Free Agent Fits for the Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons can address some of their more pressing issues in free agency as they try to return to the Super Bowl in 2018.
Free agency started Wednesday, while teams had been able to legally negotiate contracts beginning Monday. With recent releases and renegotiations, the Atlanta Falcons came in with an estimated $15 million to $17 million in cap space.
Should rumored contract extensions for Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews, and/or Ricardo Allen, happen, that number will, of course, change. Here’s a look at what I consider to be Atlanta’s biggest needs heading on to this signing period and some players I believe would be good fits for the team.
Fullback – Derrick Coleman will be an unrestricted free agent, and I don’t believe the Falcons will, or should, bring him back. He was a good special teams player, but less-than-impressive as an actual FB.
Zach Line (New Orleans Saints) would also upgrade the blocking from the FB position, and signing him would have the added bonus of weakening a division opponent.
Keith Smith (Dallas Cowboys) is a restricted free agent, but the Cowboys haven’t tendered him an offer, so signing him won’t cost Atlanta a draft pick. They’re already rumored to be interested in him.
Short-yardage running back – I’ve been harping on this need for a couple of years now, and the Falcons made an attempt at addressing it in last year’s draft with Brian Hill. The biggest back on the roster is Tevin Coleman at 212 pounds, and his game is speed, not power.
They need a guy who can punch it in from the goalline or to convert that third-and-short to keep drives alive. I think we’ve all seen enough jet sweeps in those situations, haven’t we?
DeMarco Murray (Tennessee Titans) certainly fits the bill, but my money says he’ll want to be a featured back and get paid like one.
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LeGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles) would also not likely be willing to be a role-player and to be paid like one.
Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals) is big and powerful and young, but is also injury-prone. After being phased out by Giovanni Bernard and Joe Mixon, I suppose it’s possible he might be willing to take an incentive-laden “prove-it” deal.
Zach Zenner (Detriot Lions) is another restricted free agent and the least talented of this group, but he’s young and would likely be inexpensive and willing to accept his role.
Offensive guard – this is the biggest need for the Falcons offensively, and maybe the biggest need overall. Getting Andy Levitre to re-do his contract instead of cutting him was great, but an improvement over Wes Schweitzer at right guard is still needed.
The Falcons signed Brandon Fusco on March14, so this position might not be targeted in free agency again.
Josh Sitton (Chicago Bears) is older and has suffered more injuries than Norwell, but when healthy is still a Pro-Bowl caliber player. He’ll also be less expensive than Norwell.
Justin Pugh (New York Giants) also has a tendency to get dinged, but he’s younger than Sitton and is arguably more talented. He can also play right tackle in a pinch, though he’s far better as a guard.
Jack Mewhort (Indianapolis Colts) is another guy with injury issues, and isn’t as talented as the other players on this list, but he’s huge, young, and likely will be cheaper.
Defensive tackle – if guard isn’t the biggest need for Atlanta, then DT is. Barring some major news between now and then, come the Wednesday the only pure DT on the roster for the Falcons will be Grady Jarrett.
Dontari Poe, Ahtyba Rubin, Courtney Upshaw, and Adrian Clayborn are all free agents, and Derrick Shelby was cut.
David Irving (Dallas Cowboys) is under 300 pounds and a restricted free agent, but he’s young and was clearly the Cowboys best D-lineman not named DeMarcus Lawrence last year. Depending upon what he could cost in draft pick compensation as an RFA, I wouldn’t be against the Falcons signing him. *Irving was given a 2nd-round tender by Dallas*
Sheldon Richardson (Seattle Seahawks) is young and supremely talented, but is likely going to cost a ton and doesn’t have the greatest motor. I question how he’d fit in Quinn’s locker room.
Bennie Logan (Kansas City Chiefs) is an older version of Jones who doesn’t rush the passer as well.
Jay Bromley (New York Giants) is another young run-stuffer. Buried on the depth chart in New York, he could be a pretty cheap pickup.
Return specialist – Andre Roberts was a disappointment as Eric Weems replacement last year. The Falcons really haven’t had a dynamic return man since Devin Hester was in his prime.
I don’t care if Roberts’ successor is a running back, receiver, or defensive back, as long as he sets up the offense with better field position and is a legitimate threat to go all the way.
Darren Sproles (RB, Philadelphia Eagles) may be getting up there in age, but he’s still dynamic. The question is how much money does he want?
Pacman Jones (CB Cincinnati Bengals) is also an aging veteran, and one who’ll likely want more money than he’s worth. I’m also not a fan of his “extracurricular” activities.
DeAnthony Thomas (RB/WR Kansas City Chiefs) is a better kick returner than punt returner, but he’s young and will likely be cheap, and has some poor-man’s Sproles in him.
Michael Campanaro (WR Baltimore Ravens) fumbles more than I’d like, but he’s a scoring threat as a returner.
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Marcus Sherels (CB Minnesota Vikings) is more a punt returner than kick returner, but he can do both, and also be an acceptable fifth or sixth corner.