Five players the Falcons must keep around
LB Curtis Lofton - Whereas Ryan is indespensible on the offensive side, Lofton has pretty much made himself irreplaceable on the defensive side of the ball. He led the team in tackles this year with 133 and his heady play and athleticism make him a key defender in both the nickel package as well as the standard 4-3 set. The second-year pro needs to work on shedding blockers and not overrunning plays at times, but in the end, he's a player who should have made the Pro Bowl and someone that will keep Falcons fans happy in the years to come.
T Sam Baker - While he mans the all-important left tackle position, Baker would probably be a better fit at right tackle should the Falcons be able to find an ideal candidate to replace him. Baker gets by on technique and smarts more than he does sheer athleticism and strength and he needs to improve as a run-blocker. However, when he's healthy he can be an good left tackle and someone who you can rely on to keep Ryan upright.
CB Christopher Owens - There is no question the Falcons are in desperate need of help at the corner position, but Owens is a nice alternative to drafting six of them in next April's NFL Draft. Owens, only a rookie, was solid and finished the season with two interceptions in the final two weeks helping the Falcons get over .500. Owens is probably better in a cover-two scheme where he can read the quarterback and use his outstanding quickness to break on passes in front of him, but he has adequate speed and quickness so he can play bump-and-run if necessary. He'll likely be one of the two starters next year when they open the season, but he might be a better fit inside over the slot in nickel situations.
RB Jason Snelling - Why Snelling and not Michael Turner you ask? Turner is a key component to the success of the offense, but when he went down, Snelling took the reigns and was outstanding down the stretch. You always need two capable running backs for the time when your starter goes down and with Snelling in the fold, the Falcons have just that. He's a hard-charging, inside runner who pounds opponents with his 230-pound frame. He has also improved in pass-protection so he isn't a liablity like some backups are. Keeping Snelling around allows the Falcons some security should Turner ever be lost to injury again.
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