The Atlanta Falcons biggest needs are in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and they also really need an upgrade in the secondary in order to get back to being legitimate Super Bowl contenders again. Veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora didn’t have a great season last year, but the 32-year-old was still the team’s best pass rusher last year. Kroy Biermann’s injury definitely hurt the Falcons pass rush, but they could also afford to add another DE this offseason even if Osi sticks around for another season.
Umenyiora has never truly been expected to be released by the Falcons this offseason and has stated his desire to stay with the team, but it would also make plenty of sense for the team to cut him. I mean, he’s only getting older, he’s not a consistent pass rusher despite his ability to get solid sack totals (7.5 sacks last year), and he is making $3 million next season.
That said, is $3 million too much to spend for the final season of Osi’s deal, especially when he was the team’s best pass rusher last year? His release would be justifiable, but it might make more sense for the Falcons to keep him around and let him walk when his deal runs out in 2015. Umenyiora isn’t a good player anymore, but he’s better than their alternative options. They also can’t count on drafting Jadeveon Clowney this year, and spending the picks necessary to trade up for him might not be the move they want.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith was recently asked about Umenyiora’s future for the team, and he heaped some effusive praise upon the vet’s shoulders. He then added this statement that could be telling, via the NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal, “I am never gonna say never. .. but I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him.”
I don’t know how important that final note about “continuing to work with him” is, but it looks like foreshadowing to me. Umenyiora isn’t truly safe from the Falcons veteran slash-down, but he’ll likely spend the 2014 season in Atlanta.