Falcons: Thomas Dimitroff’s 5 Best free-agent moves


Since Thomas Dimitroff arrived in 2008, the focus has always been on acquiring talent through the draft and retaining it. They have rarely been big spenders in free agency, so don’t expect the Falcons to go crazy this offseason either – even with more cap space than they usually have at their expense. This is not the most impressive list of players over a ten-year time frame, but each of these guys helped the Falcons reach heights the franchise had rarely seen throughout its history.

5. Adrian Clayborn

No offense to Adrian Clayborn, but you know this list is underwhelming when he lands on it. Clayborn was signed by the Falcons in the 2015 offseason to a one-year deal. They attempted to transform him from an edge-rusher to a pass-rushing defensive tackle, but that never came to fruition.

Still, the Falcons opted to re-sign Clayborn the following season to a two-year deal and switched him back to his natural position on the edge. There he had much more success, racking up 14 sacks and 32 QB hits. Over those two seasons, the Falcons pass rush went from abominable to watchable, and it was clear Atlanta missed his presence on the line in 2018.

4. Mohamed Sanu

Before the 2016 season, the Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu to an eye-popping five-year, $32 million contract. It was surprising because Sanu wasn’t coming off a great year and became an afterthought in Cincinnati’s loaded wide receiver group. It turned out all Sanu needed was a team that utilized him correctly.

Sanu quickly became one of the most-liked players on the team. His lovable personality both with his teammates and the fans grows on just about anybody, but the real prize has been his play on the field.

In each of Sanu’s three seasons with the Falcons, he has gotten a hair more productive. Even with the addition of Calvin Ridley to the offense in 2018, Sanu caught 66 passes for a career-high 838 yards. He has proven to be one of the best possession receivers in the NFL and has been Matt Ryan’s go-to option on third downs and in the red zone when Julio Jones is covered. It also does not hurt that Sanu is a legend with his arm, going 2/3 with two touchdowns in his career with Atlanta.

3. Matt Bryant

Bryant is the only free agent on this list that was not signed during the offseason. In December of 2009, the Falcons signed the 34-year old kicker to replace Jason Elam who retired. He only made 7 out of his 10 kicks that year, and I don’t think there were many people out there who could have predicted what was to come.

Bryant went on to kick ten seasons for Atlanta, becoming the most decorated kicker in Falcons franchise history. He made an absurd 88.7% of his kicks (250 for 282) for the birds, including clutch kick after clutch kick. I can’t remember a time where the Falcons desperately needed Bryant to come through and he was unable.

The Falcons recently cut Bryant to save money. They felt it was time to move on; his age was becoming a factor. But Bryant is an Atlanta legend that should never be forgotten, and I have a feeling he won’t be after we watch the next wave of kickers come through for the Falcons.

2. Michael Turner

Michael Turner was a part of the first free agent class Dimitroff was responsible for. The longtime Falcons running back signed a six-year deal with Atlanta in 2008 after serving as the backup to LaDainian Tomilson in San Diego, and it did not take him long to get acclimated.

Coming into an offense with a rookie quarterback (Matt Ryan), Turner was asked to be a workhouse, and man, was he fun to watch. The 235-pound running back looked like he was running with beer kegs for thighs, bouncing off defenders like they were bumper cars. In his first season with Atlanta, he ran the ball 376 times for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those are numbers you don’t see in the NFL today.

Turner went on to play five years in Atlanta, rushing for over 6,000 yards and 60 TDs. But perhaps the most important thing he did is give a young Matt Ryan someone he could hand the ball off to close to thirty times a game, allowing Ryan to develop into the quarterback he is today.

1. Alex Mack

The Falcons signed Alex Mack to a five-year, $45 million deal before the 2016 season in which they went to the Super Bowl. What was the most significant difference in 2015 and 2016 – the offensive line. Mack came in and completely changed the reputation of this unit and has continued to do so in his three years with the team.

In every season with Atlanta, Mack has made the Pro-Bowl. He’s been the leader of the offensive line in terms of communication, a bowling ball in the run game and an expert pass protector. It’s difficult to put into context just how much he has meant to this team over the last three season because few stats portray an offensive lineman’s success. The best stat to look at maybe his Pro Football Focus grade – where he has finished top three at his position every year in Atlanta. But anybody who follows the Falcons understands that this team would not have experienced anywhere close to the recent success that they have had without Alex Mack.


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