Maybe Alex Mack will make a difference. Maybe he’ll make such a difference that my first thought on hearing the name “Alex Mack” will be “difference-making center,” as opposed to the Nickelodeon show, “The Secret World of Alex Mack.” (Its heroine was a teenage girl with super powers. It starred Larisa Oleynik. I know this because I have daughters.)
But let me ask, not for the first time: How many NFL free agents make a real difference? And let me supply the answer: For the Atlanta Falcons, not many. Michael Turner made a real difference. Devin Hester made the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2014, his first season after signing with the Falcons, but hasn’t played since. Now name another.
True to tell, free agents don’t stay very long. (At least not around here.) They tend to be hole-fillers, not long-term solutions. Maybe you’re getting giddy over what the Falcons did yesterday. Here are names that suggest you probably shouldn’t be getting giddy.
Erik Coleman, safety: Signed with the Falcons on March 1, 2008; released Feb. 9, 2011.
Mike Peterson, linebacker: Signed with the Falcons on March 9, 2009; released March 1, 2013.
Dunta Robinson, cornerback: Signed with the Falcons on March 5, 2010; released March 1, 2013.
Ray Edwards, defensive end: Signed with the Falcons on July 29, 2011 (that was the lockout offseason, so everything was delayed); released Nov. 12, 2012.
Lofa Tatupu, linebacker: Signed with the Falcons on March 10, 2012; released July 24, 2012, after suffering a torn pectoral.
Steven Jackson, running back: Signed with the Falcons on March 14, 2013; released Feb. 26, 2015.
Osi Umenyiora, defensive end: Signed with the Falcons on March 27, 2013; became a free agent in March 2015; retired in August 2015.
Paul Soliai, defensive tackle: Signed with the Falcons on March 11, 2014; released March 9, 2016.
Jon Asamoah, guard: Signed with the Falcons on March 11, 2014; released Dec. 21, 2015.
Justin Durant, linebacker: Signed with the Falcons on March 10, 2015; released Feb. 8, 2016.
Those mentioned above were among the bigger March signings under Thomas Dimitroff. A couple of others — defensive end Tyson Jackson, linebackers Brooks Reed and O’Brien Schofield– remain on the roster, though not so you’d much notice. (Tony Gonzalez and Asante Samuel arrived in trades, not as free agents.) The longest any of 10 here-and-gone FAs lasted as Falcons was Peterson, who had to be re-signed for his fourth season.
Confession: I got excited about the arrival of some of these FAs, Robinson and Edwards in particular. (I wrote after the Robinson signing that the Falcons would be in the Super Bowl within three years. They did get close.) But for all the hype about free agency, only Turner and Hester made the Pro Bowl as Falcons. Maybe Mack will do here as he did in Cleveland, and that would be dandy. But I’ve been burned too many times to get really pumped.
Further Falcons reading: