Three weeks into free agency, the salary cap-strapped Redskins have focused mostly on retaining their own players. But that doesn’t mean their 2013 opponents haven’t been busy adding free agents to fill holes and reshape rosters. Recently, we examined Washington’s NFC EAST foes, the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys. In the coming weeks, we’re going to check in with the rest of the teams who appear on the Redskins’ schedule next season.
2012 record: 13-3
Key acquisitions: RB Steven Jackson, DE Osi Umenyiora
2013 outlook: GM Thomas Dimitroff has handed out nearly $100 million in contracts this offseason – almost exclusively to his own players.
Left tackle Sam Baker, safety William Moore, right guard Garrett Reynolds and running back Antone Smith, among other core players, are all coming back to help the Falcons defend their NFC South championship and make an expected push for the Super Bowl. And recently, there’s been buzz about the team and quarterback Matt Ryan nearing an agreement on a long-term contract extension that will average close to $20 million per season.
Remember all the talk about future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez retiring? Well, the 37-year-old tight end (93 receptions last season) was convinced to re-sign in Atlanta, too. That means Ryan gets back all three of his top targets – Gonzalez, Julio Jones and Roddy White – next season.
Dimitroff did, however, have to go outside of the organization to address a couple of needs. Former Rams running back Steven Jackson was signed to replace Michael Turner, who was released. Jackson, 29, has rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of the past eight seasons. The Falcons ranked 29th in rushing last season.
Another weakness was the pass rush; Atlanta totaled only 29 sacks in 2012. Former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, 31, was signed to help in the department and replace John Abraham, who turns 35 next month. The Falcons, of course, are hoping they got the Umenyiora who racked up 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 2010, not the player who notched six and two, respectively, last season.
The general consensus around the NFL is that the Falcons are among the winners in free agency thus far. They kept their quality starters, upgraded at running back and don’t have appear to have any glaring deficiencies.
If playing at the Broncos is going to be the Redskins’ toughest challenge in 2013, facing the Falcons at the Georgia Dome figures to be a close second.