Dec 9, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora (72) sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. New York Giants defeat the New Orleans Saints 52-27. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Osi Umenyiora and the Permutations of Approach to the NFL Draft

There’s a report that nine-year veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora is talking with the Atlanta Falcons, and I think there’s a very good possibility the two will make a deal.

The Falcons let their own veteran sack artist, DE John Abraham, pursue free agency. This leaves a gaping vacuum in the pass-rusher department on their roster.

Umenyiora has played his entire career with the New York Giants, and with his two rings would be a great example and reminder of their ultimate goal. He and New York Head Coach Tom Coughlin have had a falling out in recent years and a fresh start on a contending team would be his own ideal place to land, I’m sure.

Assuming Osi does sign with the Falcons, it probably won’t change their draft strategy all that much. Having one good pass rusher on a team is having one too few, and Atlanta will probably look early in their own draft for one.

Ezekiel Ansah was talked about with the Falcons a mere 6 weeks ago, and my my how his stock has risen. He’s top-ten material now, possibly top-five. With Tony Gonzalez Favre-ing it up, they don’t have a pressing need for getting his immediate successor in the first round. They may decide to let Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz, the two top-tier TEs in the draft, slide by their spot near the bottom of the first round and either wait around or possibly even trade up in the second round to pick up whichever one might make it.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Eddie Lacy (42) runs with the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half of the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

They’ve dumped declining RB Michael Turner to be replaced with a man only 18 months or so younger, and with a lot more carries off the tread in longtime St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson so there doesn’t appear to be a huge need there, either, unless perhaps they take a shine to an Eddie Lacy, which is a distinct possibility.

Even if the case winds up as none of the above, the point is that the Falcons would have a lot of room for the “Mystery and Maneuver” they need heading into next month’s draft. Remember, this is the franchise that traded up into the top ten for Julio Jones a few years ago.

If they want to trade up to 14th overall to catch a guy that they like a lot, I’m sure Carolina Panthers’ GM David Gettleman is willing to entertain the possibilities. I think he would go for swapping firsts with Atlanta if the Falcons threw in a second and a 4th or 5th, or a 2nd or 3rd next year…something along those lines, at any rate.

It’s common wisdom that in a draft deep in players at most of your positions of need, more is better even if you have to drop a dozen spots at the top in the draft order to do so. Assuming the there is no obvious “surprise value” guy there that the Panthers could really use, trading down means losing very little in reality while gaining a 3rd body in the top two rounds.

That translates into three probable starters in terms of talent, and could allow them to get that DT, OG, and OT that could really re-inject some youth, talent and toughness into a pair of lines that remain a work-in-progress.

Or, perhaps, a pair of young DTs to work into the eventual starting lineup, plus either that tackle or a guard for the offense would be the route to go as Rivera enhances his defense up the middle – a soft spot in recent years.

December 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) is tackled by Syracuse Orange cornerback Wayne Morgan (2) during the third quarter of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The problem?

Last year, the Panthers wanted to trade down from #9 but found no suitors. The end result was fine with me as they took the kid I prayed they would in Defensive Rookie of the Year, Luke Kuechly. If they couldn’t trade back last year, how could they trade out of #14?

Remember, all it takes is for one team to fall in love with a guy and they’ll go up after him. As I mentioned, the Falcons did that in the trade with Cleveland to get the rights to draft and chose Julio Jones. He and Roddy White are as good a pair of outside wideouts as you’ll find in the entire NFL, and with Tony Gonzalez back, what if the Falcons wanted to get a slot receiver to complete the multi-fanged assault?

That slot WR possibility could be West Virginia’s Tavon Austin. He’s a small guy at 175 pounds but has been durable throughout his entire career in football overall, and with sub 4.3-40 speed he’s a slightly smaller version of Percy Harvin…and if comes both without the attitude and the migrane headaches, he would be a legitimate value to some team at #14, should he be there, but by the same token he’s probably not a guy who is going to crack the top-ten.

Since he’s also the draft’s most explosive offensive player, that might put the Panthers in a prime spot to draft down from and get them what would amount to an upgrade from that lost third-round pick.

When you have as many holes to fill as the Carolina Panthers do, I sure hope the Falcons sign Osi.

Maybe the Panthers can get a starting tackle to block him with.

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