The Atlanta Falcons need to make the roster and make a splash during free agency in order to be competitive for the 2020 NFL season.
It is important to note that the Atlanta Falcons cannot make any free agent signings without cutting players first. Sitting at only $3.9 million in cap space (via Spotrac), this isn’t enough to even sign all the would-be rookies.
In order to sign any player, it’s important for the Atlanta Falcons to release three guys. Devonta Freeman, Ty Sambrailo, and Luke Stocker are the guys I feel you can get an adequate replacement via the free agency pool or the draft. Releasing these guys will free up almost $10 million in cap space, giving the team enough room to sign a mid-tier replacement and have excess funds for the rookies taken in the draft.
In no particular order, here are the five guys that the Atlanta Falcons should pursue.
Kenyan Drake – HB
If the Atlanta Falcons were to part ways with current running back Devonta Freeman and don’t feel there is a rookie that is ready to step into the starting role, then Kenyan Drake out of Arizona is the best value guy available. This past season proved to the league that a change of scenery is what was needed to elevate Drake’s career. During the six games played for Miami in 2019, Drake only started two of those games and averaged less than 30 yards per game. Once he landed in Arizona, Drake averaged a bit shy of 100 yards per game at 80. During his first game with the Cardinals, Kenyan Drake scored his first touchdown of the season.
His current market value is $5.5 million but wishes to be paid no less than $8 million. The Atlanta Falcons need to find a middle ground here and not overpay for another running back, even if he saw elevation in his play after leaving Miami.
Eric Ebron – TE
After the Atlanta Falcons have agreed to part ways with tight end Austin Hooper due to salary differences, there are a number of options the team has when addressing this position. If the Falcons do end up letting Stocker go as well, this would be a need that can be addressed in both free agency and a late-round draft pick. It is hard for most people to believe that the Atlanta Falcons be able to replace Hooper’s presence. However, Eric Ebron averages more yards per catch, scores more touchdowns, gets more first downs, and doesn’t have an NFL MVP quarterback throwing to him. The only true difference between the two players is that Hooper has a better catch percentage by a good margin.
With Ebron currently sitting at a $7.5 million value, his catch percentage could prevent teams from paying him that much. Realistically, the Atlanta Falcons could go in with a lower $7 million mark and snag him away from Indianapolis.
Carlos Hyde – HB
Carlos Hyde is as valuable as a value can get. 2019 saw Hyde bounce back from back to back disappointing seasons with over 1000 yards rushing with what could be a worse offensive line than in Atlanta. A downside to pursuing Hyde is that he has already stated his wishes to stay in Houston. However, after being on five teams in three years, it is easy to see that his wishes to stay are simply due to him being tired of moving more than anything else. This doesn’t mean that with the right offer, he will refuse just to not move again.
Currently sitting at a $3 million evaluation, this opens up the chances that the Atlanta Falcons can get another player from free agency, albeit he would have to be a lesser tiered player and main purposes would be for depth.
Jamie collins – OLB
The Atlanta Falcons need help on defense, this we all know. With the team letting De’vondre Campbell walk, there is a void needs to be answered. In a division that relies heavily on the passing game, Jamie Collins is at his peak when in coverage. Collins has held opposing quarterbacks to a 46 percent passer rating when thrown his way. This is well beyond the 101 rating given to Campbell. Campbell was targeted 61 times and gave quarterbacks an 82 percent completion percentage. However, Collins does miss tackles. He nearly tripled (12.9%) the percentage of tackles missed with that of Campbell (5.1%).
With a value set at just under $9 million, this would be a far stretch for the Falcons to get but could be realistic if the team restructures current deals or releases another player. Maybe the team could use his missed tackle percentage to their advantage and get Collins at a lower cost.
Quinton Jefferson – DE
Quinton Jefferson has seen half of his career on the sidelines due to injury. However, when healthy, Jefferson was a consistent starter on the Seattle frontline. Jefferson has the capabilities to play in both the interior of the defensive line and the exterior. In 2019, Jefferson lead the team in sacks (3.5) and was second in both quarterback knockdowns (7) and pressure on the quarterback (16). When pressed against two or more blockers, Jefferson has a 10 percent win rate, which is 17th in the NFL and 8 percent lower than league leader Aaron Donald.
This option makes sense if the Atlanta Falcons are able to draft LSU linebacker, K’Lavon Chaisson. Jefferson’s value currently sits at %5.1 million but is also projected to rise in future years. Jefferson could go for more but a realistic range is anywhere between $5 – $6.5 million.