until they get rid of Dimitroff and get a real football man in his place. 

MikeS777
MikeS777

@UGA76 his free agency decisions haven't been any better.  Its been a losing proposition on both fronts.

csamuels45
csamuels45

Atlanta need young fresh hungry players that have the zest for the game. Irvin, offensive lineman, and Safety from KC will do the job. White caused his own ending by not wanting too rework his deal. If he would had worked with Atlanta he would still be a Falcon. DQ is not kissing players butts too be a Falcon. He is about getting a SB in Atlanta. We have too make better choices in the draft and FA. Paul W is done as a Falcon as well. We had too many weak links in Atlanta and know they will be leaving. I thank RW for his play but goodbye

FrankieB
FrankieB

Soliai did his job.  He was never going to put up numbers, just eat double teams.

Terry Y
Terry Y

man, Yall, I sure hate #84 is not a Falcon!

Terry Y
Terry Y

I agree, I can remember the Braves being a retirement home for free agents....Don't become that Falcons.


Diony6us
Diony6us

@MarkBradleyAJC I disagree on this one for Johnson. That could be a good pick up at the right price. More rushers is better.