With the season finally over, it’s time to start looking forward to 2020, something we could do quite early this year after the Falcons 1-7 start. Atlanta doesn’t have a boatload of critical free agents set to hit the open market, but they do have some, and given their cap situation, they are going to have to let several of them walk. Let’s take a look:
This is hands-down the most important free agent the Falcons have to address, and our very own Jake Gordon said it perfectly the other day, Atlanta has to bring back their star tight end. It should be their number one priority of the offseason. Hooper established himself as a playmaker, and you don’t let players of his caliber, at his position, walk. If a deal doesn’t get done quickly, the Falcons will surely franchise-tage Hoop, which will give them until July 15th to work out an extension.
Vic Beasley Jr.
After doing pretty much nothing for 2 1/2 seasons, Beasley woke up out of nowhere for the final eight weeks of the season, returning to his 2016 All-Pro form. That’s going to make him a ton of money this offseason, but the Falcons should be the last ones in line for his services. Considering Atlanta’s cap issues, they can’t spend that much money on such a high-risk, high-reward type player like Beasley.
Campbell has been a reliable starter ever since the Falcons selected him out of Minnesota back in 2016. He’s had plenty of ups and downs, but overall, he’s performed well enough to earn himself a decent-sized, multi-year contract with some NFL team. It just shouldn’t be the Falcons. Foye Oluokon is ready for an increased role, and Atlanta can look to add another option through the draft.
Davison brought some much-needed beef to the Falcons interior defensive line and was tremendous against the run, while also being an underrated pass rusher. It might be hard for the Falcons to bring him back, as I expect him to receive a multi-year contract. However, it would be wise for them to make a concerted effort to do so.
Crawford racked up six sacks for the Dirtybirds in 2018, and I was excited to see what he was going to bring in 2019. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much. He’s probably in for a cheap two or three-year deal this offseason, like the one he signed with Atlanta, but I don’t think the Falcons bring him back. They need to focus on getting younger and more athletic across their defensive line.
The veteran Clayborn was a quality rotational piece for the Falcons, as he has been for several teams over the last few years. He will be in for a manageable one or two year deal, and considering how weak the Falcons are off the edge heading into the offseason, they should attempt to bring him back for much-needed depth.
I don’t know about you, but Brian Hill looked infinitely more explosive as #23 in his return to the Falcons. He turned into a quality backup running back, and the future remains uncertain for Devonta Freeman. I think you have to keep him around as cheap, quality depth at the position.
Hardy has spent several years in Atlanta since being drafted out of Eastern Carolina, and there has been virtually no improvement. He fell behind a few UDFA on the depth chart this season and rarely saw the field, even when Mohamed Sanu was traded, and Calvin Ridley landed on IR. His time in Atlanta should be over.
Bosher’s been a quality punter over the years, but he has had injury issues. The Falcons are best off saving their money and getting younger at the position for 2020.
The Falcons have to upgrade at left guard. There’s no way Schweitzer should be starting as much as he has over the past two seasons, but he has proven to be quality depth. The Falcons should keep him around for at least another year as insurance.
Wilson received way more playing time this season than I think anybody expected/wanted, but he was a pretty solid option as a starting cornerback, and the Falcons defense played splendidly when he was in there. As long as his potential new contract does not get out of hand, Atlanta would be wise to bring him back as depth in the secondary.
Given the injury history in the Falcons secondary, especially at safety, Neasman will probably be brought back.
Smith was no Patrick DiMarco at fullback, but he was pretty good and also contributed on special teams. It shouldn’t cost much for him to return, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened, but for now, I will pass.
Ishmael always seems to find his way back onto the roster, probably because of his versatility, but like Keith Smith, the Falcons could live without him.
Unfortunately for Means, he was lost for the season well before it even started. I don’t see it likely that he returns to Atlanta with a guaranteed deal, but perhaps he could work his way back onto the team the hard way.