Despite occasional inconsistencies, 2011 was a kind year to the Atlanta Falcons' offense. They ended the regular season as a top-10 unit, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards per game and seventh in points per game. Atlanta's skill positions saw no critical departures during the 2011 offseason, only additions in the way of dynamic first-round rookie wide receiver Julio Jones and fifth-round running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Both rookies were effective and important additions to Atlanta's growing offensive toolbox.
Atlanta's running game took a hit during the season with lead blocking fullback Ovie Mughelli's season was lost due to injury. The Falcons signed Mike Cox and began to work him into the scheme. The rushing attack finished 17th in the league with 114.6 yards per game. The Falcons' 14 rushing touchdowns in 2011 was tied for seventh-most in the NFL.
The Falcons running backs, fullbacks and quarterbacks have only two free agents to attend to this offseason.
Mughelli is expected to recover from his season-ending injury and his current contract, signed in 2007, runs through next season. Cox' deal was undisclosed.
Running back Michael Turner's 2008 contract runs through 2013 and Rodgers' rookie deal is signed through 2014. A free agent last season, Jason Snelling, a key player on special teams and in backup roles, returned to the Falcons after testing the free agent market. He will once again be a free agent this year.
Another key member of the special teams unit, Antone Smith, is an exclusive rights free agent this year. The exclusive rights tag is applied to a player who is not under contract, but has only two years of NFL experience. The Falcons are allowed to offer Smith a deal at the three-year veteran minimum and Smith will be required to accept it.
Atlanta's backup quarterback situation is under duress with the status of veteran Chris Redman. He's spent five seasons with the Falcons, four as Matt Ryan's backup. Redman is a free agent this offseason. John Parker Wilson, the team's other backup QB, is playing under an undisclosed contract, but spent portions of the 2011 season on the team's practice squad.
Franchise quarterback Matt Ryan is playing under his rookie deal that will last through 2013. Speculation around the league states thatt Ryan is a prime candidate to receive a contract extension in the coming seasons.