Falcons: One high-end free agent target for every position of need

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Going into this offseason, Falcons fans have understandably been a little nihilistic about Atlanta’s cap situation. While it may have some undesirable future implications, I have discussed how Atlanta can create plenty of space to address multiple holes. This is an insanely talented free agent class, especially at positions of need for the Falcons. But even with a decent amount of space, Atlanta can’t sign all of these guys. However, if they do push their chips in on a big name, these are some guys that stand out.

*All contract projections are via PFF 


Backup Quarterback: Tyrod Taylor (two years, $10 million — $5 million AAV)

The Falcons may draft a quarterback fourth overall, but Taylor still serves as an interesting option. I talked about him earlier this offseason, and while there aren’t many high profile backup quarterbacks available, Taylor is very serviceable.

Running Back: Aaron Jones (four years, $52 million — $13 million AAV)

I had to include somebody here, but as a founding member of “team never pay a running back”, I obviously don’t advise the Falcons to spend what little money they have on a running back. With that being said, Jones is a game-changer. Still, that would be well over 1/4th of Atlanta’s available space in a best case scenario. I’d much prefer his teammate Jamaal Williams at $3 million AAV. Remember kids, don’t pay running backs.


Tight End: Jonnu Smith (four years, $38 million — $9.5 million AAV)

Jonnu Smith was surprisingly not tagged by the Titans, and I fully expect someone to make him very wealthy this March. I would love if Smith took a discount to reunite with Arthur Smith, who oversaw his best season with the Titans. However, the NFL is a business; the Falcons would have to cough up some change to bring him in.


Offensive Guard: Joe Thuney (four years, $57 million — $14.25 million AAV)

With Brandon Scherff catching a franchise tag, Joe Thuney is the only significant name available. He won’t be cheap, but personally, this is one guy I’d be willing to open the checkbook for. Thuney is incredibly talented, young, and would immediately create an elite guard tandem along with Chris Lindstrom.


Center: Corey Linsley (three years, $33 million — $11 million AAV)

Linsley is pretty expensive for a center, but he’s consistently one of the best in the entire NFL. I believe there are a lot of low-cost options that could provide an immediate boost up the middle, and this is a pretty solid class on the interior as well. However, Linsley would replace Alex Mack and provide an upgrade on an offensive line that needs a lot of help.


EDGE: Carl Lawson (four years, $55 million — $13.75 million AAV)

The Georgia native was surprisingly not franchise tagged by the Bengals, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Lawson broke out as a rookie, notching 59 pressures in 389 rush attempts, and has continued his fantastic play on a bad Bengals defense. He only notched 5.5 sacks in 2020, but make no mistake — he makes his presence felt in opposing backfields.


Cornerback: William Jackson (three years, $40 million — $13.3 million AAV)

Two Bengals in a row; Jackson will be paid handsomely by somebody. He does come with some risk, as he has had injury troubles and been very up and down at times. But, when he’s good, he’s great. Someone will roll the dice on that potential; however, there are several cheaper options I would rather target.


Safety: John Johnson III (four years, $55 million — $13.75 million AAV)

What was once a fantastic safety class featuring Justin Simmons, Marcus Williams, Anthony Harris, Marcus Maye, and John Johnson III — only one remains without a franchise tag. Johnson deserves to get paid; he is one of the most underrated game-changers in the NFL — elite against the run and in pass protection. The Rams will sorely miss him in 2021.

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