Falcons smart to let Abraham test market

The Atlanta Falcons appear to be on the verge of letting their top pass-rusher walk into free agency. That might be their wisest move.

Defensive end John Abraham reportedly wants a deal that will pay him more than $12 million a year. His agent said he plans to meet with the Falcons at the scouting combine this weekend for a final attempt at getting a deal done, but said the two sides remain far apart.

I wouldn’t expect any resolution unless Abraham suddenly drops his price tag. Abraham is a very good player, but his price tag is in the range of Julius Peppers ($14 million per year), Charles Johnson ($12.7 million) and Jared Allen ($12.2 million).

If Abraham was 27, I’d say go ahead and pay him, but Abraham is about to turn 34. Twelve million is too high a figure for a player at this stage of his career. Abraham was used as a situational player last season and led the team with 9.5 sacks, but it should be noted that 3.5 of those sacks were against a hapless Jacksonville team.

Abraham has been dealing with injuries the past few years and it’s not likely his body suddenly will turn young again. I think the smart thing for the Falcons is to let Abraham go ahead and test the market. That strategy could lead him back to Atlanta.

I’m thinking other teams also will have concerns about paying so much for a player near the end of his career. The Falcons should make it clear to Abraham’s agent how high they will go and I’m thinking the number may be somewhere around the $8 million Abraham made last year. Leave that offer on the table and let Abraham go out and see what he can get. He might not get any higher offers and he could return at a more reasonable rate.

If Abraham does get a better offer, let him go. The Falcons aren’t loaded with pass-rushers. Ray Edwards was their big signing last season. He played the run well, but didn’t generate a lot of pressure. Lawrence Sidbury is still around and the Falcons likely will re-sign Kroy Biermann if Abraham leaves. But the Falcons likely would have to go out and get a defensive end in free agency or the draft.

There are no guarantees out there, but the Falcons could come out ahead in the long term. At his age, Abraham doesn’t come with any guarantees, either.