Between discussion of the Falcons big free agents John Abraham, Brent Grimes, and Curtis Lofton, we may be overlooking an important piece of the Falcons new offense: Harry Douglas. The problem is we know what type of players Abraham, Grimes, and Lofton are, but Harry Douglas is still shrouded in some Mike Mularkey-based questions.
Similar to endangered animals, third wide receivers in a Mike Mularkey scheme are rarely seen, and many question whether or not they actually exist.
Why is that? Even with injuries that limited Julio Jones to only 13 games, with some games playing sparingly, the Falcons number three receiver played on only 55.4% of all offensive snaps. For reference, the Panthers third wide receiver, Brandon LaFell, played 65.9% of all offensive snaps.
However, when Jones left the first New Orleans Saints game due to injury, Douglas came through with 133 yards on 8 catches, more yards than Jones gained in any game. Douglas had five other games where he managed more than 40 yards, despite minimal playing time.
Douglas is also a perfect slot receiver. He is explosive with great hands and is a great matchup in that position. Mularkey tried to make Douglas the Falcon's deep threat, but he lacks the top end speed to be a true deep threat. He is best at using his quick burst to get separation against a linebacker or safety.
Now we wonder where Harry Douglas will be next year.
Some think that Douglas will try the open market and attempt to become a #2 wide receiver in the NFL. He certainly has the ability to do so, but the idea of him going to receiver-starved Jacksonville to play for the man, Mike Mularkey, who did such a poor job integrating him into the offensive gameplan, is hard to imagine. Douglas may not have blown up the way many thought he would after his impressive rookie year, but that has nothing to do with him or his ability.
Rotoworld suggests Atlanta may try to use the three-year, $9.4 million contract given to James Jones as a starting point for negotiations. He may balk at such a price if he believes he can get more money elsewhere, but he should be an important player for the Falcons to lock up.
Dirk Koetter seems intent on using a different passing game in which Atlanta will actually use more than two wide receivers. Koetter has previously used a "four vertical" offensive gameplan that will require a quality wide receiver behind Roddy White and Jones.
Should we keep Harry Douglas, or does anyone believe we can do better in the draft, free agency, or even our own roster?
I think we would be dumb not to bring Harry back next year. He by far has the best hands and probably 1 of the most explosive, under utilized wide receivers in the NFL. He had a great rookie season. Season 2 was scarred by his training camp knee injury. Season 3 he was playing tentative based on his knee injury from Season 2. Last year he showed during pre-season and when used that he is 1 of the top receivers in the league if used. I hope Blank pays him!
Thanks Raybeez. That seems to be the popular opinion. I think we will bring him back, if partially helped by the deep wide receiver free agency class. I do not think we can get a similar player for the same or less money, and with Koetter planning to actually use more than two wide receivers, he should actually be used next season.
@Zach K. Well that is fairly definitive. May have to let him see his market value and return here if he is looking for starter money.
A good price may happen. Thumbing through free agent (or potential free agent) wide receivers, there is a lot of talent here. The top being Vincent Jackson, Wes Welkah, Bowe, Colston, Lloyd, Stevie Johnson, Garcon, Wayne, DeSean Jackson, etc., to the point Harry Douglas is not even near the top of the wide receiver talent.
Looking at the wide receivers, we may get Douglas 5 weeks into free agency for a conservative amount. Perhaps the same way Atlanta let many free agents go last year, only to bring them back for next to nothing, such as Stephen Nicholas.