I spent some time earlier in the week with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. The column, which can be viewed online now at MyAJC.com and is in print in Sunday’s newspaper, mostly focuses on how quickly Dimitroff lost the benefit of the doubt with many in the public after the team went from a perceived Super Bowl contender to finishing 4-12 last year.
Dimitroff has made several changes to his personnel staff and the Mike Smith's coaching staff. He has issued a strong message to everybody in the team's Flowery Branch complex: “OK. We’re 4-12. Adapt and deal with it.”
I hope you have a chance to read the column.
There are a few nuggets that didn’t make the column so I thought I would share them here:
• There has been a lot of media speculation that the Falcons might release defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and/or Kroy Biermann, or seek to re-do their contracts with the idea of lowering their salary cap hit. But Dimitroff told me neither is going to happen.
Dimitroff on Umenyiora: “We never asked Osi to take a pay cut. As team builders you’re always analyzing the roster and shift into creative mode to find ways to restructure (contracts) and potentially reduce certain salaries. That goes for virtually everyone on the roster. But Osi will be back with us, and we’re happy to have Osi back.”
Dimitroff on Biermann: “Kroy is healing well (from a torn Achilles) and we expect him to be a productive part of our defense.”
• Though I speak to Dimitroff frequently, I hadn’t actually been in his office for a while. He had two very cool additions since the last time I was there: 1) An 80-inch television that hangs on the wall facing his desk. He said he, Scott Pioli and others often will watch tape on a player on that screen; 2) a 60-inch touch screen draft board, on which Dimitroff can access scouting reports and contract information on every player on every team, as well as depth charts for every team.
The long wall in Dimitroff’s office has an old school draft board. Players names, dimensions and bios are on magnets and hang in order of Dimitroff’s ranking. There are separate columns for 11 positions. There is not anything similar to an overall top 100 ranking of prospects, Dimitroff said, “But you can tell who’s still available during the draft just by looking at the top of the board.”
And yes, I was taking Dimitroff's word for all of this because the board was covered, knowing I would be in there.
“I could show it to you, but then you would tell everybody you saw it,” he said.
He’s not very trusting. Can’t say I blame him.
• Dimitroff said he is “comfortable” with the team’s salary cap situation. At this point, it doesn’t seem likely the team will seek to restructure any player’s contract.
• I’ve written this before but here we go again: Notwithstanding some doubts about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney’s motivation, Dimitroff and most NFL general managers view him as a special player, one too talented to pass up. Dimitroff reiterated what he indicated during Super Bowl week: he expects Clowney to be off the board after the first two picks of the draft (spots currently held by Houston and St. Louis). So if the Falcons plan to pursue Clowney, they will have to trade up because he is not going to fall to No. 6.
My sense of it is that there’s a chance the Falcons might trade up but it wouldn't have to be for Clowney. There are other players on the board they like as well, including Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack and Auburn tackle Greg Robinson.
If Clowney, Mack and Robinson all are gone, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Falcons trade back in the round, knowing they can still get players they like with their first two picks. But adding a pass rusher and a tackle remain high priorities.
• My conversation with Dimitroff came just prior to the signings of returner/receiver Devin Hester and returner/cornerback Javier Arenas. At the time he said he was still focused mostly on free agency, not the draft (May 8-10). “We’ll keep our eyes on potential free agent availability over the next few weeks before the draft. But there will be a point where our focus will be solely on the draft. Our goal at that point will be to acquire our final needs in the draft. That doesn’t mean post-draft we won’t look at possibilities. After the draft, we’ll see if there are any potential veterans that fit in.”