Atlanta Falcons offseason positional expectations: LB/DE
The Atlanta Falcons will have some options in free agency.
The team elected to move on from Allen Bailey earlier this offseason, an expected cut for cap reason. Steven Means and Charles Harris are also both headed to free agency.
The Falcons would be smart to bring back both.
Harris was a first-round pick in 2017 but disappointed in Miami. Atlanta used their 2021 seventh-round pick to trade for Harris last year and he played out the final year of his rookie contract.
Harris logged three sacks in limited action after accounting for only three and a half over his three years in Miami.
Means also contributed three sacks for the Falcons in 2020, like Harris he was used in a limited capacity though he did earn 11 starts.
Both Means and Harris have the athleticism to play the outside linebacker spot in this new defense while also having the ability to hold up at the defensive end. The versatility will be useful in a defense that is expected to change regularly. Neither player will demand huge contracts and will add valuable depth or the Atlanta Falcons.
When it comes to outside talent it is hard to find both productive and affordable options. At the defensive end, JJ Watt was the big name in free agency, he just signed with the Arizona Cardinals for 15.5 million dollars a year, a price tag the Falcons were never going to get close to.
Big names like Leonard Williams, Yannick Ngakoue, Von Miller, Matt Judon, Melvin Ingram, Bud Dupree, and Shaq Barret will be priced out of the Falcons range this off-season, so don’t get your hopes up.
Jadeveon Clowney is a big name that may be affordable. He underperformed during his one year in Seattle and looked to be on the same path in Tennessee before he was sidelined by a knee injury last year.
While expected to be healthy in time for 2021 his price tag may be reduced both for performance and injury concerns. While the Titan’s connection exists, he did not play under Pees and there is no reason to expect he’ll garner any special interest from the Falcons.
More affordable veteran options that should get a close look are guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Justin Houston, and KJ Wright. All of them are headed towards the end of their career and while they may no longer be full-time players they have shown they still have juice left, Kerrigan and Houston logged five and a half and eight sacks respectively in 2020.
Their experience and leadership would be a welcome addition to a position group in flux.