MIAMI -- I just touched base with Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff via telephone. We were hoping to meet face to face, but our schedules didn’t work out because he’s up visiting radio row at the media center in Fort Lauderdale and I’m down in Miami with the Saints.
But we talked about the Falcons' offseason for about 15 minutes. Atlanta has finished reviewing their season and are working on getting ready for free agency now and the draft down the road.
“We were happy that we were 9-7 and had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history," Dimitroff said. “But we’re definitely not happy that we were not in the playoffs. We realize we have to eliminate some inconsistencies on offense and defense. We’ve got lots of work to do there. (Coach Mike Smith) has talked about being significant and relevant and that’s our goal to be in the playoffs so that we are significant and relevant every year.’’
Dimitroff isn’t about to reveal any top-secret plans for free agency, as he and Smith always believed in building primarily through the draft. But they have sprinkled in a few big-name free agents (see Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez) in each of their previous two offseasons.
“We’re always about continuing to get better at all positions so we will consider every way that might make our team better," Dimitroff said. “First and foremost, we’re going to be very fiscally responsible. That doesn’t mean we won’t be active. If we think a player in free agency can really ratchet us to another level, we’ll contemplate it. If we see a player that is a fit like Tony Gonzalez was, then I’ll go to (owner) Arthur Blank and tell him that we want to pursue this guy."
Dimitroff can’t comment on players on other teams before they become free agents and he’s not going to tip his hand about what positions the Falcons may be looking at. But based on last season, there already has been plenty of speculation that Atlanta may try to bolster the pass rush and the secondary.
There already has been speculation that Atlanta could be a possible landing spot for Carolina’s Julius Peppers, if he does indeed become a free agent. Don’t rule that out, but also remember Dimitroff’s words about being “fiscally responsible." Peppers is going to command a huge salary if he hits the open market and he’s not getting any younger.
Dimitroff did say the Falcons will continue to try to build mostly through the draft.
“What I can tell you is that the draft will continued to be need based for us," Dimitroff said. “And I can tell you it won’t be as lopsided as it was last year when we only took one offensive player or the year before when we kind of focused on offense."
Dimitroff also said that injured players Harry Douglas, Brian Williams, Peria Jerry and William Moore are all progressing well in rehabilitation.
“They’re all at various stages in their rehab, but everyone’s on target," Dimitroff said. “There are no concerns as far as any of them being ready for next season."