EDGE rusher may be the primary need for the Falcons this offseason, but any help upfront is welcome. Atlanta’s most significant problem has been finding ways to opposing quarterbacks, and while they have to leave no stone unturned in finding a solution at defensive end, interior lineman Tyeler Davison and Jack Crawford are free agents as well this offseason. The Falcons must decide whether to bring them back or attempt to find an upgrade along and pair up Grady Jarrett with someone who can create pressure up front. Either way, they likely have to bring in at least one body here, whether it is via free agency or the NFL Draft. The promising news is that there are a ton of viable options available in free agency this offseason.
The Cowboys drafted Collins’ replacement in Trysten Hill last offseason, so now the 24-year old starter will likely be looking for a new team. He is more of an athletic tackle who can pass rush than a traditional run stuffer. Over his four NFL seasons, he has accumulated 14.5 sacks and 40 QB hits. Collins presents an affordable but younger free agency option than most on this list.
Billings has been a fantastic run stuffer for the Bengals and would look great alongside Grady Jarrett on the defensive line. He is still young at 24 years old, has incredible size, and his price tag should not be too outlandish. He and Jarrett would offer an excellent unit upfront.
Jernigan presents a tremendous buy-low option for Atlanta, as his value has decreased due to a couple of injury-plagued seasons. When healthy, he is a terrific run stuffer who can always shift into a backup role if the likes of Javon Kinlaw were available at 16. Jernigan’s deal was only for $2 million last year, so we could be talking pennies for production if he can stay on the field.
Could we be in store for a Dontari Poe homecoming in Atlanta? Poe was extremely reliable in his one year with the Falcons back in 2017, but the Panthers signed him to a 3-year, $28 million contract shortly after that. However, Poe has been released and is already a free agent this offseason. He would not cost a compensatory pick and has familiarity with the Falcons’ defense. His stock is not what it once was coming off a torn groin, so he may settle for a team-friendly one-year pact
Suh is now 33 and coming off his worst season yet. Regardless, he will likely demand a substantial chunk of change. If teams do not buy-in, and he can be had at a reasonable value on a one-year deal, the Falcons should entertain it. I am just not sure that will be the case, but he did net a fraction of the $14 million he earned with the Rams in 2018, and his play has tapered off even further. Suh still has enough in the tank to help this Falcons’ defense up front, but he is not what he once was.
McCoy will hit the market once again after signing with the Panthers last offseason. At 32, he is on the decline, but still presents some upside and a one-year bandaid. McCoy’s deal was worth around $8 million last offseason. If he is willing to settle for even less, he could become a target for Atlanta.
In his prime, Daniels was one of the best pass-rushing interior linemen in the game. However, he has had trouble staying on the field the last couple of seasons. Daniels will not be receiving the $9 million the Lions handed him on a one-year deal last season, but if he settles for a one-year pact in the $3-$4 million range, and the Falcons draft an interior lineman, they could do worse. Daniels is talented and was a Pro Bowler as recently as 2017.
Pierce could present a good value for Falcons, assuming his price tag does not get out of hand. If they are looking for an excellent run stuffer who is in his prime, Pierce is their guy. He would be absolutely devastating up front paired with Grady Jarrett and make a considerable impact for probably somewhere around $5-$7 million a year. Bringing in a guy like Pierce makes the linebackers’ jobs that much easier, and there should be little hesitancy to offer him a multi-year deal.
Shelton has not exactly lived up to the hype of being a top 15 pick. It took having to play on a minimum contract under Bill Belicheck to tap into his potential, and he had a career-best 2019. I am always wary of a player leaving New England, and Shelton will likely command a multi-year deal. With that being said, he was a big part of a league-best defense, and his price range should be around $5 million, which is manageable.
Harrison’s play has undoubtedly fallen off, and he is already available as a free agent after being released by the Lions. However, not having to give up a compensatory pick could make Harrison worth a depth signing if he will sign for nickels.
At a reasonable price, Dareus could present an intriguing option for Atlanta. He spent the majority of last season on IR, and the 29-year old is not likely to post-high sack totals as he did earlier in his career, but he does present great run-stuffing ability, and if healthy, could be a real difference-maker for the Falcons up front.
Jefferson stepped up as a starter for Seattle the past two seasons. His price tag will likely be around $5 million a year. If the Falcons love the talent, they may find this to be a reasonable value as he enters his prime.