The Falcons have several holes to fill after a dismal 2018 campaign. While the team will do everything in their power to improve the roster, the front office will have to play their cards right this offseason. Between the substantial amount of money tied up into veteran contracts, and the plethora of young core defenders that are on the verge of receiving new deals, there will not be a ton of money to spend in free agency. Here are a few players that are set to hit the market that could provide a tremendous amount of value for what they will cost.
Malcolm Brown, DT
Brown was drafted at No. 32 overall by the Patriots in 2015. The former All-American out of Texas was voted to the All-Rookie team by Pro Football Writers of America. The Patriots declined his fifth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Brown struggled in 2018, posting a run stop percentage of 8% (good for 26th in the NFL) and failed to record a sack or tackle for loss for the first time in his career. In 2017, however, he was much more productive. He posted a run-stop percentage of 11.1, ranking fourth among qualifying 4-3 defensive tackles and a run-defense rating of 88.6, standing 15th among all inside defenders. At just 24, Brown would be a run-stuffing option that could come with a lower price tag due to his poor production in a contract year.
Za’Darius Smith, EDGE
Smith was taken by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Although he only notched a total of ten sacks in his first three seasons, he broke out in a big way this past season. Smith recorded 8.5 sacks and 45 tackles to go along with a forced fumble. He also recorded 60 quarterback pressures – 17th in the league among edge rushers. Pro Football Focus ranked Smith as the most underrated free agent heading into the offseason, and at 27, he would be a fantastic pass rushing addition entering the prime of his career.
Mike Glowinski, OG
Glowinski was drafted by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the 2015 draft, and he was picked up by Indianapolis in 2017. Although he’s had some relative success, he could be considered a bit of a risk. He has yet to be a starting guard for an entire season but has been reliable in limited playing time. He played just over 50% of the Colts’ snaps last season, but most of that occurred during the Colts’ run of 8 wins in 9 games. He replaced Matt Slauson in week 5 and never looked back. At just 26 years old, he’s entering the prime of his career. The only problem is that because the Colts had such tremendous success, they may be willing to pay him whatever he wants given the absurd amount of cap space available in Indianapolis.
Kyle Love, DT
At 32 years of age, Love is the oldest player on this list. Despite that, he still has plenty to offer a team. Love has been an essential part of the Panthers’ defensive line since 2015. He posted 19 tackles and 1.5 sacks to go along with a team-leading three forced fumbles in 2018, earning a Pro Football Focus grade of 76.8 – the highest of his nine-year career. Love only had a $1.3 million cap hit last season, meaning he could be a cheap and talented rotational option.
Rodney Gunter, DT
Gunter is an intriguing prospect. He was a fourth-round pick by the Cardinals out of Delaware in 2015 and is just now coming into his own at 26 years old. He posted 4.5 sacks this past season – a career-high – and paired that with 44 combined tackles and nine quarterback hits. Gunter was one of the lone bright spots from the Arizona defensive line, especially as the season wore on. He earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 70.1, which ranked him as the 62nd overall interior linemen.