Abraham visits Atlanta; Falcons, Jets still talking

Updated: March 16, 2006, 9:27 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Still trying to come up with the right formula for luring John Abraham from the New York Jets in a trade, Atlanta Falcons officials met here Thursday with the star defensive end, who was expected to undergo a physical examination on Friday morning.

Defensive End
New York Jets

Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
58 44 14 6 11 0

It is believed that the Falcons are attempting to ascertain Abraham's financial expectations, which are said to include between $15 million and $18 million in guarantees, on a long-term contract. But as Atlanta officials already know from a number of in-depth discussions with their New York counterparts that addressing the six-year veteran's salary demands represents only half of the equation.

The Falcons must also agree on a trade package which satisfies the Jets, and Atlanta's steadfast reluctance to part with backup quarterback Matt Schaub has made that a difficult proposition.

Despite playing in just 11 games, and starting only two contests, both losses, Schaub is highly regarded by the Falcons and apparently coveted by several league teams. A third-round choice in 2004, Schaub offers the Falcons insurance against an injury to Michael Vick, whose reckless style makes him susceptible to injuries. Vick has never started all 16 games in a season.

The Falcons are not comfortable, at least at this point, that they can locate another backup quarterback with commensurate abilities. And so, while Atlanta officials dined with Abraham on Thursday night, the trade negotiations may never move past the appetizer course unless the Falcons and Jets can compromise on a compensation package amenable to both sides.

New York is seeking Schaub and the Falcons' second-round choice for Abraham, and Atlanta considers that price too steep. Nor does it seems likely that the Falcons will sacrifice their first-round choice in the 2006 draft, the 15th pick overall, to land Abraham, a proven pass rusher who would improve the Atlanta defense.

One of the NFL's premier outside rushers, Abraham was designated by the Jets as a franchise player for the second consecutive spring. That mean the Jets essentially made him a one-year qualifying offer of $8.33 million. New York used the franchise tag a year ago, as well, to retain Abraham, and he missed the offseason programs and training camp before signing the one-year deal, worth $6.66 million just days before the start of the season.

Abraham has been saying for two years that he prefers a long-term contract but has not been able to strike a satisfactory deal with the Jets. Any team that trades for Abraham will have to first reach agreement with him on a long-term contract.

The six-year veteran visited with Washington officials over the weekend, but the Redskins then signed unrestricted free agent end Andre Carter of San Francisco, which might end their interest in making a deal. Abraham visited with Seattle Seahawks officials on Wednesday, and the NFC champions could make a play for him. There are unsubstantiated rumors that Abraham would prefer to play in Atlanta, because of its proximity to his native South Carolina.

In 16 games in 2005, Abraham registered 67 tackles, 10½ sacks, six forced fumbles, one recovery and two passes defensed. For his career, the former South Carolina star has 328 tackles, 53½ sacks, 18 forced fumbles, five recoveries and eight pass deflections in 73 games.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.