Unfortunately, unlike with the interior defensive linemen, this is not a strong group the Falcons can raid for talent. Still, there’s value to be found, and that’s what Terry Fontenot’s claim to fame is. 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
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Defensive Line
*NOTE*: At the time that I am writing this, the Falcons have not hired a new defensive coordinator. 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.
8. Clelin Ferrell — Las Vegas Raiders
This is a cheap, upside play here. At 25 years old, the Falcons can add Ferrell to their pass rush rotation for what should be a reasonable price, and maybe he can revive his career in Atlanta. He should get plenty of opportunities to do so.
2022 Stats: 26 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 2 Sacks
7. Arden Key — Jacksonville Jaguars
I have wanted Arden Key for a while, I was super high on him during his draft process, but he never broke out as a superstar. Still, he could be a solid rotational piece that can play multiple spots on a defense — something the Falcons badly need. He shouldn’t break the bank, either.
2022 Stats: 27 Total Tackles, 5 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery
6. Lorenzo Carter — Atlanta Falcons
I think the Falcons should bring back Lorenzo Carter, especially if he’s at a similar price point as last offseason. The Falcons need to focus on building a stable of pass rushers, not just getting one guy to solve all of their woes (both would be nice). Carter could still be a solid piece in a rotation, and he brought a lot of juice to Atlanta’s defense.
2022 Stats: 58 Total Tackles, 6 Tackles for Loss, 4 Sacks, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 Touchdown
5. Jadeveon Clowney — Cleveland Browns
Clowney may be a little bit lower than you would expect, but his potential price tag and comments toward the end of his time in Cleveland contribute to that. Regardless, he can play, and he would really help a poor Falcons run defense. If the Falcons want a guy who can set the edge and are willing to fork over a big one-year deal, Clowney makes sense… again.
2022 Stats: 28 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 2 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
4. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo — Houston Texans
One of my favorite lesser known candidates on this list, Okoronkwo was a massive piece of a Texans defense that frankly just didn’t get much attention. A late bloomer that came to Houston from the Rams, Okoronkwo rewarded Lovie Smith and generated a lot of pressure for a team that finished in the bottom half of the league in sacks. He could be a very useful piece if the Falcons are looking to bring bodies into a pass rush that really needs depth.
2022 Stats: 44 Total Tackles, 9 Tackles for Loss, 5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble
3. Justin Houston — Baltimore Ravens
Is this the year Justin Houston FINALLY comes back to Georgia? The Statesboro native and Georgia Bulldog is still a menacing force at 34 years old, and he would be a fantastic guy to bring in to mentor this young Atlanta pass rush and collect a few sacks of his own. I’ll keep asking until he retires.
2022 Stats: 21 Total Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 9.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception
2. DeMarcus Walker — Tennessee Titans
Another under-the-radar candidate, Walker was fantastic for the Titans after coming over from the Texans and Broncos. The Florida State product isn’t the most stout run defender, but he offers a lot more at the position than the Falcons have gotten in a long time. He makes a lot of sense, especially because his price tag shouldn’t be too gaudy.
2022 Stats: 32 Total Tackles, 10 Tackles for Loss, 7 Sacks
1. Charles Omenihu — San Fransisco 49ers
Normally I’d probably have Brandon Graham here, but he’s a retirement candidate, and I really don’t see him leaving the Eagles at his age if he doesn’t. I think Omenihu is Atlanta’s best option if they spend on the position. Omenihu is a mountain of a man that can play all over a defensive front and has been a huge part of DeMeco Ryans’ defense in San Francisco. Overshadowed by Nick Bosa, Omenihu has posted back-to-back top 25 pressure rates in the entire NFL for 2021 and 2022. He isn’t much of a run defender, but he should be able to help the Falcons get to the quarterback — something they’ve failed to do for years now. Don’t let the numbers fool you, Omenihu could be ready to be a lead dog in an EDGE room
2022 Stats: 20 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble (573 Snaps)
Photographer: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire
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