We're still a week away from the free agent market opening for business, and already some big-name free agents have been franchised or re-signed.
It's inevitable that with the deadline approaching, teams would be tripping all over themselves to lock up their stars. The Texans just signed Arian Foster to a long-term deal, for example. The cash-strapped Steelers have put a first-round tender on Mike Wallace and now must pray he doesn't get snapped up. It's inevitable, and it thins out the market for teams looking to land a big fish.
You know, teams like the Falcons.
The two that stood out for this Falcons fan were Michael Griffin and Robert Mathis. Griffin, a 27-year-old safety for the Tennessee Titans, was franchised on Tuesday. He was a potential replacement for Thomas DeCoud if the Falcons couldn't lock him up, but not now. Given the dearth of high-impact free safeties on the market today, I'd prefer the Falcons just brought DeCoud back.
Mathis is ultimately a little more impactful. We know the Falcons will be in the market for a pass rusher unless John Abraham's demands are, at minimum, cut in half. We also know there are only a handful of truly terrific pass rushers in this market, with Mario Williams and Mathis being arguably the two best. Now that Mathis got the franchise tag, that leaves Williams, and there's going to be a massive bidding war for his services that the Falcons probably can't win. Still, he'd obviously solve most of their pass rushing woes in a real hurry.
Where does this leave the Falcons? Looking at alternatives, basically. Guys like Jeremy Mincey of the Jaguars are lower-upside picks that could contribute to a rotation, which might work out for the Falcons if they think they can get production out of young ends like Lawrence Sidbury and Cliff Matthews. If not, there's really not a lot out there in the open market. The Falcons may be best off getting another rotation guy and drafting a high-upside pass rusher and trying to build a quality stable of ends. It's not ideal, though.
If they lose DeCoud, on the other hand, they may want to try out James Sanders as a starter (less than optimal) or draft an aggressive safety like Harrison Smith. Again, it's probably best just to keep DeCoud.