Critical decisions to be made in the Falcons secondary

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It’s no secret that the Falcons had a plethora of issues on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. Between injuries, hefty contracts for underperforming players, and emerging young stars, Quinn and Co. have some critical decisions to make this offseason.

The Falcons had a porous defense last year. They ranked 28th against the pass, allowing 259.6 yards per game. While part of that was due to a non-existent pass rush, the secondary play left a lot to be desired. According to Pro Football Focus, Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole were the 37th and 80th ranked cornerbacks respectively. Robert Alford received a horrific 56.6 Pro Football Focus rating, which equated to him being rated as the 108th cornerback in the league.

Despite their less than stellar play, Trufant and Alford will have a combined cap hit of $23 million in 2019. Given that price tag, it is possible that the team decides to move on from at least one of the two cornerbacks. If they do, Alford will be the one to go.

The Southeastern Louisiana product has a $9.1 million cap hit but would be owed only $1.2 million in dead money. If he were cut after June 1, that number would move to just $600,000. Isaiah Oliver had an up and down rookie season, but the Falcons did not invest a second-round pick in him for nothing. He will have all the opportunity in the world to earn the starting corner spot across from Trufant next season. 

Another difficult decision comes in the form of Brian Poole. The Falcons’ starting nickel corner is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, but Damontae Kazee had a breakout season this past year, posting a league-leading seven interceptions as a safety.

Dan Quinn has already stated that Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen will be the starting safeties once they are healthy next season, but it’s likely that Quinn will look for ways to get Kazee on the field. Kazee, who played corner at San Diego State, has not been shy about saying that he would rather play cornerback than safety. It will be interesting to see if they bring Poole back, or if Kazee takes over in the slot. Considering the lack of depth the Falcons showed in the secondary in 2018, it wouldn’t surprise me if both were on the roster heading into next year. 

The Falcons number one priority lies in the trenches. They must address their holes along the offensive and defensive lines, but they cannot overlook fixing their secondary. In today’s pass-happy NFL, you are toast if you cannot guard on the back-end. While the return of Neal and Allen will help, several other critical decisions are going to have to be made correctly for the Falcons defense to take the next step. 

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