Falcons Sign Javier Arenas To Help Return Game
So far, it looks like Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are taking it easy on signing high-profile free agents this week. The Atlanta Falcons signed former Alabama Crimson Tide standout Javier Arenas to a one-year deal on Tuesday. There are no known sources yet on the exact amount that Arenas will be signing for this season, but let’s just assume that the Falcons got him at a cheap price.
If they indeed signed him cheaply then Arenas joins the Falcons as insurance. In four years (three with the Kansas City Chiefs and one with the Arizona Cardinals), he accumulated 106 punt returns for 1,029 yards (9.7 yards per return) and 74 kickoff returns for 1,568 yards (21.2 yards per return). Arenas also has two interceptions under his belt while starting 12 out of 63 games played.
The Arenas signing is nothing more than adding depth to the secondary. With Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant slated to be the starting cornerbacks in 2014, expect the Falcons to let Arenas start as a nickelback (at best). He can also serve as an extra pass rusher in the nickel package, as evidenced by the four sacks he recorded during his career. Otherwise, he will end up as a back up by opening week.
Despite his lack of promise on defense, however, Arenas will be valuable on special teams. If return specialist Devin Hester decides to sign with Atlanta, he and Arenas will do nothing but give the team good field position on kickoff returns. That is all Arenas would have to do on special teams too, as Hester would take care of all punt return duties. We all know what No. 23 (the all-time leader in punt return TDs) can do with the ball in his hands.
Without Hester, Arenas can still be the go-to punt returner this season. In order to do that though, he will need to do at least two things before the Falcons can call him a reliable punt returner. First, Arenas must compete for and win the punt return duties. I project it to be an open competition because RBs Jacquizz Rodgers and Antoine Smith each possess the speed to take punt returns for chunks of yardage as well. Additionally, Arenas must improve his overall punt return average. Last year, the Falcons averaged a meager 8.3 yards per punt return. Though his career average is 1.4 yards higher than Atlanta’s 2013 average, Arenas will have to gain more yardage in order to propel Atlanta into the Top 15 in punt return yards.
Either way, I am looking forward to Arenas helping out the Falcons in any capacity. He may be an exciting player to watch on kickoffs and if he puts the extra work in, can even help transform the special teams unit into a formidable weapon.