The Falcons have some critical decisions to make but none more than this one. Outside of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, there is not a more valuable player on the team than Grady Jarrett. He graded out as a 91, according to Pro Football Focus, the best on the entire team last year, and he plays at a position where the Falcons are extremely thin. Thomas Dimitroff made it pretty clear what his intentions are: He wants to re-sign him.
Like I have written previously, the Falcons should not be thinking about re-signing Tevin Coleman. As electric as Coleman has been, Atlanta already has enough money tied up at the running back position, and their offense as a whole. There have been reports that Coleman will be looking at a contract north of $30 million. Count the Falcons out, but not because of lack of production.
The Levitre addition turned out to be a solid one when Atlanta traded for him right before the start of 2015 season. He helped the Falcons create one of the best offensive lines in the league on their way to the Super Bowl in 2016. The problem since has been his health. He’s ended the last two seasons out with a torn triceps injury and only played in two games last season. Given that the Falcons have a giant hole at guard, it’s not out of the question that they offer Levitre a short-term deal, but I think they let him walk due to his age and injury history.
It took a few games for Bruce Irvin to get his feet wet in Atlanta, but once he found that footing the Falcons pass rush as a whole came alive. In the final four weeks, Irvin had 3.5 sacks and seven quarterbacks hits. Atlanta’s pass rush was one of the worst in the league last year. They need as many guys like Irvin as they can get. He probably won’t cost too much and should be back with the Falcons in 2019.
The Falcons opted to bring back Shelby last offseason to help with the defensive line. It turns out they needed him a lot more than they thought. Unfortunately, he was rarely healthy. That has been the case with Shelby in his three-year career with Atlanta, and it’s the main reason why he will not be back next year.
McClain was added for depth on the interior defensive line. Although, he didn’t add very much. In thirteen games, he recorded nine tackles and one sack. I’d expect the Falcons to focus on adding quality defensive line talent, which would mean replacing McClain.
The Falcons brought in Justin Bethel for one reason: special teams help. He did just that, not only on the field but as a veteran tutoring Russell Gage. Bethel earned recognition as a Pro-Bowl alternate. The Falcons have had plenty of trouble trying to patch up their special teams, so I see them doing their best to attempt to keep Bethel around.
Garland is a reliable and versatile offensive lineman that even played defensive line for the Falcons at times. He’s appeared in 46 games for the birds over the last three seasons and started in seven of them. Dan Quinn said he plans to make significant changes to the offensive line this offseason, including both guard positions, where Garland plays. With that said, I think the Falcons opt to hold onto Garland as a quality backup.
Somewhat surprisingly, even though Ryan Schraeder was underperforming, the Falcons benched Schraeder for Ty Sambrailo near the end of the year. He performed admirably, although, he should be viewed as nothing but a backup, swing tackle. If that’s his market, I expect the Falcons to hold onto him.
The Falcons had to bring in Jordan Richards after both of their starting safeties went down. In a light role, he was a decent replacement, but with both Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen set to return at the start of next year, and Damontae Kazee busting out in his second year, it’s unlikely Richards comes back for another season.
There is going to be a point where the Falcons draft a quarterback to groom under Matt Ryan. That point isn’t for at least a few more years. Which means Matt Schaub can continue to collect paychecks from the Atlanta Falcons.