The Falcons decision makers have been making the rounds at the Super Bowl, speaking with the media about the 2011 season, the recent coaching changes and the plan to move forward with 18 free agents on the books, all of whom await decisions from the Falcons.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff joined Atlanta's The Buck and Kincade Show on Friday and shared some insight into what has been happening at the team's Flowery Branch headquarters.
Dimitroff is encouraged by the hiring decisions head coach Mike Smith has made, most notably bringing in Dirk Koetter to run the offense, Mike Nolan to become to the new defensive coordinator and Pat Hill to coach the offensive line. The GM said the decisions were largely Smith's and he's pleased with the moves that have been made, moves that echo the comments about imagination Dimitroff, Smith and team owner and chairman Arthur Blank made at the season-ending press conference in January.
"Fresh ideas, a lot of experience and still very youthful in their approach to the game, which I like," Dimitroff said of what the new members of the staff bring. "I think it's very important to have that mindset of understanding that you need to think outside of the box in today's game."
The job of Hill is especially scrutinized since he takes over an offensive line that many say underachieved in 2011 and may need an upgrade or two.
Dimitroff said Hill and Koetter are currently evaluating the offensive line as a whole and their opinions will help shape the decisions make on the front five. The GM said based on his early opinions and those involved with the decisions, he doesn't feel the line needs dramatic wholesale changes to improve.
"I don't think we need to cash out with this offensive line wholly after a year of uncertainty," he said.
But with the number of current free agents that were on the roster last season, Dimitroff said some tough decisions would await for Atlanta's front office. Those decisions will balance financial obligations and performance on the field in an effort to ensure the Falcons return to 2012 with the best available players on the roster.
"Those are difficult decisions to make at times," he said. "Sometimes they need to be made. They may go to another team and do well for a year or more. But I think you have to look at the long-term of where we are with this organization. We have 18 free agents. I would say there are eight to 10 that we are really honed in on right now."
He did say of the players he's focusing on, some of the decisions would come quickly in the offseason and deals would be announced. Others will be allowed to test the market as they evaluate long-term fits for the Falcons.
While at the recent Senior Bowl to scout impending seniors for the draft, Dimitroff and his team were very active, looking at numerous position groups from tight ends to cornerbacks. It's all part of a process of getting to know as many players as he can to be prepared for anything that may happen in the draft or even further down the line.
"We look at everyone," he said. "... It doesn't matter where we are in the Draft, it doesn't matter where our needs may be. I really want to have a firm grasp. You never know where you're going to see those players later. It could be in free agency, it could be because of a cut early. Who knows, so I make sure I'm looking at everyone."
Without the option of a first-round pick this year, Dimitroff has been preparing to find a player with his pick in the second round. He doesn't feel additional pressure by not having a first-rounder this year since the plan to find a second-round contributor has taken up a lot of his evaluation time this year.
The plan, he said, to potentially supplement the roster with free agency moves, in addition to the draft, has been in motion for a while.
"We've been planning accordingly all offseason with our approach to scouting people out in the college ranks and our approach to looking at free agency," Dimitroff said.