The Falcons signed two decent role players in Erik Harris and Brandon Copeland, but there are still plenty of holes on this roster. Terry Fontenot made it clear he wanted to use free agency to fill needs and use the draft to pick the best player available. Unless he wants to go into the draft in a situation where the Falcons reach on picks out of need, certain positions need to be addressed beforehand.
Perhaps they’re playing the waiting game to see if they can get a quality player on a cheaper deal that falls through the cracks. It is possible Fontenot and Arthur Smith feel good about the roster as is, but it’s hard to say that about a 4-12 team. The Falcons are a bit tight on money right now, but they can free up almost $23 million by max restructuring Julio Jones ($9.48 million), Deion Jones ($4.81 million), and Grady Jarrett ($6.25 million). The Falcons will need about $12.5 million in space to sign their draft class with their current picks, and with under $5 million in cap space, as is, some restructure or extension will have to happen. If you want to read a full breakdown, check out Alex’s article.
So, what exactly can the Falcons do? Subtracting $12.5 million from the $23 million, they should still have plenty to address a few needs in free agency. They need bodies, and perhaps they’re looking towards the UDFA pool already. Regardless, here are a few names I like that are left on the market:
*Contract Projections are via PFF or Over the Cap
C Austin Reiter (two years, $9.5 million — $4.75 million AAV)
G Austin Blythe (two years, $5.5 million — $2.25 million AAV)
IDL Geno Atkins (two years, $10 million — $5 million AAV)
IDL Jurrell Casey (one year, $5 million — $5 million AAV)
IDL Kawaan Short (one year, $5 million — $5 million AAV)
CB Malcolm Butler (two years, $12.5 million — $6.25 million AAV)
CB Adoree’ Jackson (two years, $16 million — $8 million AAV)
CB K’Waun Williams (two years, $9 million — $4.5 million AAV)
CB Quinton Dunbar (two years, $12 million — $6 million AAV)
CB Mackensie Alexander (two years, $6 million — $3 million AAV)
CB Gareon Conley (one year, $2.5 million — $2.5 million AAV)
S Malik Hooker (one year, $2 million — $2 million AAV)
S Kareem Jackson (one year, $6.5 million — $6.5 million AAV)
S Tashaun Gipson (one year, $2.75 million — $2.75 million AAV)
S Duron Harmon (two years, $12 million — $6 million AAV)
At this point, I think the Falcons are best addressing running back and edge in the draft because all of the ones worth paying in this free-agent class are gone. Luckily, there is still a wealth of talent at other positions. Austin Reiter and Austin Blythe would both make for decent, cheap band-aids at center. I already talked about all three interior defenders; Geno Atkins here, Jurrell Casey, and Kawaan Short.
As far as defensive backs go, any of the aforementioned names are an upgrade to who’s currently rostered. I think the Falcons NEED veteran help in the defensive backfield, likely one at safety and cornerback. Adding Malcolm Butler, PFF’s 27th ranked cornerback since 2018, to pair on the outside with AJ Terrell would be ideal but unlikely considering the free-agent signings Fontenot has made thus far. A reclamation project like Quinton Dunbar or Gareon Conley could pay dividends as well and is more in line with the price Fontenot would likely spend.
If not, an elite slot corner like K’Waun Williams could give Dean Pees a versatile chess piece to use. Malik Hooker as a depth piece and a vet like Duron Harmon or Kareem Jackson would completely transform the safety room. Regardless, I hope Atlanta signs a few names on this list on bargain deals, helping the team compete in 2021 without sacrificing 2022’s cap sheet.
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