With the exodus of seven defensive players, Jonathan Babineaux, a defensive lineman, expects the Falcons to re-stock the cupboard in the NFL draft, which is set for Thursday through Saturday.
Defensive starters John Abraham (defensive end), Dunta Robinson (cornerback) and Brent Grimes (cornerback) are no longer with the team. Also, the team has parted ways with reserves Vance Walker (defensive tackle), Christopher Owens (cornerback), Mike Peterson (linebacker) and Lawrence Sidbury (defensive end).
The Falcons did sign former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in free agency.
“I’m hoping that we’re leaning towards (defense),” Babineaux said Tuesday. “We’re kind of short on the defensive side right now, but I’m sure that Thomas (Dimitroff) and his staff are preparing for the draft and for after (the draft).”
The Falcons have 11 picks in the draft, but may not keep them all, as Dimitroff has made a trade in each of his five previous drafts with the Falcons. They can not, per league rules, trade their four compensatory picks.
Quarterback Matt Ryan would not state a preference for the offense.
“I certainly know that (Dimitroff) has a vision and purpose for the moves that he makes,” Ryan said. “I’ll just be sitting around Thursday night like everybody else watching us.”
Ryan wouldn’t speculate on whether the Falcons need to pick a tight end to serve as the heir apparent to Tony Gonzalez.
“I had it put to me at a very early age by some older guys, ‘Players play, coaches coach and scouts and the GM pick who’s going to be in the building,’” Ryan said. “So, I stay out of the personnel stuff.”
Contract update: The Falcons have placed working on Ryan’s contract extension on hold until after the draft.
“In these situations, you let the smart people handle that stuff and you stick to what you know,” said Ryan, who’s set to enter the final year of his original six-year deal. “What I know is, going out there and trying to be the best football player that I can be. All the other stuff, I think will take care of itself. I’m not too worried about it. I’ve said it to everybody that I want to be here. It’s home. It’s where I want to be.”
Boston strong: Ryan, who played college football at Boston College, was moved by the tragic bombings.
“There were two students who were at BC, a couple, that were a couple years older than myself, a husband and wife, that lost their legs,” Ryan said. “It’s just inconceivable that these kind of things can happen. Obviously, the last week or so, my thoughts and prayers have been with everybody up there.”
Babineaux on Banks: Babineaux recently was in Los Angeles and met with Falcons undrafted rookie linebacker Brian Banks, who signed April 3.
Banks is the former California prep star who was exonerated on rape charges last May. He spent five years in prison and has not played organized football in more than 10 years.
“He was energized and looking forward to the challenge ahead of him,” Babineaux said. “He’s ready to compete and earn a job on this team.”
Banks was present at the offseason workout Tuesday.
Minicamp set: The Falcons started their offseason conditioning program with a meeting Monday. The team’s organized team activities will be held May 28-30, June 4-6 and June 11-14. The Falcons will hold their mandatory minicamp June 18-20, according to the league.