Football is a game of yards, but the Atlanta Falcons are making it all about miles this offseason.
That’s essentially what the Falcons did with Umenyiora. He will take the place of John Abraham, who was released just before the start of free agency. At the same time the Falcons released Abraham, they also let go of Michael Turner. They quickly replaced Turner with Steven Jackson, a running back who is a little younger and, presumably, has more left in the tank.
That’s the same concept the Falcons followed in bringing in Umenyiora. The former New York Giant is 31. Abraham will turn 35 in May.
Although Abraham still was productive (10 sacks) last season, the Falcons would have been pressing their luck by bringing him back for another season. Pass-rushers are supposed to drop off somewhere around the time they turn 32, and Abraham already was running on borrowed time.
Umenyiora had only six sacks for the Giants last season, but I don’t view that as a sign of him slowing down. In the two seasons prior to that, Umenyiora had a combined 20.5 sacks. He’s had as many as 14.5 sacks in a season (2005) and knows what it takes to win Super Bowls.
Umenyiora still has physical skills and should be energized by coming to the Falcons. He’s joining a team that appears to be on the cusp of a Super Bowl, and he has kept an offseason home in Atlanta.
But the Falcons are hoping the energy flows both ways. If Umenyiora can play like a slightly younger version of Abraham, the Falcons will have upgraded their pass rush and their chances of winning a Super Bowl.