Falcons to sign free agent TE L.J. Smith?

According to a report by the National Football Post, the Falcons have set their eyes on free agent L.J. Smith (Eagles), who became the best tight end on the market after the Titans placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Bo Scaife.

The Falcons brought in several run-blocking tight ends last offseason, but need to give quarterback Matt Ryan a better pass-catching target at the position. Smith has been unable to stay healthy the past two years, but he certainly has the size, speed and hands to upgrade the tight end spot and as long as the Falcons don’t overpay, he could be a quality signing.

One notion surrounding Atlanta’s interest in Smith is that Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew, who is arguably the best tight end prospect in the draft and a player many mocks have the Falcons taking at No. 24, hurt his stock when he only ran a 4.8-forty at the scouting combine. But the more realistic idea is that the Falcons want to shore up their need for a pass-catching tight end before the draft, so then in April they can turn their sole attention to the multiple holes they have on defense.


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Offseason Blueprint: Oakland Raiders

Notable Free Agents: Nnamdi Asomugha (re-signed), CB; Shane Lechler (re-signed), P; Chris Johnson (re-signed), CB; Jake Grove, C; Cooper Carlisle, G.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $4,000,000

Draft Order: 7

Top Needs: Not unlike other teams selecting at the top of the draft, the Raiders are mostly in need of offensive line help. Defensive line, wide receiver and linebacker could also be addressed.

Offseason Outlook: The Raiders’ top priority was to ensure that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t hit the open market, and they accomplished that by inking him to a new three-year, $45 million contract. Asomugha’s deal is complex and you can read more details here, but the bottom line is that he’ll once again anchor the Raiders’ secondary in 2009.

Al Davis also re-signed punter Shane Lechler to a four-year, $16 million contract. That might not be big news to some, but considering how much the Raiders punt during the regular season, re-signing Lechler was a wise move.

The biggest challenge Davis now faces is how will he free up enough cap space to address other needs. The Raiders were sitting at $4 million under the cap before the re-signings of Asomugha and Lechler. Are cuts coming? If so, who will be shown the door?

One name that has recently come up in trade speculation is defensive end Derrick Burgess, who the Raiders are rumored to be shopping. Burgess becomes a free agent after the 2009 season so it would make sense that Oakland would trade him now in order to gain compensation. If they were able to trade him, they would free up $3.5 million in cap space, which isn’t a huge amount but it would help.


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