As I said in my piece on offensive linemen, I want Atlanta to address the trenches in free agency rather than the draft, at least primarily. This will focus on the interior players, as pass rushers will be its own article. The Falcons suffered from inconsistent defensive line play all season, and there needs to be some help alongside Grady Jarrett immediately. I would love to get more than one of these guys; building a competent rotation is critical. If you want to check out any of the previous editions, they are linked below:
- Free Agent Big Board for the Falcons: Quarterbacks
- Free Agent Big Board for the Falcons: Running Backs
- Free Agent Big Board for the Falcons: Wide Receiver
- Free Agent Big Board for the Falcons: Tight Ends
- Free Agent Big Board for the Falcons: Offensive Line
12. Justin Jones — Los Angeles Chargers
While Jones doesn’t do one thing exceptionally, he’s a well-rounded player, and he’s only 25 years old. The NC State product is the type of guy you can bring in that should give you steady production immediately, something the Falcons have lacked inside.
11. Derrick Nnadi — Kansas City Chiefs
The 25-year-old Nnadi had a down 2021, but the former Florida State Seminole has shown greatness in the past, and the Chiefs may not be able to afford him. On a nice prove-it contract, the Falcons would be betting on some tremendous upside — something they should attempt this offseason.
10. Sheldon Richardson — Minnesota Vikings
Richardson is a pretty consistent player up the middle, and at 31 years old, the Falcons could invest in him for multiple years. He may look to rebuild his value with a prove-it deal, but that should be just fine for Atlanta with their limited cap space and immediate need up the middle.
9. Linval Joseph — Los Angeles Chargers
Although he had a down 2021 season, Joseph has been a quality interior defender for his whole career; the main question will be if he wants to join a team that isn’t a Super Bowl contender right now at 33 years old. He can eat up space and collapse a pocket with the best of them.
8. Calais Campbell — Baltimore Ravens
There’s no doubt that Campbell is one of the most talented and decorated players on this list; the only question is if the 35-year-old monster wants to be part of a re-tooling team in his later years. Campbell’s production hasn’t dropped off, but he’s a long shot for the Falcons, which is why he’s lower on this list than expected.
7. Bilal Nichols — Chicago Bears
Nichols is only 25 years old, and the Boise State product has been pretty consistent on Chicago’s defensive front since he was drafted in 2018. Although he has yet to match his exceptional rookie season, he is a very high-floor player that will give the Falcons an immediate difference-maker — and shouldn’t be too pricey.
6. D.J. Jones — San Francisco 49ers
Although Jones is often overlooked by the other stars on San Francisco’s defensive line, he was a quality piece up the middle that let many other 49ers run free. He would be a fantastic start to building a competent interior rotation.
5. B.J. Hill — Cincinnati Bengals
While he wasn’t much of a force while he was with the Giants, B.J. Hill became a star on Cincinnati’s defensive line after being traded for a seventh-round pick. Hill is a massive man who can eat up space in the run game and collapse the pocket; the Falcons will have to hope the Bengals don’t use their cap space (they have plenty) to run things back in 2022.
4. Harrison Phillips — Buffalo Bills
Phillips is an excellent run defender, and he was a big reason why the Bills were the top-ranked defensive team in 2021. He isn’t much of a pass rusher, so the Falcons would have to be careful not to overpay a guy who may not be a true three-down player. Regardless, if they want someone who will improve their run defense immediately, Phillips is a fantastic choice.
3. Folorunso Fatukasi — New York Jets
Fatuski may not be a name you’re too familiar with (or that you can spell), but he has been a really solid presence up the middle for the Jets, and he can collapse the pocket — evident in his 14 pressures from 2021. Those are two big sore spots for the Falcons, and if he can be signed for cheap, he is a fantastic start to rebuilding Atlanta’s front seven.
2. Akiem Hicks — Chicago Bears
Even if he’s out of Atlanta’s price range, the Falcons have to be kicking the tires on a guy as talented as Akiem Hicks. He has been one of the most consistent and dominant interior defenders for many years, and you’d essentially be putting another Grady Jarrett alongside Grady Jarrett. Hicks didn’t come to an agreement with the Bears on an extension, and it would be worth the Falcons opening up their checkbooks to bring him to Atlanta.
1. Larry Ogunjobi — Cincinnati Bengals
Sadly, the Bengals are a contender, and they have the cheddar to keep Ogunjobi around as well. I liked Ogunjobi in the last free agency cycle, and he rewarded the Bengals with seven sacks and sixteen quarterback hits. Signing him would be a massive upgrade in the middle of Atlanta’s defensive front.