What you need to know about the Falcons free agent class so far

Posted on Mar 16 2017 - 10:04am by Chase Irle

Jack Crawford

This was not the flashy name fans were hoping the Falcons to sign to begin the offseason, but flashiness was not to be expected out of the gate. Atlanta took the conservative approach forced upon them by their limited cap-space, and Crawford was a player they viewed as a great potential asset to a defensive line that was suspect at times last season.

Crawford did not have the typical road to the NFL. In fact, he is one of the rare cases of a player being born out of the United States. He was born in London, England and moved to the United States in hopes of becoming a star basketball player, but because of international transfer rules he was forced to take a year of from the basketball and picked up football. Lucky for him, the English man utilized his outstanding 6 foot 5-inch frame to earn a football scholarship to Penn State.

After being a two-time honorable mention to the All-Big Ten team in his four years at Penn State, Crawford entered the 2012 NFL draft. He was a fifth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders, where he received limited played time and was eventually waived after two seasons. The Dallas Cowboys picked him up off waivers in 2014, but he missed most of the season due to injury. However, Crawford saw action in all 16 games in both of the following seasons for the Cowboys and began to make a name for himself.

Finding undervalued free agents is a key reason why the Falcons have become so successful. Crawford fits this mold. He came into the league as a player who was going to need to be developed before he made an impact. After three seasons where Crawford was nearly irrelevant, he became a key cog for the Dallas defensive line, especially against the run. The 275-pound defensive end has yet to become a terrific pass-rusher, and he never will. However, he has still recorded 7 sacks in the last two seasons and may benefit in that area playing alongside Vic Beasley. There is nothing flashy about Crawford’s game, but the value is there. He will be a key part of Atlanta’s run defense, and hopefully come up with some sacks in timely situations.

 Andre Roberts

Wide receiver certainly was not at the top of the list of needs for Atlanta this offseason. But adding more weapons to this already eye-popping offense, can only add to the excitement for the start of the 2017 season.

Roberts was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals, where he was thought to be a nice fit alongside future Hall-of-Famer Larry Fitzgerald. The Citadel product saw a steady increase over his first three seasons in the league. It was not too long ago that he was viewed as a receiver possibly on the rise to stardom. He was targeted 113 times in 2012 and caught for 759 yards. But after a sub-par 2013 season, the Cardinals opted not to re-sign the speedy receiver. Roberts inked a four-year deal that offseason with the Redskins but never saw the same type of success as he did in 2012.

He only played out two-years of that contract with the Redskins and spent last season largely as an afterthought as a member of the Lions. With the embarrassment of riches the Falcons have at receiver, Roberts is not going to have a huge role. Although, he does offer another 4.4 guy for Matt Ryan to target and you can never have enough of those. He will likely fill the duties of Aldrick Robinson, who departed for San Francisco.

Dontari Poe

It may have taken longer than fans wanted, but the Falcons finally made a splash in free agency on Thursday. They inked defensive tackle Dontari Poe to a one-year deal that has the potential to be worth $10 million with incentives.

Poe is a 6 foot 4, 350 pound beast inside and was drafted with the 11th overall pick out of Memphis by the Chiefs. This monster banged out 44 reps on the bench press at the combine and utilizes his strength to beat double-teams and disrupt the run game. His best seasons came in 2013 and 2014 where he recorded 97 total tackles and 10.5 sacks on his way to back to back pro-bowls.

He has seen a significant drop off in his numbers the last two seasons, and there have been concerns regarding his playing weight. Regardless, Poe remains one of the most intimidating run-stoppers in the league. Quinn addressed Poe’s playing weight during their meeting in free agency. This did not seem to be much of a problem, as Poe took less guaranteed money to play for the Falcons. It is nice to a see a big-time free agent excited about joining the brotherhood. Look for Poe to come into next season in fantastic shape and ready to solidify the Falcons defensive line.

 

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