Posted: 2:26 pm Friday, March 7th, 2014
By D. Orlando Ledbetter
It’s “Friday Free Agency Check-in” day.
Teams can start talking with agents about potential unrestricted free agents at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
With free agency set to start on Monday, teams can keep negotiating with their own players in order to keep them from reaching the open market.
In addition to defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and guard/center Joe Hawley, the Falcons are in “active talks” to retain the services of offensive lineman Michael Johnson, according to his agent Pat Dye Jr.
However, the team appears set to part ways with defensive tackle Peria Jerry, a former first-round pick. Jerry’s career arc was stunted by a gruesome knee injury in his second NFL game.
“There’s nothing going on,” said agent Bus Cook said on Friday.
Johnson, after a productive 2012 season as the jumbo tight end, was set to take over at right tackle last season before he suffered a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibula during an exhibition season practice with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The injury required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve.
Johnson was injured on the first play of the 9-on-7 inside run drills. He left the team’s facilities in an ambulance.
Johnson played in all 16 games in 2012 and made one start. The Falcons were hoping that Johnson would be an athletic upgrade over the gritty Tyson Clabo, who was released last offseason.
Johnson was highly touted coming out of the SEC and Alabama. Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters said that Johnson was the toughest player he faced while playing for Kentucky.
Johnson, a four-year starter at Alabama, was a third-round pick (98th overall) in the 2010 NFL draft.
Jerry was selected with the 24th pick in 2009, two picks before the Green Bay Packers selected Clay Matthews III. While Jerry battled injuries, Matthews turned into a four-time Pro Bowler and was the Sporting News’ defensive player of the year in 2010.
After coming back from the knee injury, Jerry played sparingly in 2010.
The Falcons’ position of not announcing details of injuries helped fuel the perception that Jerry’s has been a bust. In the second game of his career he suffered what was described as a “severe” injury. But the details were never forthcoming.
In 2010, he played about 30 percent of the snaps, but was inconsistent. The following season he started four of the 16 games that he played in. In 2012, he started nine of 14 games as he played some defensive end when the Falcons were in a 3-4.
Last season, he played 678 snaps, had 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Jerry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wanted to return.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Jerry said. “You (don’t) have any control over that. Really, we are just playing it by ear to see what happens. There is nothing that you can do about it. That’s the people upstairs’ decision.
“I started here and would love to stay here.”
The Falcons, who have elected not to use the franchise or transition tag this offseason, have signed Peters to a one-year, $1.5 million contract extension.
The Falcons’ list of potential unrestricted free agents include Babineaux, Hawley, Jerry, Johnson, Sean Locklear and Jeremy Trueblood, tight end Chase Coffman, cornerback Dominique Franks and linebacker Omar Gaither.