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Offseason Focus: D-Line


While the Falcons didn't get the expected jump in sacks from the defensive line in 2011, they received a tremendous boost from the rotation of the front four in the run defense. Atlanta's 33 sacks were only two more than 2010, but their run defense jumped from tenth in the NFL last season to sixth this year, allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game this season.

Atlanta has some important decisions to make this season again on their line after last season's signing of free agent DE Ray Edwards. John Abraham's 9.5 sacks led the team last season, the second straight season he's done so. He will be a free agent this offseason and at 33, the Falcons must decide if they want to offer another contract to a player that has had an outstanding career with Atlanta and previously the New York Jets.

Draft pick from 2008, Kroy Biermann, will also be a free agent. Biermann has played out his rookie contract and is a rotational pass rusher and key contributor on special teams.

After joining the team this year, Edwards became an immediate starter and his run defense paid dividends. His five-year contract runs through 2015.

Rotational rushers Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews are still on their rookie contracts and are locked up with the team for a while. Sidbury is signed through 2012 and Matthews through 2014.

Atlanta's DTs don't anticipate much movement during the offseason. Jonathan Babineaux is firmly entrenched as a starter and his contract expires at the end of the 2013 season.

Two other key members of the line are on contracts that end in 2013 as well. Both Peria Jerry and Corey Peters are currently on their rookie contracts and both will end at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Vance Walker, a seventh-round pick in 2009, had a solid third season as a member of the rotation at defensive line. He had two sacks and his solid play will make him an interesting player in coming seasons. He's scheduled to be a restricted free agent this season. He is eligible to receive an offer from the Falcons, but can also negotiate with other franchises until the restricted free agent deadline, usually around the NFL Draft in April. If Walker accepts an offer from a new team, the Falcons can match it and keep him on their roster. If Atlanta does not match the offer, they may receiver draft compensation depending on the level of their original offer.

Carlton Powell spent the 2011 season on the Falcons practice squad and is scheduled to be a free agent in the offseason.

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