Falcons: 2021 NFL Free Agent targets before cuts

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The Falcons absolutely flunked 2020 Free Agency, and outside of Darqueze Dennard — every signing was basically a negative. With a pairing of Terry Fontenot & Arthur Smith looking imminent, they will have limited cap space for potential targets this year. I have some cuts I would like to see the team make, but even then, money will be tight — especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Regardless of who comes in to replace Thomas Dimitroff, he will have to make magic with limited resources. After handing out a massive contract to Dante Fowler Jr., Atlanta will have to be careful hanging out big deals. I’ve broken these guys into three categories, they get a little more realistic as you go down the line.

With players like Calvin Ridley and Foyesade Oluokun needing extensions soon, the need for caution grows even more. My last Mock Draft is here, and I’ll be factoring it in along with cuts when addressing team needs. Last plug for now, I’m also picking guys I would like in a 3-4 defense, because that’s what I think Atlanta should shift to. Just because a name on this list doesn’t mean I’m advocating for them, but it does mean they’re worth consideration.

Big Game Hunting:

G Brandon Scherff

G Joe Thuney

C Corey Linsley

IDL Leonard Williams

EDGE Shaq Barrett

CB William Jackson III

CB Desmond King

S Anthony Harris

S John Johnson

S Marcus Williams

Scherff would be a dream pickup, but he’s probably coming back to Football Team on a massive deal. He’s worth every penny, he’s an elite guard. I predict Thuney will get paid big time as well, outside of Atlanta’s spending range — especially for a guard.

Corey Linsley is a player that makes sense to dole out a big contract to. He has been rock solid & 2020 was his best season. He’d likely be less expensive than Alex Mack was, but don’t be shocked if Atlanta just decides to keep developing Matt Hennessy & address guard in the draft. I wanted Atlanta to trade for Leonard Williams back in March, but he’s likely priced himself out of town.

It would be nice to steal Shaq Barrett from Tampa Bay, but his price tag & recent bad taste from Fowler makes me shy away. Onto secondary, these are the guys I would seriously consider on a big contract. William Jackson would be a great addition, but I imagine the Bengals will lock him down with a lucrative contract.

Desmond King would be a good fit with his capabilities at slot & safety, and he’s the guy I would pay out of this group. Kendall Sheffield had a ROUGH 2020, and slot corner is a massive need for Atlanta, along with safety. Speaking of safety, Anthony Harris & John Johnson III have quietly been two of the best in football. Both of them may be too expensive for their respective teams, but unfortunately, that means they will likely be too expensive for Atlanta too.

Marcus Williams is interesting. New Orleans can’t afford him by default, and you have to wonder if he would want to join his old friend Terry Fontenot in Atlanta. He is a fantastic safety that I’m very happy is leaving New Orleans, but I think he gets a massive contract from a team like Jacksonville or Indianapolis.

Good Value Options:

RB Le’Veon Bell

C David Andrews

IDL Dalvin Tomlinson

EDGE Carl Lawson

EDGE Trey Hendrickson

CB Mike Hilton

CB Troy Hill

CB Jason Verrett

Crazy to call Le’Veon Bell a value option, but he could be had for cheap this offseason. Plain & Simple — I don’t want to pay any running back in Free Agency, but it is a need and he’s worth mentioning. David Andrews is a name that makes sense on the surface, but he hasn’t been great as a run blocking — something that will likely discourage Arthur Smith.

Dalvin Tomlinson is very tempting, but space eaters are easily found in the draft. Carl Lawson is a name I expect to be linked to the Falcons. He may price him out of a notoriously cheap Bengals organization, but I don’t think Atlanta will be willing to dole out a contract to another pass rusher. If so, Lawson would be a good pickup at the right price.

I would love to steal Trey Hendrickson from the Saints. The only issue is that he has one year of stellar production, but like with Marcus Williams, old friend Terry Fontenot may come calling. Mike Hilton & Troy Hill are guys I have my eyes on for the same reason. Both guys are versatile and vet slot corners. I would prioritize Hilton over a guy like Desmond King for the price, simply because he can fill one singular role and be spectacular at it. Jason Verrett is the number one “if he’s healthy he’s amazing” guy in the NFL, and if he’s available for cheap — sign me up.

Potential Bargain Bin Gems:

RB Mike Davis

C Austin Reiter

EDGE Haason Reddick

CB Mackensie Alexander

CB K’Waun Williams

CB Bashaud Breeland

CB Shaquill Griffin

CB Quinton Dunbar

S Jaquiski Tartt

Mike Davis makes sense, but once again, don’t pay running backs. Austin Reiter is… okay. He’s better in pass protection and weak with run blocking, so I wouldn’t make him a priority. Haason Reddick is a very intriguing name. He finally moved to an EDGE role after what seemed like years of everyone waiting on him to break out. He rewarded Kliff Kingsbury with 12.5 sacks. Additionally, he plays across from Chandler Jones… so a one year prove it deal is about all I would be interested in.

I always thought Mackensie Alexander would break out and become a star, but he’s been more of a steady riser for the Vikings. He’s certainly worth considering as a cheap slot option. Ditto for Bashaud Breeland. I was sick to my stomach when Atlanta didn’t sign him and he was the best slot corner (via PFF) in the NFL in 2019. He’s a very up & down player — some games he’s lockdown, in others he is lunch meat.

Griffin has had a down year and has battled injuries, but I expect Atlanta to have some interest. His former teammate Quinton Dunbar would be a great get for the Falcons. Injuries plagued his 2020 season, but he was fantastic in 2019. He had charges dropped against him in the infamous DeAndre Baker situation, but he snagged 4 INTs in 2019 and is pretty young for a free agent at 28.

Another solid prove-it deal option. Jaquiski Tartt would be a band-aid for the safety situation, and while this is a deep class — he is versatile and steady. There’s a reason I don’t have any safeties in the second column. Like running backs, they are a dime a dozen and the position is very volatile.

I don’t know how many of these guys Atlanta will be able to afford. Re-structures and cuts will be coming soon, but Atlanta should be able to fight off their demons from the 2020 class and sign a few impact players to help the team get back to the playoffs in 2021. For our sake.. I sure hope so. If the 2021 class is as bad as 2020, the Falcons could find themselves in the Top-5 of the draft again.

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