To pay or not to pay Al: that is the question.
With less than a month remaining before the beginning of free agency, the negotiations between Albert Haynesworth and the Tennessee Titans are traveling at a snail’s pace.
If the Titans are unable to reach an agreement with Big Al, there’s one franchise that, for a variety of reasons, could end up as the winner in the lucrative Haynesworth sweepstakes.
What team, you may ask? The Atlanta Falcons.
Here are five reasons why the Falcons could become Albert Haynesworth’s next employer:
Proximity is everything
Regardless of whether it’s in Tennessee or elsewhere, Haynesworth has a strong desire to stay close to his Knoxville residence:
If he exits via free agency, he said that he wants to stay close to his home in Knoxville, meaning that Atlanta and/or Carolina could become potential landing spots.
“Either way I want to stay by my kids and stay by my house in Knoxville,” he said.
Of course, Atlanta is coveniently located a hop, skip and a jump away from the Land of the Orange.
Salary Cap $$$
According to ESPN’s NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas, the Falcons are currently $20.8 million under the salary cap. The Michael Vick situation may cause that number to decrease, but the team could easily recoup those salary cap dollars by jettisoning veterans such as Keith Brooking, Lawyer Milloy and the ageless wonder himself, Grady Jackson.
Help Wanted: Defensive Tackle
Defensive tackle is anything but a position of strength for the Falcons. Last year, Atlanta was a measly #25 against the run, allowing opponents to average 127.5 yards per game on the ground.
The aforementioned Grady Jackson is now 36 years old and may not return in 2009. Jonathan Babineaux is solid but at 285 pounds, a bit undersized. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson, who has been a bust up to this point, may be moving over to DT next year, if he is able to make the team.
Whether it’s via the draft or free agency, the Falcons will probably address DT this offseason.
The Patriots Factor
Named the NFL Executive of the Year in 2008, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff made a slew of excellent moves that led to the Falcons’ emergence as a surprise playoff team last year.
Prior to arriving in the ATL, Dimitroff was a part of the New England braintrust. Over the years, the Patriots have emphasized the importance of having a strong defensive line. Guys like Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren have played huge roles on Bill Belichick’s defenses.
Dimitroff understands the impact a good defensive tackle can make, which could lead to Haynesworth being a potential target if he hits the free agent market.
Big Al+John Abraham= Scary
As a result of Grady Jackson’s pending free agency, the Falcons are in need of a guy to lineup at RDT next to RDE John Abraham.
A right side of the defensive line featuring Abraham and Haynesworth could be a scary combination.
Hopefully, the Titans and Haynesworth can agree on a contract extension before the end of next month. However, if that doesn’t occur, the Atlanta Falcons, for the reasons described above, could be Big Al’s next destination.