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Mailbag: Atlanta Falcons edition

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Atlanta Falcons are the final stop in our series of team-by-team mailbags. Got lots of great questions from the Atlanta fans. Obviously, couldn't answer them all, but I tried to pick questions that represented the issues that seemed to be on most of your minds.

Here goes:

Hank in Charleston, S.C., writes: Hey Pat, thanks for keeping up with the blog even in the off season. This setup might be the best thing ESPN.com has done in quite a while. My question regards a topic that the Atlanta Falcons have been dodging (at least from what I can see). What are the options with Mike Vick when he is eventually back in the NFL? I know that some believe he will be suspended for a year, but I do believe that he will play again? I am mainly interested in what positives the Falcons can get out of this, i.e. draft picks, money, players. Any ideas? Thanks Pat.

Pat Yasinskas: Very complicated issue. At the moment, Michael Vick doesn't count against the cap, but that's kind of a cloud hanging over the Falcons because it could change. If Vick is reinstated into the NFL, the Falcons still have about $15 million in prorated bonuses hanging out there. About the only positive in that is the Falcons could try to recoup some bonus money that already was paid. I don't think the Falcons will have any luck trying to trade Vick and they'll just have to release him. There still is the possibility the NFL could suspend him.


James in Carrollton, Ga., writes: Pat, with a hot new GM and a new face of the franchise at QB, there has been talk in Atlanta about a new dome for the Falcons. Have you heard anything else about it?

Pat Yasinskas: No, I honestly haven't and although having a hot, young team might help in that regard, I don't think this is the time to go asking for a new stadium. First, the Georgia Dome was just renovated (quite nicely) before last season. Second, given the economy, I don't think Arthur Blank would be wise to ask for a new stadium, and he's a smart man. But it is something you could see happen in a few years, if the economy straightens out.


Patrick in Atlanta writes: Saw in your last post that you thought CB was a secondary need for ATL. Not sure I agree, as I think it's DT, LB and S, in that order, but assuming you're right, how would Bodden fit into our scheme? Seems the Lions might have cut bait a little early on him, but what do you think? Talent or fools gold?

Pat Yasinskas: I like Leigh Bodden as a player, and I think that's something to look at. However, I wouldn't overpay him and I think there's going to be some serious bidders for him. Also, I don't disagree with your needs of defensive tackle, linebacker and safety, but I think you can throw cornerback into that mix.


Mark in Hegins, Pa., writes: Pat I just saw a rumor that Atlanta was going to franchise Koenen the punter, which I think is a great thing, but is there any chance that another team trades for his services, because he was sensational all throughout the year with hangtime, kickoff duties and of course setting the new record for return yardage (49)?? Thanks Mark

Pat Yasinskas: Yes, that rumor is out there and it very well could happen if the Falcons aren't able to re-sign Michael Koenen. It makes sense because he is an excellent punter, and I don't see any other Falcons that would be logical choices for the franchise tag.


Bill in Atlanta writes: Pat, How effective would a premier pass catching TE be in preventing teams from putting 8-9 in the box to stop Turner?

Pat Yasinskas: I don't think they need to go out and get a tight end like Tony Gonzalez because Mike Mularkey's offense just doesn't use the tight end as a receiver enough to justify that. But I do think it would be smart to get a tight end who at least gives them a little bit of a pass-catching threat. That's really the only toy Matt Ryan doesn't have right now and it certainly would help Michael Turner and the running game. The threat of a tight end as a pass-catcher would tie up a safety and keep him out of the box. It also would open things up more for receivers Roddy White, Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas.


JIM in ROANOKE VA writes: Who if any will the Falcons target as their big off season free agent? Will they break the bank for Albert OR Julius-I don`t see Tom D doing that?

Zach in Atlanta writes: Why should the Falcons sign Julius Peppers or Albert Haynesworth when great team chemistry is what helped them have such a fantastic 2008 season. Everyone has to put the team first. They should keep with what they're doing and build from within. That's how the Braves were so successful during the 90s.

Pat Yasinskas: I'm putting these two questions together because they tie in nicely. I've also had a lot of letters from Atlanta fans suggesting the Falcons should go after Julius Peppers or Albert Haynesworth, but I don't agree with them. First off, I think general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith are committed to building through the draft and filling some holes with midlevel free agents. Bringing in a Haynesworth or a Peppers doesn't really fit the profile and it would be hugely expensive. I can see the Falcons adding a defensive tackle and a defensive end, but I think that will come through the draft or in the form of midlevel free agents.


Jon in parts unknown writes: Falcons Questions. Pat, how do you see the Birds' linebacker situation working out? Loften is set in the middle, but does Brooking return? Strong side seems to be wide open with Boley struggling last year and now a free agent.
Pat Yasinskas: My guess is that Keith Brooking and Michael Boley won't return. I think there's a possibility Brooking retires or gets released and I think the Falcons will let Boley, who lost his starting job last year, walk in free agency. Curtis Lofton is an emerging star in the middle and the Falcons need to surround him with quality on the outside. Coy Wire played well when he moved ahead of Boley last year, and I think the Falcons will keep him. But I think they'll also get a couple of new linebackers in free agency or the draft.


Hiro in Tokyo writes: Hey Pat, love your blog. I was wondering what p
osition the Falcons might target in Free Agency - what I mean is, what positions do you think the Falcons need more depth in. We already know the secondary is a need, but I personally think the retirement of Weiner leaves the O-line thin. Sure we have some nasty and effective olinemen, but perhaps they'll stock up on some during the offseason? Also, how do you see Jerious Norwood and Michael Turner fair next season? I still think they didn't use Jerious to his full potential, and I definitely don't want Turner getting as many carries as he did this year.

Pat Yasinskas: Good point about the retirement of Todd Weiner. He gave that offensive line a lot of versatility and depth. I think the Falcons need to get another quality offensive lineman in free agency or the draft. They've got decent starters, but I'm a little concerned about the injuries Sam Baker had as a rookie. If he has problems again, the Falcons need a solid alternative. As far as Jerious Norwood, I think you'll see him get some more carries next season. The Falcons know they used Turner an awful lot last year, and I suspect they'll try very hard to limit his carries a bit.


Zach in Atl writes: do you think the falcons will pick up a wide receiver this off season?(draft, trade, free agency)It seems like outside of Roddy White they don't have a real premier threat.

Pat Yasinskas: I don't see wide receiver being a huge need. Roddy White's a very solid No. 1 receiver and Michael Jenkins emerged as a dependable No. 2 last year. The Falcons also have some promising young talent in Laurent Robinson and Harry Douglas. In particular, I think Douglas has the potential to someday be a starter.