The Atlanta Falcons have signed free-agent pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora. The move boosts the Falcons pass rush and gives them a credible replacement for John Abraham. Fox Sport's Jay Glazer reported Umenyiora has received a two-year deal.
Improving their pass rush is certainly a priority for the Falcons. They managed only 29 sacks in 2012, with Abraham predictably leading the way with 10.
That feeble rush contributed to a defensive ranking that saw the Falcons finish 24th in yards allowed. The lack of pass rush also put pressure on Atlanta's high-powered offense to consistently win shootouts.
Opposing quarterbacks simply had too much time in the pocket and were able to dissect the Falcons' coverage schemes. The problem was particularly costly in the playoffs.
The Falcons built commanding leads against both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. However, in both cases, they allowed the opposition to mount a comeback.
Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was afforded all the time he needed to manufacture big plays on the ground and through the air.
He finished with 385 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns throws. Those figures helped Seattle rally from 27-7 down and go ahead 28-27.
The Falcons were again saved by their offense and quarterback Matt Ryan, who set up a 49-yard game-winning field goal. Atlanta's defense had enjoyed a lucky escape, but they weren't so fortunate against the 49ers.
In the NFC Championship, Ryan and co. again created a healthy lead, going ahead 24-14 at the half. Yet the 49ers, behind youthful quarterback Colin Kaepernick, secured a 28-24 win.
Part of the problem was that Atlanta's pass rush couldn't get near Kaepernick. As a result he stayed accurate and composed, despite his inexperience.
Kaepernick completed 16 out of 21 passes and was the catalyst for San Francisco's revival.
Umenyiora can help the Falcons create the level of pass rush they will need to make the Super Bowl. In nine seasons with the New York Giants, the two-time Super Bowl winner recorded 75 sacks.
He has posted 10 or more in a season three times. The 31-year-old remains the kind of cat-quick rush end defensive coordinator Mike Nolan needs for his multiple schemes.
Nolan often likes to employ hybrid fronts that combine a 4-3 look with 3-4 principles. The key to his system is a pass-rusher who can threaten the edges from both a two and three-point stance.
At 6'3" and 255 pounds, Umenyiora fits that bill. He has the lengthy frame and agility to attack from a standing position or be effective with his hand down.
The Giants have limited Umenyiora to a situational pass-rush role in recent seasons. However, that could suit the Falcons, who used Abraham in a similar way.
They utilized a snap count to keep their best pass-rusher fresh. It worked well, allowing the ageing Abraham to register 32.5 sacks since 2009.
Now that the 34-year-old is testing the free-agent market, Umenyiora is the perfect replacement. He can boost the pass-rush enough to help Atlanta's defense provide a better complement for their explosive offense.