Falcons

Grading every move of free agency thus far

Falcons place second-round tender on Ricardo Allen

Atlanta kicked off free agency by placing second-round tenders on starting safety Ricardo Allen and utility offensive lineman Ben Garland, which all but assured the two would be with the team in 2018. Allen came out of nowhere to snag the starting free safety job when Dan Quinn arrived three seasons ago and has not looked back, improving in every season. Since 2015, he has started in 46 games recording 212 tackles and six interceptions. He finished with a career-high 81.3 grade according to PFF last season, and it should not surprise anyone if that number is even higher in 2018. There has been much discussion on whether the Falcons should invest long-term in the 26-year old safety, but with each passing season, Allen has made it harder to imagine this Falcons defense without him. It was pivotal that the Falcons hang onto Allen in free agency, and hopefully is a sign of a long-term deal in the future.

Grade: B

Falcons place second-round tender or Ben Garland

Garland has become the ultimate utility lineman in his time with Atlanta. In 2016, Garland spent the majority of his playing time as a backup defensive lineman. He headed into the 2017 season competing for the starting right guard spot which he eventually lost to Wes Schweitzer. He started at guard in five games for Atlanta last season including the postseason, when starting left guard Andy Levitre was sidelined with an injury. With the signing of Brandon Fusco, it is unlikely Garland finds himself competing for the starting guard position, but his familiarity with the system and ability to play multiple positions make this a solid signing.

Grade: C+

Falcons sign Austin Pasztor to a one-year deal

Pasztor was brought on by the team last preseason on a one-year deal, and there was thought he might also compete for the starting guard position, but it became clear he was primarily a depth signing at the tackle position. He appeared in seven games with zero starts, but the Falcons must have liked what they saw, as he inked another one-year with the team for 2018. Pasztor has a lot of starting experience under his belt with the Jags and Browns, and serves as a reliable option if called upon.

Grade: C

Falcons sign Brandon Fusco to a three-year deal

The biggest splash of the Falcons free agency undoubtedly came when they signed guard Brandon Fusco to three-year deal worth a little over $4 million per season. The deal makes absolute perfect sense for a variety of reasons. The right guard spot for Atlanta, where Fusco will look to make his new home, was clearly the weakest link on the entire team. He graded out as quality starter last season with a rating of 76 according to PFF. The former 49er also has a year under his belt in Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. Fusco has started in 80 games over his career and should fill the Falcons biggest weakness of 2017.

Grade: B+

Matt Bryant signs for three years

Bryant may be 42, but his kicking has not slowed down one bit. He hit on 87.2% of his field goals last season. Eight of those came from 50+ yards, and has shown he still has the ability to make from sixty. Not to mention, there is little doubt he is one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history. Bryant has been automatic when the Falcons need him most, and it was vital the Falcons work out an extension with him.

Grade: B

Falcons sign Leon McFadden

Leon McFadden joined the Falcons in the middle of last season but never appeared in a game. However, he has been around the league, playing in 34 games and starting in two of them. He last appeared in nine games with Dallas in 2016. The Falcons depth at cornerback behind Alford and Trufant is certainly questionable, which will give McFadden an opportunity to see some playing time in 2018 if he continues to develop in Dan Quinn’s defensive scheme.

Grade: C

Falcons sign Logan Paulsen

Atlanta decided to part ways with Levine Toilolo, leaving Austin Hooper as the only tight end with any experience. Paulsen is a nice signing that should serve as blocking tight end, something the Falcons struggled with last season, and should also contribute on special teams. However, unless the Falcons get creative, do not expect much from Paulsen as a receiver. He failed to record a single reception last season with the 49ers.

Grade: C+

Blidi Wreh-Wilson signs one-year deal

Wilson has spent the last two seasons under Dan Quinn and the Falcons. The cornerback only appeared in one game his first season with the team, but that number jumped to eight last season including one start. Wilson does have some significant experience prior to Atlanta with the Titans, appearing in 34 games with 14 starts in three seasons with Tennessee.

Grade: C

Falcons sign Derrick Shelby to a one-year deal

With Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe on their way out of Atlanta, the Falcons are extremely thin on the defensive line. While that will certainly be a focal point of the upcoming draft, it also makes sense for the Falcons to bring back Derrick Shelby on a one-year deal. Shelby spent two seasons with the Falcons prior to being cut by the team heading into this offseason. He started in 18 games recording 22 tackles and one sack. He is certainly more of a run-stopper than a pass rusher, but the Falcons are desperate for some depth across the defensive line at this point.

Grade: B

Falcons sign cornerback Justin Bethel

Bethel is the Falcons latest signing, as the three-time Pro-Bowler came to terms on a deal bringing him to Atlanta in 2018. Although Bethel is a cornerback, do not expect to be seeing him much, if at all, on the defensive side of the ball. He is best served as a special teams specialist, where he is regarded as one of the best gunners in the league. The Falcons struggled mightily on punt and kick coverages last season. Bethel will serve as another low-cost signing that can really improve one of biggest weaknesses this team had in 2017.

Grade: B-

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