I expect the Falcons to clear some cap space in the coming weeks. They have to sign their draft class, but I also believe they’ll bring in at least one or two cheap veterans to add competition at positions of need — like the interior offensive line and cornerback. However, for the most part, free agency is over. The Falcons didn’t make any splashes. Instead, Terry Fontenot focused on low-priced veterans that could, at the very least, add depth where it was desperately needed.
For the sake of the length, I won’t be including free-agent acquisitions that likely won’t make the team (like TE Ryan Beckert) or guys who were brought in to be backups (i.e., A.J. McCarron). Instead, I will focus on the players who will enter training camp with the opportunity to compete for significant snaps come Week 1.
Linebacker is far from the Falcons’ most significant need. With Deion Jones, Foye Oluokun, and Mykal Walker in the fold, that unit will be just fine, but it still needed some depth, and Copeland can provide it. He’s also proven to have some versatility — a staple of Dean Pees’ defenses — recording five sacks, eight tackles for loss, and 14 QB hits off the edge for the Jets in 2018.
It’s safe to say Mingo never lived up to the billing of a sixth overall pick. Since recording five sacks as a rookie in Cleveland, he has yet to have more than 2.5 sacks in a single season. The Falcons desperately needed help on the EDGE, and Mingo will provide something, but it certainly won’t be enough to fix Atlanta’s pass-rushing woes unless Dean Pees can scheme up the pressure.
The Falcons entered the offseason in need of some help at the cornerback position. They didn’t make any splash signings, but Moreau is a quality veteran pickup that signed for cheap and can potentially start opposite of A.J. Terrell. That’s quite a leap of faith — the most games he has ever started in a season was ten back in 2018 — but I’m not sure what other options the Falcons have. Moreau received a 65.7 grade from PFF last season, the highest grade of his career.
4. Erik Harris
Erik Harris is a versatile chess piece that thrives near the line of scrimmage. I’m not sure he will start, but he’s an excellent option as a third safety and in nickel packages. Harris is also a terrific leader that has already been mentoring Richie Grant during workouts this offseason. He should provide more value than the $1.35 million the Falcons signed him for this offseason.
3. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson was one of the most expensive free-agent signings of the offseason, inking a one-year, $3 million deal, and I believe he’ll be worth every penny. He’s arguably the best kick returner in the league, making four Pro-Bowls for his special teams’ work. However, I’m most interested in seeing how Arthur Smith utilizes him offensively. He’s listed as a running back, and the coaches seem to think he will contribute significantly out of the backfield. At the very least, I expect Smith to find a ton of creative ways to get him the ball in space, making the most out of his explosive abilities.
2. Mike Davis
People are sleeping a bit on Mike Davis. He was the only free agent Terry Fontenot signed for multiple years, inking a two-year, $5.5 million deal to return to his hometown. The Stone Mountain product is a perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s scheme and thrives in all three phases of the game — running, receiving, and blocking. I fully expect him to grab hold of the job as the starting running back and run (no pun intended) with it.
In 2018, Davis ran for over 500 yards on 112 carries, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, behind a questionable Seahawks offensive line. Last season, he took over as the starting running back in Carolina after Cristian McCaffery went down with multiple injuries. Those aren’t easy shoes to fill, but Davis made the transition somewhat seamless for the Panthers, rushing for 642 yards and recording 373 more on 59 receptions. He also reached the endzone eight times. Look for Davis to add plenty of juice to Atlanta’s offensive attack.
1. Duron Harmon
The Falcons didn’t have much money to spend, but this was a home run free agent signing for several reasons. Safety was one of the Falcons’ biggest needs coming into the offseason, he’s a team leader that was a captain on both the Patriots and the Lions, and he accepted a deal for the veteran minimum. Dean Pees will relish having a versatile safety like Harmon at the back-end of his defense, and Harmon will be an excellent mentor for rookie Richie Grant. This will likely be the Falcons’ most impactful signing of the offseason — both on the field and in the locker room.