FLOWERY BRANCH — Our first full week of no real football as we count down to the scouting combine.
The Atlanta Falcons are evaluating the free agency market and the draft class to see how the talent stacks up. They are making decisions on which players to keep and which to allow to hit the open market.
Here are five things to know about the Falcons, the defending NFC Champions, on Monday:
1. SALARY CAP UPDATE: The Falcons have $139.6 million committed to their top 51 salaries for 2017 and are estimated to be $29.2 million under the cap. They are set to carry only about $2.9 million of dead money into next season.
2. SPOON WANTS TO RETURN: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon wants to return. “I want to be here,” Weatherspoon said. “Let that be known.” Weatherspoon was playing well until he suffered a season-ending ruptured right Achilles against Carolina on Oct. 2. “I just want to continue to focus on finishing my rehab,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m going to keep working. I think the young guys are really ascending and you sprinkle in some veteran guys who can continue to help and play, too. My focus is getting back to that point where I can go out there and be me. ”
3. WORRILOW SPILT: Linebacker Paul Worrilow led the team in tackles over a three-year span, but lost his job to rookie Deion Jones last season. He played mostly on special teams, but will look to land a full-time job on the open market. “I don’t know what is ahead for myself,” Worrilow said. “But I know that being an Atlanta Falcon is the best thing for me. But I’m not going to make up a bunch of scenarios. I’m just going to let it play out.” He could start on several other teams. “I know I can go and play good ball,” Worrilow said. “Whether that’s here or somewhere else. I liked my role this year. I loved being in that linebacker room with them. I’m not worried. Everywhere I go, I make it work. I’m just going to let it play out.”
4. FALCONS FREE AGENT TRACKER: Unrestricted free agents — The Falcons potential list of free agents include: defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, quarterback Matt Schaub, linebacker Paul Worrilow, right guard Chris Chester, tight end Jacob Tamme, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw, returner Eric Weems, defensive end Dwight Freeney, linebacker Philip Wheeler, safety Dashon Goldson, tackle Tom Compton, fullback Patrick DiMarco, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, tight end Levine Toilolo and safety Kemal Ishmael. Exclusive rights free agents – Free safety Ricardo Allen, cornerback Deji Olatoye, linebacker Josh Keyes, tight end D.J. Tialavea and wide receiver Nick Williams. Restricted free agents – Linebacker Tyler Starr, Ben Garland, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel ($510,000) and defensive back Akeem King.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE: UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT (UFA): A player whose contract has expired and has four or more tenured years in the league. He may sign with any other team with no restrictions. If a team loses more UFAs than it signs, they will be awarded “Compensatory Draft Picks” from the league. The value of the pick is determined by the difference of the contracts signed by the players lost and those acquired. If a team has signed an equal number or more UFAs than it has lost, no “Compensatory Picks” will be awarded.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENT (ERFA): A player whose contract has expired and has three or fewer tenured years in the league. His original team must make a contract offer by the league imposed deadline or the player becomes an unrestricted free agent. No compensation is awarded for losing EFAs.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENT (RFA): A player whose contract has expired and has fewer than four tenured years in the league. He may sign an “Offer Sheet” with any other team, but his original team has seven days to match any offer he receives. If the original team does not match the offer, compensation will be awarded in the form of draft picks from the signing team. The round and quantity of picks are determined by the “Qualifying Offer” made by the player’s original team. If a RFA is tendered a minimum qualifying offer the compensation is the equivalent of the round in which that player was originally selected. If that player was originally a rookie free agent, no compensation is awarded.
5. UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS TO START: We’re starting a daily look back at each unit and how they performed last season at 10 a.m. today. The series will run throughout the rest of this week. We’ll start with the quarterbacks.
RECENT ATLANTA FALCONS NEWS
SUPER BOWL LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28 — OVERTIME
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: FALCONS 44, PACKERS 21
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: FALCONS 36, SEAHAWKS 20