This is a four-part series on the potential cut candidates that could be cap casualties and the free agents that could be signed this offseason to replace them. With new general manager Terry Fontenot’s pro personnel background, free agency could prove more fruitful than the draft. Part one was offensive cuts; part two will be offensive free agents; part three will be defensive cuts; part four will be defensive free agents.
James Carpenter was the only offensive player I decided on cutting because the rest of the offense is on team-friendly rookie deals or immovable contracts. The positional needs on offense are running back, tight end, and offensive line.
Marlon Mack, RB
2020 cap hit: $2,237,912
Marlon Mack will be coming off a season-ending ACL injury, but that could provide better value than a running back like Aaron Jones coming off back-to-back career years. Mack is certainly capable of sharing the load and has immense use in the passing game. I hesitate with someone like Mack because Ito Smith is still on the roster, who has a similar running style.
Jamaal Williams, RB
2020 cap hit: $2,274,498
Jamaal Williams is the second option in Green Bay behind Aaron Jones, but he is similar to Tevin Coleman in that he can be a team’s first option. Williams is a downhill runner that punishes defenders when he gets the ball in his hands. He isn’t as reliable of a pass catcher as his counterpart in Green Bay but has more than enough receiving ability to be a three-down back. He’s most impressive, though, in pass protection, which sometimes can be overlooked. I actually expect the Packers to bring him back instead of Aaron Jones for salary cap purposes.
Virgil Green, TE
2020 cap hit: $3,500,000
Virgil Green is not the Travis Kelce type of tight end. He is hardly a threat as a receiver but is still one of the best blocking tight ends in the league — outside of Mercedes Lewis. Green’s use will come strictly in multiple tight end sets. He is a run-blocking specialist who takes on the more difficult, in-line blocking assignments. This would allow Hayden Hurst to block the easier assignments and act as more of a receiver.
Mo Alie-Cox, TE
2020 cap hit: $750,000
Mo Alie-Cox had a career year and is a restricted free agent, but the Colts already gave Jack Doyle $21 million over three years. So, I would expect Alie-Cox to hit the open market. He is undoubtedly the best two-way tight end in this free-agent class and would fit perfectly in Arthur Smith’s scheme. His threat as a receiver became apparent as he established himself as Philip Rivers‘ go-to option. His pass and run blocking make him essentially a sixth lineman. Seriously, this should be the golden egg of this free-agent class for Atlanta.
Matt Feiler, G/T
2020 cap hit: $3,259,000
Matt Feiler has extensive starting experience with the Steelers at both right tackle and inside at left guard, and he has graded well at both positions. Feiler is the definition of a swing offensive lineman, and for a team with limited depth as the Falcons, he will provide great value in the second wave of free agency.
Lane Taylor, G
2020 cap hit: $2,400,000
Lane Taylor missed the entire season after an injury in the first week of the season. Much like Marlon Mack, Taylor would’ve earned more money this offseason if not for an injury. Even though it was one game, he showed vast improvements in his run blocking from a season ago. Pass protection is where Taylor thrives, but his development in the run game prompted this choice. It is a prime spot for Atlanta to sign a starting-caliber guard below market value.
Acquiring a couple of running backs through the draft is a real possibility, as Terry Fontenot might believe he can find a few diamonds in the rough. But offensive lineman and tight ends should be brought in through free agency as the learning curve for those two positions is much higher than that of a running back. I am all for drafting Penei Sewell with the fourth overall pick, but acquiring a swing offensive lineman for depth will be crucial to this team’s success. Be sure to look out for parts three and four where most of the improvements are needed — defense.
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