UPDATE: Eagles reportedly sign Jason Babin to a five-year deal. Another one down.
That's the multi-million dollar question, given that Charles Johnson has signed a crazy expensive deal with the Panthers that is probably going to jack up the price of every free agent defensive end out there. So awesome.
That doesn't mean there aren't options out there, if the Falcons do want to sign someone to draw significant snaps outside. In fact, there's three legitimate starting options out there, even with CJ entirely off the market. As you might expect, I'm prepared to run those options down right now.
Head over the jump and I'll give you my list. Make sure to follow it up with your own.
Ray Edwards. The big free agent rumor earlier in the year, Edwards once seemed like a mortal lock. That's not longer true.
The Falcons are certainly still considering Edwards, but what's problematic is that Edwards perceives his value as being comparable to Charles Johnson. That means he's likely to seek a deal that would wildly overpay him, even though he's unquestionably the most consistent pass rusher available now.
The problem with Edwards is that he can be a bit of a diva, will cost a lot and is likely to be heavily pursued by at least one other team, namely the Eagles. The Falcons are probably still in the process of kicking the tires of Edwards, but I don't expect him to land in Atlanta.
I do think, still, that he'd be a nice fit. He's a very consistent pass rusher, if not truly elite.
Jason Babin. Babin is 31 years old and has only had one great season through eight years in the NFL. That great year was last year, though, and he posted 12.5 sacks.
That's the fundamental conundrum with Babin, a quality player who in my opinion isn't likely to be a significant upgrade over Kroy Biermann. There's a tendency to ascribe continuing success to guys coming off a breakout season, but Babin is on the wrong side of 30 and showed no signs of elite skill before now.
I would like Babin at a reasonable price, because he could be part of a great three man rotation, and eventually take over for John Abraham. But I don't think he's worth an enormous deal, and I fear his great 2010 might get him overpaid.
Mathias Kiwanuka. In many ways, the most cost-effective signing, but also the one with the most potential to be a total bust. Kiwanuka has battled injuries and has never posted double digit sacks, despite being 28 years old. He is not, in short, an elite option.
He may be the most likely, given his ability to be a complementary piece and a potential starter, and his relatively low cost. Kiwanuka is going to be looked at somewhere along the line. I guarantee that.
Nobody. The Falcons could just, you know, not sign anybody. Radical idea, I know.
I'm not expecting widespread agreement with my thesis here, but I do think that Abe's got a good year left in him and Biermann is bound to improve his sack totals this season. Add in Jamaal Anderson's run-stopping ability, Cliff Matthews' promise and Chauncey Davis' average averageness and you've got a decent rotation there. If the Falcons didn't sign anyone, I'd be comfortable enough.
That said, a complementary piece still makes a lot of sense to me. This is, as you might expect, the option of last resort.