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Free-agent scouting report: Falcons DE John Abraham

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Dan Parr
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By Dan Parr

This is the 11th in a series of scouting reports on key players who will become free agents March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchised by March 5.

News: Before the start of the 2011 season — his 12th in the NFL — Abraham told his agent not to discuss a contract extension with the Falcons until the season was over. The Falcons didn't seem to have any problem with that, and now it appears that Abraham, who will turn 34 in May, will get a chance to hit the open market. This probably will be his last chance to cash in and he's hoping some strong bidders emerge once he becomes available. If a bidding war doesn't come to fruition and Abraham is available at a price that makes sense for the Falcons — which is possible given Abraham's age — they likely would entertain re-signing their best pass rusher, but if he's going to come anywhere close to breaking the bank, it's probably not going to be with Atlanta. The Falcons, and other teams, could be interested in using him exclusively in pass-rushing situations.

Notes: Abraham, a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, has spent the past six seasons with the Falcons after being traded from the Jets, who selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2000 draft. He ranks 16th in NFL history with 112 career sacks, and has led Atlanta in sacks in four of the past six seasons, including '08, when he recorded a career-high 16½. The team has monitored his playing time closely since head coach Mike Smith was hired in 2008 in an effort to keep Abraham fresh late into games. The Falcons had him on a snap count last season as he dealt with a groin injury. He made 9½ sacks last season — 3½ of them coming against the Jaguars and indecisive rookie QB Blaine Gabbert in a blowout win in Week 15.

Positives: He's not quite as quick as he once was, but he still fires off the ball and has speed to explode off the edge. Possesses a good first step. Shows creativity as a pass rusher and good balance. Is very effective spinning off blockers to make plays. Relentlessly pursues the quarterback. Has quick, strong hands. Can rush well from the left or right side and is comfortable dropping into coverage. He long has been one of the league's most productive pass rushers.

Negatives: He lacks ideal size and bulk strength and is less imposing vs. the run. He's still effective, but age and wear and tear could catch up to him quickly. Production has varied from season-to-season. He's not an every-down player. His use of a spin move to the inside leaves him susceptible to losing contain.

Risk factor: Abraham has the potential to outperform his contract if he has to settle for a short-term deal. He's not in his prime — and his production last season requires a closer inspection — but, when healthy, he still can be a dominant pass rusher if he's used efficiently. However, a sharper decline is possible in the near future.

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