COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Falcons pulled within three games of the division-leading New Orleans Saints with their Week 7 win -- giving fans a glimmer of hope they could find a way to right the ship and get back in the race -- but after their 27-13 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, the sad reality of a lost season must now start sinking in for Atlanta fans.
With the clock on the NFL trade deadline about to strike zero on Tuesday, Oct. 29, is it time for Atlanta to let the fat lady sing her fabled swan song as they try to jettison any asset not nailed down?
The Falcons could be in line to hoard a treasure chest of future draft picks if they were to move some veteran pieces at the deadline this season.
Steven Jackson, RB
The biggest splash Atlanta made in the free agent pool this offseason happened when they signed veteran running back Steven Jackson. The big bruising back was supposed to be the Falcons' answer to losing Michael Turner, but after a modest 11-carry, 77-yard performance in Week 1, lingering injuries kept Jackson off the field for the next five games.
Jackson finally returned to the field in Week 8 but managed only six yards on 11 carries. Atlanta has him under contract through 2015, but with only $4 million of his deal guaranteed, he could be heading out the door just as quickly as he stepped through it. Trading him now would be tantamount to getting a couple draft picks for free.
Tony Gonzalez, TE
When Atlanta started the season slowly, speculation immediately began that the Falcons would opt to do the right thing and trade Gonzalez to a contender, in an attempt to let him chase a Super Bowl title one last time.
After the Falcons got so close to the Promised Land in 2012, the future Hall of Fame tight end decided to stave off retirement for one more shot at the crown. There is a growing sentiment among Falcons supporters that since Gonzalez came back to help the team win, they owe it to him to put him on a life raft floating free of this sinking ship.
The Kansas City Chiefs started the season off undefeated (7-0) and appear to have a glaring need for a play-making tight end. The fit is almost too seamless to ignore as Gonzalez played his first 12 seasons in KC where he still holds all-time records for receptions and receiving yards.
Roddy White, WR
Here is where the real dilemma begins. If Jackson and Gonzalez can be moved for picks, then that is something the Falcons absolutely need to do, but what about a veteran like White who will still have value to the team beyond this season?
Although an undeniable shift has taken place, making the wide receiving corps Julio Jones' unit, White is coming off of six straight seasons in which he record more than 1,150 yards receiving. Ankle and hamstring injuries have slowed him to the point that it is almost a foregone conclusion he will be unable to extend his streak to seven seasons, but would moving White constitute a serious rebuilding initiative in Atlanta?
White will turn 32 years old this November, so he is starting to advance into the twilight for his NFL career, but, when healthy, he was still at the top of his game.
The other thing to consider is the emergence of Harry Douglas. In the absence of White and Jones, the 29-year-old Douglas stepped into the No. 1 role and recorded 19 catches for 270 yards in his first two games as a starter. Has the play of Douglas made White appear expendable?
With the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon looking to garner a king's ransom worth of draft picks at the trade deadline, a healthy Roddy White would have to elicit a similar package of picks if Atlanta were willing to move him.
Osi Umenyiora, DE
To make up for the loss of John Abraham's 10 sacks in 2012, the Falcons signed Umenyiora to a free-agent deal to the tune of 2-year, $8.5 million. Umenyiora has been one of the lone bright spots on an otherwise banged up Falcons' defense this season. The 11-year veteran has produced a team-leading four sacks and two forced fumbles through the first seven games of the season.
With Umenyiora only under contract for only one additional season, exactly how much will the soon-to-be 32-year-old factor into Atlanta's future plans? Virtually every playoff contender would have interest in a proven pass rusher like Umenyiora.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Falcons since they first started playing games inside the Georgia Dome. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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