This is one of those rare crossovers where the Falcons have a significant need, and big-time impact players are available to spend on. Hopefully, the Falcons come away with some star power. We’ll look at edge defenders in the next edition of this series. If you missed my 2023 Offseason Overhaul series, where I went through and spent Atlanta’s cap space in my own perfect world, those are linked below:
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Quarterback
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Running Back
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Wide Receiver
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Tight End
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Offensive Line
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Defensive Line
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: EDGE
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Linebacker
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Cornerback
- Falcons 2023 Offseason Overhaul: Safeties & Special Teams
I’ll be ranking these guys considering things like cost and overall scheme fit, as well as if they would be brought in as a starter or reserve. Previous Editions are listed below:
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Quarterback
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Running Backs
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Wide Receiver
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Tight End
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Offensive Line
*NOTE* The Falcons have not hired a new defensive coordinator at the time of writing this. I don’t know what the scheme will be, so I’ll lean toward their previous defensive scheme under Dean Pees, but I’ll consider other options.
13. Jerry Tillery — Las Vegas Raiders
The former first round pick Tillery was praised for his athleticism coming out of Notre Dame, but he never lived up to his draft billing. He’s still a solid rotational piece the Falcons should consider on a prove-it deal.
2022 Stats: 18 Total Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble
12. Maurice Hurst — San Francisco 49ers
Hurst was a former projected first round pick before he was flagged with medicals before the draft, but he’s still a talented player when he’s on the field. He has had issues with injuries, but he’s too also talented not to consider on a prove-it deal.
2022 Stats: N/A
11. Hassan Ridgeway — San Francisco 49ers
At 6’3 and 305 pounds, Ridgeway is the type of stout run defender the Falcons should covet to help plug up one of the worst run defenses in the entire NFL.
2022 Stats: 28 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 1 Sack
10. Abdullah Anderson — Atlanta Falcons
One of the more pleasant surprises for the Falcons this year, Abdullah is the type of rotational guy you want to keep around on a cheap deal. The former undrafted free agent journeyman may have found a home in Atlanta.
2022 Stats: 40 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 1 Sack
9. Sheldon Rankins — New York Jets
The Jets were a pretty good defensive team in 2022, and Rankins is part of the reason why. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, but he’s pretty solid all-around — exactly the type of guy Atlanta could snag if they really want to re-vamp the trenches. Plus, he has some familiarity with Terry Fontenot from his time in New Orleans.
2022 Stats: 43 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 3 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
8. Khalen Saunders — Kansas City Chiefs
Saunders is a guy I loved in the draft because of his athletic profile, and although he was never a dominant force next to Chris Jones, he’s a solid option that shouldn’t break the bank. At 26 years old, he should fit the timeline in Atlanta as well.
2022 Stats: 48 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks
7. Chris Wormley — Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris Wormley is a really solid option for Atlanta in terms of youth, price, and availability. Wormley is a stout run defender that should help cure a lot of Atlanta’s woes up the middle, and if you pair him with someone who can get after the quarterback, you should see a lot more success up front.
2022 Stats: 29 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
6. Fletcher Cox — Philadelphia Eagles
Cox feels like a lifelong Eagle, but I have to include him on this list. He was one of the better interior defenders for a decade plus, and even if he isn’t a long term solution, his leadership and overall skill should improve the Falcons immediately. His only real knock is that he will be 33 years old, but he has shown no signs of slowing down.
2022 Stats: 43 Total Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 7 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
5. Dre’Mont Jones — Denver Broncos
I’m not sure if the Falcons will be in a similar scheme to the one employed by Dean Pees in 2023, but if they are, Jones is a great fit. For a guy his size, he’s fantastic when it comes to generating pressure. He’d probably need to be paired with a space-eater to help against the run.
2022 Stats: 47 Total Tackles, 9 Tackles for Loss, 6.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
4. Zach Allen — Arizona Cardinals
Allen finally broke out in 2023, generating 35 quarterback pressures and holding his own against the run. He can be deployed in numerous ways, which should appeal to a team like the Falcons, who runs multiple defensive sets. He gets a big boost here because he’s only 25 years old.
2022 Stats: 47 Total Tackles, 10 Tackles for Loss, 5.5 Sacks
3. Dalvin Tomlinson — Minnesota Vikings
The former Saban disciple has a knack for gobbling up blockers and space against the run, but he has shown some upside as a pass rusher. This could lead to a big payday, as Tomlinson is already known as one of the better run defenders in the league. Make no mistake, even though he’s third on this list, I’d gladly have him in Flowery Branch.
2022 Stats: 42 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
2. Da’Ron Payne — Washington Commanders
You can call these next two guys 1a and 1b. The Alabama product Payne is a force to be reckoned with up the middle, and it’s clear why tons of fans are in support of bringing him to Atlanta. At 25 years old, he fits Atlanta’s timeline and gives Grady Jarrett a running mate he hasn’t had in Atlanta, probably ever. Payne would go a long way in fixing Atlanta’s defensive issues.
2022 Stats: 64 Total Tackles, 18 Tackles for Loss, 11.5 Sacks
1. Javon Hargrave — Philadelphia Eagles
After helping the Eagles record an absurd 70 sacks in 2022, Hargrave is looking to cash in. The Falcons are a logical landing spot; they have the money and a pressing need. He isn’t as young as Payne, but I think he’s the best option and maybe the best overall free agent available for the Falcons.
2022 Stats: 60 Total Tackles, 10 Tackles for Loss, 11 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
What Falcons free agent targets did I miss?
Photographer: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire
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