The Falcons don’t have the money to make a splash for a player like Jadeveon Clowney or even Everson Griffen, but they do still need to make some additions in free agency and can work around the cap enough to pick up at least one — if not two — guys that could make a substantial impact in 2020. As of now, Atlanta has three positions that desperately need to be patched up, even before April’s NFL Draft, and they are all on the defensive side of the ball — cornerback, linebacker, and defensive line/edge rushers. Here are some cheaper options that could help fill those voids:
Brandon Carr- We’ve mentioned Carr in several articles before, and he’s still around. The 34-year-old veteran was cut by the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason, but it wasn’t because of his production. Baltimore just has a lot of secondary options, and Carr became expendable due to the money they could save by releasing him. Because he was cut, he won’t count against the Falcons compensatory picks, and he’s the type of reliable presence this secondary needs, even if they take a corner earlier in the draft. Carr has started in 192 straight games, and put up a respectable 67.6 grade, according to PFF.
Nickell Robey-Coleman- Another corner we’ve talked about a couple of times on this site, Robey-Coleman was cut by the Rams, so like Carr, he wouldn’t count against the Falcons compensatory pick formula. However, at 28, I’d be surprised if he did not land a multi-year deal somewhere that is well out of Atlanta’s price range. He’d be a fantastic addition; I’m just not sure how realistic it is.
Tramon Williams- Williams may be 37-years-old, but he’s been unbelievably effective for a player his age, playing in all 32 games over the last two seasons for the Packers and starting in 23 of them, receiving a terrific 75.1 grade from PFF last year. It would be a quality veteran fit for a youthful secondary that shouldn’t cost much at all. However, according to Williams himself, returning to Green Bay is a priority for him. But if the Packers decide to move on, Atlanta could swoop in and find a quality piece to their secondary before the draft.
Daryl Worley- Perhaps Worley’s past will make him affordable to sign this offseason. Originally a third-round pick by the Panthers, he was found passed out in his vehicle and arrested, resulting in his release from the Philadelphia Eagles. Jon Gruden gave him a second chance, and he’s had some success in Oakland. Last year, Worley made just over $3 million. If the Falcons can land him on a similar deal, the 25-year-old could be a quality addition to this group.
Darron Lee- Once a first-round pick by the Jets, Darron Lee’s NFL career has not gotten off to the start many imagined. He had one decent year in New York and two awful ones, and Adam Gase’s first move when he came in was to trade the linebacker to Kansas City for a sixth-round pick. Lee played in all 16 games last season, starting in two, but received an abysmal 36.1 grade from PFF. There’s some upside here, and he should come for cheap, but there’s also the potential he wouldn’t even make the roster.
Nigel Bradham- Here’s another guy we’ve had our eyes on since he was released by the Eagles. Bradham’s a veteran that has started in the last 83 games he’s played over the past five seasons. Going into his age 31 season, he shouldn’t cost too much (even though it still might be a little too much for the Falcons taste) and could step in as an immediate starter for De’Vondre Campbell, who is headed to Arizona.
Defensive Lineman/Edge Rushers
Clay Matthews- The 34-year-old is far from the Pro-Bowl caliber player he once was, but he would be a nice addition on an affordable one-year deal. Although, I’m not sure there won’t be a team that overpays for his services. Matthews had eight sacks last season for the Rams, which would have been tied for the most on the Falcons.
Michael Bennett- It seems like every offseason the Falcons are linked to Bennett, and this one is no different. The fit makes too much sense: he’s affordable, still productive enough to serve in a rotational pass-rushing role, and has played under Dan Quinn. But the fact that it hasn’t happened yet under his regime has me skeptical that it ever will.
Adrian Clayborn- Clayborn’s been on the Falcons for four of the last five seasons and is consistently reliable as a rotational pass rusher. He’s not going to cost too much, and it makes a tone of sense for Atlanta to bring him back.
Cameron Wake- Wake has over 100 sacks in his career, but at 38, he’s not going to rack up double-digits anymore. However, he’s a cost-efficient option that could add some maturity along with production to Atlanta’s pass-rushing group. He only played in nine games for the Titans last year and had 2.5 sacks.
Vinny Curry- Vinny Curry might no longer be in the Falcons price range, but if they could find a way to make it work, he would be a fantastic addition. He racked up five sacks in 16 games for Eagles last season and has 20 tackles for loss over the past three years combined.