Falcons: Interior and edge defender free agent targets this offseason

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The Falcons need to address the defensive front this offseason to give Dean Pees the personnel necessary to execute his defense. The defensive line cupboard is bare, and bolstering it through both the draft and free agency has to happen. These are a few interior/edge defensive linemen Terry Fontenot could target.

Romeo Okwara

Okwara is a weird case. He struggled through his first four years then took the league by storm this past season — to be exact, the last half of this past season. He could very well have figured something out; sometimes NFL players flip that switch and ascend rapidly. Okwara is slated to earn $6,500,000 per year for three years with $10,000,000 guaranteed and $19,500,000 total, according to PFF.

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Haason Reddick

Reddick is similar to Okwara in that both edge rushers struggled at the start of their careers, although for different reasons. Reddick’s was due to the Cardinals playing him in a traditional linebacker role instead of an edge rusher like he was in college. Returning to the edge this past season showed exactly what Reddick is capable of. He had five sacks against rookie tackle Andrew Thomas, so the stats are a bit inflated, but he was still effective. If Reddick wants #2 edge rusher money, I wouldn’t bring him in; but if Terry Fontenot can steal him for #3 edge rusher money, I would praise the move. PFF predicts Reddick to receive a one-year deal worth $8,500,000. If Fontenot could lower that by $1,500,000, I would be ecstatic.

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Sheldon Rankins

This will be the easiest decision the Falcons make all offseason. Terry Fontenot was there when Rankins was drafted and has seen him progress throughout his career. Though Rankins has trouble staying healthy, he’s still valuable in the run game. Pass rushing is not his forte, but next to Grady Jarrett, all Rankins will have to do is push the pocket. Fontenot is 100% the guy to say whether or not he’s worth taking a risk on. PFF has Rankins slotted to earn a two-year, $7,250,000 APY this offseason. This could be the first Saints player to be courted to Atlanta, but it certainly won’t be the last with Fontenot at the helm.

Ndamukong Suh

The main point I was making in this article is Suh’s ability to play in a symbiotic relationship next to Aaron Donald, i.e., Grady Jarrett. According to PFF, Suh will command somewhere near a one-year deal, fully guaranteed around $7,000,000.

Suh is 34-years old and no longer earning the massive figures he did from the Dolphins a handful of years ago. Getting Suh on a one-year, fully guaranteed, $6,500,000 deal is very reasonable. Although he’s 34, Suh played 788 snaps this season. Which is actually the lowest of his career, but it was still 11th-most among interior defensive linemen. With the Buccaneers, he totaled 25 defensive stops and 50 total pressures. He is very capable and would thrive next to someone like Jarrett, i.e., Aaron Donald and Suh in Los Angeles.

Larry Ogunjobi

Ogunjobi has the ability to play the three-technique in a 4-3 (Grady Jarrett) but has shown plenty on tape to prove he can play the one-technique as well. With the flexibility of lining him up anywhere, he and Jarret can switch between three and five-techniques while whichever nose tackle is brought in plays the one-technique. In obvious passing downs, having two interior linemen on the field that can stop the run themselves while also pressuring the quarterback is invaluable. And what better team to watch the future Falcon dominate against than the Saints.

Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney has had a really strange past two years where he only recorded three sacks with the Seahawks, then struggled to find a suitor last offseason in free agency. Finally, he reached an agreement with Tennessee but didn’t record a sack before injuring his knee after eight games. Clowney has never been a Von Miller-Esque pass-rusher, but he is as disruptive as any defensive linemen in the league. His freakish athleticism would bode well with Dean Pees. If the Falcons could get him on a one-year prove-it deal, I would be all for bringing in the former Gamecock.

Photo: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

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