Falcons free-agent signings who will make the biggest impact

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Entering the offseason, the Falcons were in the worst cap situation across the NFL — outside of the Saints. Terry Fontenot took the general manager job knowing the salary cap issues, which obviously limited his ability to put together a well-rounded team. At the same time of evaluating the roster, Fontenot had to create leverage by subtracting unnecessary contracts.

Fontenot, with limited resources, added a bevy of veterans at positions of need on cheap, one-year contracts. With the 2021 free agent and draft class, the Falcons have a relatively inexpensive core of players. While Fontenot wasn’t able to bring in any high-profile free agents this offseason, there are many in the class expected to contribute a substantial amount immediately. So we will rank the free-agent acquisitions who will make the biggest impact in 2021.

5. LB Barkevious Mingo, Bears

There won’t be many Falcons fans who expect Keke Mingo to be valuable to this defense, but he’s a versatile veteran that can do anything this coaching staff asks him to do. He’s solid in run-support, can drop into coverage, and obviously rush the passer. Last year with Ted Monachino in Chicago, Mingo racked up 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and two passes defended. He gives Dean Pees flexibility in his fronts and coverages, but most importantly, he’ll be a great leader for the Falcons’ other EDGEs, even if it’s as a rotational player.

4. WR/RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, Bears

According to Lineups, the Falcons were among the worst teams statistically at returning punts and kickoffs — 28th and 30th in the league, respectively. Enter Patterson, one of the best returners in football — named to four first-team All-Pros for his special teams work and twice a second-team All-Pro. In his eight seasons in the NFL, the former Tennessee Volunteer has returned 239 kickoffs for 7,118 yards and eight touchdowns. Yes, eight touchdowns. His career average is 29.8 yards per return. Obviously, his greatest asset is on special teams, but Patterson provides a wrinkle in Arthur Smith’s offense too.

3. CB Fabian Moreau, Washington Football Team

This is the free-agent signing that could prove detrimental or wildly successful. Moreau will constantly be tested in coverage as a cornerback, which makes him easily the most vulnerable member of this list. If he can hold his own opposite A.J. Terrell, he’ll be worth every penny of his one-year, $1.127 million deal — a bargain even. He’s never started more than 10 games in a season, but two years ago, in only 158 snaps, Moreau recorded two interceptions and defended three passes. He can easily contribute to the team’s immediate success, more so than Patterson.

2. S Duron Harmon, Lions

Even though safeties rarely post difference-making WAR figures, the position is critical in Dean Pees’ defense. Pees will ask Harmon to do everything under the sun from a safety point of view — drop into coverage, support the run, and blitz from a single-high, split safety, box, and slot look. He can make a bigger impact than Moreau because of his mentorship of second-round pick Richie Grant, who I believe will be a true game-changer. Harmon illustrates the Patriot way as well as any, and having played in a similar defense in New England, he should hit the ground running.

1. RB Mike Davis, Panthers

Mike Davis might not be the best free-agent signing this offseason, but he was the only member of the class to sign a multi-year deal. He will make the biggest impact strictly because of the number of chances he’ll get, as the former Panther is sure to see an overwhelming majority of touches out of the backfield this year. The 28-year-old is coming off a career-best season — rushing for 642 yards topped with 373 yards receiving and eight touchdowns after forced into a starting role for Christian McCaffrey last season. He never goes down on first contact and has an innate ability to get tough yards even if the play breaks down because of blocking. Arthur Smith will look to feed Davis to power his play-action-style offense.


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