Terry Fontenot didn’t make any splash signings; instead, he added low-priced veterans on short-term deals that could at the very least, add depth at their respective positions. Some may contribute more than others, but I won’t be including every free agent signing for the sake of time. There are players like TE Ryan Becker that are long shots to make the team or A.J. McCarron, who will only see the field if Matt Ryan goes down with an injury. I want to focus on the free-agent acquisitions who have an opportunity to compete for significant snaps entering training camp.
9. DL Jonathan Bullard, Seahawks
Bullard spent last season with the Seahawks, and he was an effective interior presence in Seattle’s pass rush. Even though he didn’t record a sack, the pressure produced was obvious. In 11 career starts over 61 career games, he has 3.5 sacks, 13 TFLs, 14 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. Bullard could be a fringe player, but his experiences in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense make his versatility valuable and likely a member of the defensive line rotation.
8. LB Brandon Copeland, Patriots
Copeland played 2020 in New England under Bill Belichick but has familiarity with linebackers coach Frank Bush. who spent the 2019-20 seasons serving as the Jets’ linebackers coach. During those two seasons under him, Copeland recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks. In five seasons, Copeland has tallied 119 tackles, 19 QB hits, and seven sacks. He’s a quality player who can provide depth at multiple positions — off-ball and outside linebacker.
7. OL Josh Andrews, Jets
Before the news of Matt Gono’s mysterious surgery, Andrews would’ve been in one of the last two places on this list. There were reports that Andrews was getting the majority of snaps at left guard in OTAs and minicamp, which is concerning, but I wouldn’t put too much weight into anything this far out of season. He’s played five years in the league, spending last year in New York where he played in 15 games but only started four. Andrews is below average pass blocker, to put it mildly, but holds his own in the run game.
6. S Erik Harris, Raiders
Erik Harris will likely be the safety coming off the bench while Duron Harmon and Richie Grant start, but he could be underrated. He’s a former team captain in Las Vegas who communicates as well as any veteran. Though he struggled last year tackling, he does provide that versatility that Dean Pees covets. All three of these safeties can be used on the field together and drop into coverage or blitz from any alignment — they all compliment each other well.
5. WR/RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, Bears
Cordarrelle Patterson will see snaps all over the field, but I don’t see him as the full-time complementary back to Mike Davis. Patterson’s 42 touches out of the backfield in 2018 with the Patriots were a career-high, and he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. It’s difficult to see his role in the offense right now, but it isn’t a coincidence that ex-Bears running backs coach and current Falcons quarterbacks coach Charles London came to Atlanta the same offseason Patterson did.
“When we were evaluating him, we went back and watched all the touches he’s had at running back in his entire career,” London said. “You see an explosive player. You see a big player. You see a guy who can outrun guys. You see a guy who’s hard to tackle. I think a lot of the traits you see with him as a running back you see with him on kickoff return, as well. We’re pleased with where he’s at. A lot of it is new to him. He’s never been asked to do some of this stuff before.”
4. LB Barkevious Mingo, Bears
Keke Mingo will be more valuable to this defense than many fans expect, because he can do anything this coaching staff asks him to do, even if he doesn’t do anything spectacularly. He’s solid in run-support, can drop into coverage, and obviously rush the passer. Last year with Ted Monachino in Chicago, Mingo racked up 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and two passes defended. He gives Dean Pees flexibility in his fronts and coverages, but most importantly, he’ll be a great leader for the Falcons’ other EDGEs, even if it’s as a rotational player.
3. CB Fabian Moreau, Washington Football Team
Moreau was drafted by the WFT in the third round of the 2017 draft and signed a one-year, $1.127 million deal this offseason. He’s a physical corner coming to a team that is in desperate need of a running mate with A.J. Terrell, and I believe Moreau is just that. In limited snaps the past few years, he has proven to be much more effective on the boundary than in the slot, but hasn’t seen the field much because of the WFT’s lack of need at boundary corner. He’s never started more than 10 games in a season, but two years ago, in only 158 snaps, Moreau recorded two interceptions and defended three passes.
2. RB Mike Davis, Panthers
Mike Davis was the only member of this list to sign a multi-year deal, and he will see an overwhelming majority of the touches out of the backfield. The 28-year-old is coming off a career-best season — rushing for 642 yards topped with 373 yards receiving and eight touchdowns after forced into a starting role for Christian McCaffrey last season. He never goes down on first contact and has an innate ability to get tough yards even if the play breaks down because of blocking. Davis is also reliable — fumbling just twice on 537 career touches — and an affordable option with a similar running style as Derrick Henry. It isn’t crazy to think he could eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in 2021.
1. S Duron Harmon, Lions
My favorite offseason signing is our final member of this list, and someone I think Falcons fans will be clamoring to have resigned after 2021. He played in Bill Belichick’s 3-3-5 defense, similar to the defense Dean Pees will run in Atlanta. In New England, Harmon did everything well, but didn’t excel in any particular area. He has the intangibles the Falcons look for, such as leadership, being a team captain in Detroit and New England, and instincts on the field. His run-support as a free safety is elite, and it’s rare to have someone as reliable as Harmon against the run. His quick and accurate diagnosing skills help in this area, but they also help when he’s patrolling the backend. He will provide valuable mentorship for Richie Grant, and will get plenty of snaps in single-high, in the slot, and in the box this year.