We’ve reached the end of this series! These are positions I expect the Falcons to target heavily in free agency. Their pass defense has been an issue forever, and paired with the right guys on the defensive front, they can finally start fielding a competent defense. I love a lot of the cornerbacks in the draft, but there’s still a lot to be done in the secondary.
This safety class in particular is extremely deep and talented. These positions are on the opposite ends of the spectrum to me; I want to draft a corner and spend big on a safety, and the talent in the individual classes supports that idea. Whoever it is, the Falcons need guys who can turn the ball over. 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
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: EDGE
- Falcons 2023 Free Agent Big Board: Linebacker
12. Mike Ford — Atlanta Falcons
Ford was pretty solid for the Falcons at times. In terms of depth and price, he makes a ton of sense to bring back, especially if the Falcons get someone in free agency and the draft. Fenton and Armstrong are also both candidates to return for Atlanta, but I chose Ford for his price.
2022 Stats: 15 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss
11. Greedy Williams — Cleveland Browns
I had the Falcons scooping up Williams on a cheap deal in my offseason overhaul series, so I’ll talk about him again. The Falcons need some bodies in the secondary, and Williams has been shuffled out in Cleveland. Still, he’s only 25 years old and has some upside as an outside corner. I like giving him a shot in Atlanta to see if he can make something happen on a prove-it deal. Williams snagged two interceptions and forced a fumble in 2021 before being replaced by Greg Newsome II and Martin Emerson.
2022 Stats: 11 Tackles
10. Roc Ya-Sin — Las Vegas Raiders
The former draft sleeper out of Temple, Ya-Sin never carved out a role in Indianapolis, but he’s coming off of a solid season with the Raiders. He would make for a decent CB3/CB4 at the right price.
2022 Stats: 45 Total Tackles, 7 Passes Defended
9. Emmanuel Moseley — San Francisco 49ers
Moseley wasn’t featured a ton in DeMeco Ryans’ defense, but he did log 312 snaps, mostly on the boundary, and played pretty well. At 26 years old, he may be interested in competing for a bigger role in Atlanta.
2022 Stats: 22 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 5 Passes Defended, 1 Interception
8. Troy Hill — Los Angeles Rams
One of the better slot/outside corners in the league, Hill can do it all, and is a staunch run defender. He fits the mold of the versatile defensive back the Falcons are looking for.
2022 Stats: 67 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 4 Passes Defended, 1 Interception
7. Sean Murphy-Bunting — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of two Bucs on this list, Murphy-Bunting could end up being something you see at a Braves game or across from AJ Terrell as a true CB2. Paired with his teammate Jamel Dean, who we will get to, he was part of a very imposing Tampa Bay secondary.
2022 Stats: 31 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 7 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception
6. Patrick Peterson — Minnesota Vikings
A legend of the game, Pat Pete had a career revival after leaving Arizona for Minnesota. Limited mostly to the boundary, Peterson showed he can still be a ballhawk — even at 32 years old. Peterson intercepted 7% of the passes thrown his way in 2022, and the Falcons need to start turning teams over to win games.
2022 Stats: 66 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 5 Interceptions
5. Jonathan Jones — New England Patriots
The former Auburn Tiger really ramped up his play in 2020, and he has been a huge part of Bill Belichick’s defense ever sense. Hitting free agency at 29, he’s absolutely in play for the Falcons.
2022 Stats: 69 Total Tackles, 3 Forced Fumbles, 1 Interception, 1 Touchdown
4. Isaiah Oliver — Atlanta Falcons
Oliver may seem a bit high on this list to some, but the strides he made in Atlanta following his injury are very noteworthy. He had a lot of success before his knee injury in 2021, and proved it wasn’t a fluke in 2022. His price tag shouldn’t be too bad, which is another reason he’s here. Bring him back.
2022 Stats: 37 Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 7 Passes Defended, 1 Interception, 1 Sack
3. Cam Sutton — Pittsburgh Steelers
Sutton had a rocky start to his NFL career, but the 27 year old proved he’s a staunch run defender and sticky in man coverage. He mixes into the slot sometimes as well, making him a very viable candidate to be AJ Terrell’s running mate. Sutton gave up the ninth fewest yards in the NFL when targeted in 2022.
2022 Stats: 43 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 15 Passes Defended, 3 Interceptions
2. James Bradberry — Philadelphia Eagles
After getting cut by the Giants, Bradberry joined the best secondary in football in Philadelphia and proceeded to go on an absolute tear. He had a crucial interception against his former team in the playoffs and could still get another big contract at 29 years old. Bradberry forced the second most completions in the NFL, leaving quarterbacks with less options with AJ Terrell roaming the other side of the field.
2022 Stats: 44 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 17 Passes Defended, 3 Interceptions, 1 Touchdown
1. Jamel Dean — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
My easy CB1 on this list, Dean is a very sticky corner who can enforce against the run. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage and can buck with the larger receivers in the division. He could also take a ton of pressure off of AJ Terrell, and at 26 years old, he’s absolutely worthy of a big, long-term deal in Atlanta. He would go a long way in fixing what has been a dreadful pass defense for many years. He has been good ever since he came into the league as a rookie, so I trust his production.
2022 Stats: 57 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 2 Interceptions
13. Kareem Jackson — Denver Broncos
This list is stupid loaded, so I’m going to focus mostly on the top guys available. This group is absolutely STACKED. Jackson is supremely talented, and he’s 13th on this list. He would be a welcome addition to this Falcons defense. Although he’s older, he’s still playing at a high level and can provide a lot of veteran leadership. He logged the most snaps of any safety in this free agent class, so he should be a pretty dependable option. I love his value.
2022 Stats: 94 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 3 Passes Defended, 2 Fumble Recoveries
12. Terrell Edmunds — Pittsburgh Steelers
The brother of Tremaine Edmunds, who was featured in the linebackers edition of this series, is one of the better pass rushing safeties in this group. He’d be a great candidate to bring in as a box safety, and he’s only 26 years old.
2022 Stats: 70 Total Tackles, 3 Tackles for Loss, 5 Passes Defended, 2 Sacks
11. DeShon Elliott — Detroit Lions
If the Falcons want someone who can replace Isaiah Oliver, Elliott might just be their guy. He can handle some slot duties as well as high safety, and although he isn’t that flashy, he’s a solid option to consider.
2022 Stats: 96 Total Tackles, 5 Tackles for Loss, 3 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception
10. Rodney McLeod — Indianapolis Colts
Surprisingly, McLeod was one of the better coverage safeties in the entire NFL this season. He was part of a stingy Colts pass defense, and at 32 years old, he would be a savvy vet to add to the room.
2022 Stats: 96 Total Tackles, 8 Tackles for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 2 Interceptions, 1 Touchdown
9. Julian Love — New York Giants
Another potential Oliver replacement, Love played all over Wink Martindale’s defense in New York. He’s a very versatile and well-rounded player; he doesn’t excel in many areas, but he’s rock solid.
2022 Stats: 124 Total Tackles, 6 Tackles for Loss, 5 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 2 Interceptions, 1 Sack
8. Donovan Wilson — Dallas Cowboys
Wilson was a big piece of Dan Quinn’s defense — especially as a blitzer.
2022 Stats: 101 Total Tackles, 7 Tackles for Loss, 2 Passes Defended, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Interception, 5 Sacks
7. Jabrill Peppers — New England Patriots
Heralded out of Michigan for being a do-it-all guy, Bill Belichick’s chess piece is one of the top players available at the position. Peppers may very well be the best pure defender against the run in this entire group, and I’d love to pair him with one of the next few guys.
2022 Stats: 62 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 1 Fumble Recovery
6. Juan Thornhill — Kansas City Chiefs
I was really high on the Virginia Cavalier coming out of school, and Thornhill has really found a nice role with the Chiefs. He’s solid in coverage, and at 27 years old, he’s another multi-year deal candidate.
2022 Stats: 71 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 9 Passes Defended, 3 Interceptions, 1 Sack
5. Jordan Poyer — Buffalo Bills
Another versatile guy, Poyer can support against the run and handle duties one-on-one as a slot corner. He’s one of the better safeties against the run in the league. He’ll be 32 when this season kicks off, so there’s questions about his timeline with the team.
2022 Stats: 63 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 4 Interceptions
4. Ryan Neal — Seattle Seahawks
One of the more underrated names on this list, Neal was a big reason the Seahawks managed to get to the playoffs after being projected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. He’s fantastic in coverage and is very solid in run support. At 27 years old, the Falcons could hand him a multi-year deal.
2022 Stats: 66 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Interception, 1 Sack
3. Vonn Bell — Cincinnati Bengals
I’m sure you’ve already figured it out, but even at this spot, Bell is my second most coveted Bengals safety. The North Georgia native is very versatile and a big part of what made the Bengals defense tick. Plus, he should still have a relationship with Terry Fontenot from his time in New Orleans.
2022 Stats: 77 Total Tackles, 4 Tackles for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 2 Forced Fumbles, 1 Interception, 1 Sack
2. Taylor Rapp — Los Angeles Rams
I actually had Rapp as a trade target when Arthur Smith first started, but now he’s hitting the open market at 25 years old. He offers the Falcons the perfect combination of youth, talent, and upside. He was one of the best safeties against the run in the NFL, and he held his own in coverage.
2022 Stats: 92 Total Tackles, 2 Tackles for Loss, 6 Passes Defended, 2 Interceptions
1. Jessie Bates III — Cincinnati Bengals
The true prize of this class, Bates is a classic do-it-all safety. He can cover and hit like a freight train, two things the Falcons desperately need. He’s a leader of a really good Bengals defense, and his presence alone could help transform the Falcons overnight. I’d back up the Brinks Truck for the 25 year old.
2022 Stats: 71 Total Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 8 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble, 4 Interceptions
Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
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