Should the Falcons give out big money to a safety in free agency?

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I think safeties are a dime a dozen — especially box safeties. While it’s important to have talented back-end players in today’s pass-happy NFL, there are plenty of gifted options all over the league. However, you can’t deny that this free agency class is insanely loaded at the position. Atlanta can scrounge up a decent amount of cash, so the question becomes, do the Falcons have too many holes to sign a name on this list? It’s certainly a need, as Atlanta could be losing all three of Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Ricardo Allen. Projected contracts are via PFF projections.

Marcus Maye

Projected Contract: Four years, $60 million

Maye was one of the best safeties in the entire NFL in 2020, even on an abysmal Jets team. After Jamal Adams was traded, Maye began moving all over the field like a chess piece. He provided valuable support in the run game and was pretty solid as a slot corner. That’s just icing on the cake when you’re that excellent of a high safety.

John Johnson III

Projected Contract: Four years, $52 million

JJ3 is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, and PFF expects him to be handsomely rewarded for his efforts. Like Maye, Johnson is stout against the run, but he is truly elite in coverage — and has been for three years in a row.

Marcus Williams

Projected Contract: Four years, $57 million

Old friend Terry Fontenot on line one. Marcus Williams is an elite “centerfield” high safety. He’s no slouch in the run game either, and though he let Stefon Diggs roast him in the playoffs for the Minneapolis Miracle, Williams will receive a substantial contract somewhere — he is exceptionally talented.

Anthony Harris

Projected Contract: Four years, $56 million

Anthony Harris will be worth this money and then some. $14 million per season is insanely expensive for a safety, but he is a smart, lockdown defensive back. Harris has incredible ball skills as well and is always making a play on his side of the field. He took a step back in 2020, but in 2019 he was arguably the most complete cover guy at any position in the NFL.

Justin Simmons

Projected Contract: Five years, $82.5 million

As with Harris, Simmons didn’t have his best 2020, but he is a rare hybrid of a free safety, featuring incredible ball skills while also being stout against the run — which gives him the edge over Harris for me. $16.5 million would eat up around half of what Atlanta will likely have available to spend, but if Simmons plays as he did in 2019, he would be worth every single penny.

While I like all of these guys, I don’t think investing over $12 million in the position is a wise move. This is a pretty deep class featuring Trevon Moehrig, Jevon Holland, Andre Cisco, Paris Ford, and others. I wrote about how I like Malik Hooker in free agency — he could be a cheap lottery ticket for a fraction of the cost at $2 million per season. Even Desmond King is projected to clock in around $5.8 million AAV, albeit as a slot corner with safety capabilities. Sadly, I think the Falcons have way too little money and much bigger needs to go all-in on any of these guys.

Photo: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire

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