Free agency is going to start heating up sooner rather than later. The Falcons will trim their cap and start sniffing around for reasonably priced help on the open market, and we want to keep you up to date on all of it.
Part of understanding how this off-season will unfold lies in understand where the team's needs are, though. To that end, I've compiled a list of the six top roster needs for the Falcons in the year ahead. Whether they address them through free agency, trade or the draft won't be addressed here, but we'll be talking about that a lot more in the weeks ahead.
Without further ado, I present my list.
Michael Turner is all but gone. Jacquizz Rodgers is a useful player who can handle a good workload, but probably not a full one. Jason Snelling is a quality pass-catcher and sometimes runner who is prized for his versatility, but isn't a back the team is suddenly going to give a couple hundred carries to. The Falcons need a young back who can join Rodgers and help carry the load.
This is a depth issue. The Falcons are not 100% to bring Harry Douglas back or continue to use him as a third receiver. We don't know how much confidence they have in Drew Davis and Kevin Cone. Picking up a promising young wide receiving who can add something behind Roddy White and Julio Jones would be great.
Even if the Falcons lure Tony Gonzalez back with the promise of all the wheat germ he can devour, they still need a tight end to groom for the future. Michael Palmer is a solid backup and Chase Coffman has enough promise that he's worth keeping around and might even get a crack at starter's reps, but the team could still use more depth. If Gonzo doesn't return, they need to bring in more talent.
Even if you assume that Jonathan Massaquoi comes on strong in 2013 and Cliff Matthews continues to improve, the Falcons need help here. John Abraham is getting older, Kroy Biermann is extremely useful but not an elite pass rusher and Lawrence Sidbury is on his way out. The Falcons have to look at adding a pass rusher. If they switch to a 3-4, though, they'll want....
They want one anyways. The Falcons are perilously thin behind the starters here, not everyone is sold on Akeem Dent and a lot of fans and analysts have soured on Stephen Nicholas. There may actually be less depth here than any other position on the roster, and the Falcons will undoubtedly sink a pick or two into young linebackers.
It sounds crazy, but this is likely to be a position of need unless the Falcons bring everyone back, which seems virtually impossible. Dunta Robinson could be cut given his cap hit, Brent Grimes and Chris Owens are free agents and Dominique Franks hasn't shown much. That leaves Asante Samuel and Robert McClain as the only two sure things there.
What does your list look like?