Will the Atlanta Falcons do enough to get better in 2020?


With free agency officially starting as of Wednesday, have the Atlanta Falcons made enough moves so far to better themselves in 2020?

As expected, the Atlanta Falcons released Devonta Freeman, Ty Sambrailo, and Luke Stocker. However, it was quite a surprise to see Desmond Trufant be the first big name to be let go. While these moves were expected, for the most part, the Falcons most step up their off-season plans to adequately replace the guys they let go.

After letting Trufant go, the Atlanta Falcons are only left with Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, Jordan Miller, and Damontae Kazee as cornerback options. Excluding Kazee, those three guys averaged nearly 70 percent completion percentage with nearly 1,500 yards. I exclude Kazee because cutting Trufant shows another glaring hole on this Atlanta Falcons defense.

The safety position. Kazee has been forced to line up as a safety due to injuries from Keanu Neal. With Neal likely returning for the start of the 2020 season, this will put Kazee back to his natural corner. However, if anything were to happen to Neal or Ricardo Allen again, Kazee is forced back to safety and the Falcons are again left open at the corner position. Thus making the corner position a top priority for the 2020 NFL draft – whenever that is.

In addition, the Atlanta Falcons made more moves by trading away their second-round (#55) and fifth-round (#155) picks for Hayden Hurst and a fourth-round (#147) pick, this limits the team’s options to make a big move come draft day. I love the trade and have high expectations of Hurst in this Atlanta Falcons offense, but now with only three picks in the first three rounds instead of four, where should the priority lie.

One of those picks must go to a Freeman replacement. My hope is that Florida State running back Cam Akers will be available in the third round, but if D’Andre Swift is available with their remaining second-round pick, the Atlanta Falcons should bite on it. This is also if the Atlanta Falcons don’t attempt to trade up or back in the draft to get a guy they desperately need or to gain more picks.

The Atlanta Falcons also addressed their need for a pass rusher by signing Dante Fowler to a three year, $48 million deal. Fowler will be tasked to replace Vic Beasley, who the Falcons let walk for free after having a rather disappointing tenure with the Atlanta Falcons. Does acquiring Fowler change what the Atlanta Falcons do with the 16th overall pick?

Pass rush vs more coverage depth

The defense for the Atlanta Falcons has been suspect for more than a decade. The defense only accumulated 28 sacks on the season, that’s almost half of what their opponents had with 50. They also had only 12 interceptions on the season. Seven of those 12 came from Kazee lined up at safety and Trufant who has left the team. While Kazee will start the season back at the corner spot, no other corner on the team has an interception.

With that being said, the 2020 NFC South will be a division that is played entirely through the air. With Tom Brady now in Tampa, and Teddy Bridgewater going to Carolina, this begs the question as to what is more valuable to stop these new offenses.

With the Atlanta Falcons acquiring Dante Fowler to step up their pass rush, losing Trufant in the secondary is concerning when considering the Falcons cannot sign another impact free agent unless the team makes a high profile cut, like an Alex Mack. So replacing Trufant will come solely in the draft. But which area is more important?

On one hand, Tom Brady in Tampa will be apart of a vertical style passing offense that makes up most of deep, developing routes. With a receiving group that consists of playmakers that are tall and fast, even the best coverage corners will struggle to guard the height of Mike Evans and the speed of Chris Godwin. This makes having a strong pass rush more critical. Fowler is coming off of his best season yet with 11.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits. If he can replicate this same success in 2020, the Falcons can be a true threat.

On the other hand, Carolina doesn’t have a consistent deep threat on the perimeter. Curtis Samuel has barely over 50 percent catch percentage and more than double that of DJ Moore’s drop percentage, which currently sits at three percent. Having a strong rookie corner paired with Kazee and Sheffield will really give the Atlanta Falcons an edge in this matchup. Bridgewater is a lot more mobile than both Brady and Drew Brees and can escape the pass rush more efficiently.

Even looking at our non-divisional games, the need for a better pass rush and secondary becomes more prevalent. In addition to playing Brady, Brees, and Bridgewater two times each, the Atlanta Falcons still have to play Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins throughout the season.

That’s 11 of 16 games the Atlanta Falcons will be forced to play against some of the league’s best at the helm, 12 if you include Bridgewater who was a solid player in Minnesota and will be looking to restart his career in Carolina. So while both areas of the defense need addressing, I’m not too sure the Falcons can be both.

So what do the Atlanta Falcons do with the 16th pick? It seemed that it was set in stone that it would either be AJ Epenesa or K’Lavon Chaisson. Now with the departure of Trufant and the addition of Fowler, this gives the Falcons much more to consider than before.

I feel the Atlanta Falcons should consider going after a cornerback but also not fully abandon the idea for another edge rusher or interior lineman. Kristian Fulton or C.J. Henderson could be a viable option if available and then go after a pass rusher to compliment Fowler in the second or third round.

Next. Fowler is the best free agent signing under Thomas Dimitroff. dark

However, if the Falcons were to take either Epenesa or Chaisson at number 16, I don’t believe it is far fetched for the Falcons to trade back into the first round to go after Trevon Diggs or A.J. Terrell.