The Falcons do not have the financial means to go after a number one like Byron Jones this offseason. I already went through some free-agent cornerback prospects, with Jimmy Smith of the Baltimore Ravens being my favorite realistic option. I also went through the pros and cons of signing the recently cut Josh Norman. This offseason, the Falcons should look to bolster their cornerback group by drafting a player as well as adding a free agent veteran. Here are some more guys who could help:
Williams is no spring chicken at 37 years old — the oldest defensive back in the NFL. However, he is still an effective corner that brings veteran leadership to a younger group. Father time could hit him hard at any moment, and Williams would be a short-term fix, but adding him to the secondary could make a substantial difference for little financial liability. He is a reliable corner who does not miss games. A cheap one-year deal should get it done if the Packers move on.
Johnson came in on a one-year prove-it deal as a corner for the Bills last season and showed he can be a number two in the right situation. The former first-round pick has an injury history, but came in and stole Levi Wallace’s snaps in Buffalo. Johnson will likely be looking for additional years on this deal, but the Falcons may be able to shell him out around $5 million a year to bolster their secondary.
Apple’s career has not gotten off to the start many imagined, but he is still a young talent worth taking a chance on at the right price. Apple has been inconsistent, dealt with injuries late in the season for New Orleans, and did not perform well with Marshon Lattimore sidelined, but he is just 24 years old and a terrific athlete. All it takes is one team to fall in love with Apple and his high pick status to overpay him in free agency, but if he can be had for less than $5 million annually, he could be a steal for Atlanta.
After having to settle for a one-year, $8.5 million contract with the Eagles last season, many are saying that Ronald Darby is washed. However, he could benefit from a change of scenery, and if that price tag is lower, he could be an option for the Falcons. Darby has had extreme injury woes, but is still just 26 years old and has flashed when healthy. If he can be had at around $4 million, he is a lock for value if he can stay on the field.
Many expect Alexander, a second-round pick back in 2016, to move to a new home this offseason. He can cover the slot at a high level and could be worth a multi-year deal due to his age and current value.
Some think it is “impossible” that the Falcons will be able to retain De’Vondre Campbell this offseason. Nigel Bradham was recently cut by the Eagles as the team looks to go younger and save some cap. With that being said, he should have a couple of good years ahead of him. Since Bradham was a cut, he would not affect the compensatory pick formula for Atlanta, which would offer them a veteran stopgap in the short-term and a potential future pick in the long term.
Vet pass rushers
Pass rusher is the most glaring need for the Falcons. Similar to how I think they should go about the cornerback situation, it would be ideal if the Falcons signed and drafted a player to solidify their group. It almost seems like a lock that the Falcons will go pass rusher in the first round, but no one man can entirely fix a unit that has not been satisfactory in decades. Let’s take a look at some cheap vets who could help rebuild the pass rush in Atlanta.
Laugh all you want, but Michael Bennett is a guy who knows Dan Quinn and can still get to the passer. He was still able to post 6.5 sacks between New England and Dallas last season. Bennett is a far cry from what he was in his prime but could be a superb piece for the Falcons to rotate. He should be had at a reasonable cost as well.
Jabaal Sheard has never been a dominant pass rusher but is another body that could be useful for the Falcons to complement a first-round selection. He is a solid veteran who could solidify the unit as a whole. Sheard is a pro’s pro who can rush the passer but stay in on rushing downs and has a proven track record of staying healthy. He is far from a sexy addition, but one that could really help the Falcons at a manageable cost.
Emmanuel Ogbah is more of a potential play, but it seemed he was finally coming into his own for the Kansas City Chiefs before going down with injury. He was able to post 5.5 sacks in just ten games coming off the bench behind Frank Clark and Alex Okafor and performed as a run stopper as well. With the Chiefs more worried about paying Patrick Mahomes and building a team around him, Ogbah could very well be playing for his third team in as many seasons. Coming off a torn pectoral injury, he may be had at a reasonable cost and could offer a huge upside play for Atlanta.
Help in the trenches
Andrew 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, Jarrett, and Davison would offer an excellent unit up front.
Help on the interior line
Ted Karras has played both center and guard for the New England Patriots, recently filling in as the starting center in 2019 with David Andrews sidelined. He stepped up as a league-average center in his absence and will now hit free agency. This could be an excellent opportunity for the Falcons to pick up a starter on the interior, and potentially replace Alex Mack down the road, for a reasonable cost.
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