Falcons: Tight end free agent targets this offseason

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The Falcons have one lone tight end under contract for the 2021 season, Hayden Hurst. Arthur Smith ran multiple tight end sets enough last year to warrant taking one in free agency and one in the draft. Smith has made it clear that what worked in Tennessee likely won’t in Atlanta and that he will adapt his offense to the roster’s personnel. Either way, the Falcons need more bodies in the tight end room.

Mo Alie-Cox

This is #1 on my free-agent wishlist, regardless of position. Alie-Cox is not only the best young blocking-tight end in the league, but he also showed some receiving ability this year with Philip Rivers. Though Arthur Smith loved to run the ball in Tennessee, there are no guarantees he reverts to that same philosophy. But just in case, Alie-Cox can give the offense a legit sixth offensive lineman that can jump out of the gym — a former collegiate basketball player.

Robert Tonyan

Tonyan enjoyed a breakout season in his contract year, catching 52 passes for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2020. As Aaron Rodgers would call him, Bob is a restricted free agent — the Packers might bring him back. But if they don’t, Tonyan is similar to Alie-Cox in that he is as strong in run-blocking as he is catching the ball — appealing to Arthur Smith’s offense.

Tonyan is a good friend of George Kittle. The two midwesterners train together and push each other in every facet of the game, especially in run-blocking — which Kittle is the best in the league at. This from a Sports Illustrated article.

“Ever since we got the same agent [Jack Bechta] coming out of college, we’ve been together, working out and being very close friends,” Tonyan said after Wednesday’s practice, the fourth of training camp. “Just being around someone who’s done it and lives it, it’s just another person to compete with every day. Whether we’re playing video games competing or in the back yard getting catches on the JUGS, it’s just competition nonstop. When you have a good relationship with one of your buddies and you’re also competing 24/7 when you’re with them, it brings out the best in both of us just constantly competing and constantly getting better at just everyday life.”

Anthony Firkser

Firkser enjoyed a breakout campaign last season under the guidance of Arthur Smith. He played well as Tennessee’s second tight end and even lined up in the slot when Adam Humphries was sidelined. Playing behind Hayden Hurst as he played behind Jonnu Smith should produce similar results.

This is another instance where Terry Fontenot or Arthur Smith is familiar with a free-agent target. The familiarity is important because they worked with these men and know their character and career trajectory. He isn’t as polished as a blocker as the other two, but the upside is still there. If Firkser is the real deal, expect Smith to bring him in if the Titans don’t re-sign the restricted free agent.

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