Just days after the Falcons' playoff loss to the Giants, general manager Thomas Dimitroff shared about as much of his plans for the offseason as he ever has.
With the Falcons entering a free agency period that would see their own free agency numbers reach double digits, Dimitroff said a number that he hoped to keep from his team's free agency class. He arrived at the number eight and called the players he hoped to re-sign the core of his football team.
ESPN blogger Pat Yasinskas recently shared some numbers that show the Falcons have the second-highest retention numbers in the NFL.
Since 2008, Atlanta trails only the Minnesota Vikings, who have retained 82.1 percent of their 28 draft picks. The Falcons have made 32 selections during that time and have 28 still on the roster, 81.3 percent.
Going back before the 2008 draft class, the Falcons have demonstrated their desire to keep their players on their roster. During that same time, they re-signed or extended the contracts of players like Jonathan Babineaux and Roddy White. This season, the Falcons re-signed Todd McClure, John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, Thomas DeCoud and Harry Douglas, among others.
Atlanta's 26 players from those four drafts rank as the third most retained in the league, behind only the Titans (28) and the Eagles (27). Twenty-eight of the Falcons' 32 picks have remained in the league, moving on to the other teams.
Biermann, DeCoud and Douglas represent core players from Dimitroff's first draft as the team's general manager. The Falcons under Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have always said they intended to build through the draft and supplement their roster with free agency. These retention statistics support that theory.
It's also a positive for Atlanta moving forward. The Falcons' willingness to re-sign their own is a sign to the existing draft picks on the roster that if they're contributing members of the team, they will also have a great shot at returning to the franchise.
Team legacies like that are what make great franchises and championship contenders. The continuity from year to year of players that have grown up in a team's system is incredibly valuable.
The Falcons have managed to draft suitable players for the franchise and then have continued to develop them over time. During that same four-year time frame when the Falcons were drafting wisely and keeping their own players, they've experienced the most successful run in franchise history with four-straight winning seasons.
Atlanta's 28 drafted players still in the league is the eighth-highest in the NFL. It shows that Atlanta is bringing talented players into the league and keeping most of them on their own squad. On the contrary, San Francisco has drafted 31 players since 2008 and have retained 20 of them, but 30 of the picks remain in the league. They were able to pick NFL talent, but weren't successful at keeping many of them.
Although some of Atlanta's starters date beyond 2008, 14 of Atlanta's 22 starters through 2011 were drafted by the franchise. In all 27 Falcons rookies have been active on game day since 2008. The Falcons have selected six players in the second round or later under Dimitroff that have gone on to become starters at some point during their career.
The league's worst retention rate is Denver's 48.6 percent. New Orleans' rate is 68.2 percent, 11th in the league. Tampa finished tied for seventh with 70 percent and Carolina is 21st with 61.8 percent. The Falcons and the Vikings were the only two teams in the league that had a retention percentage above 80 percent.