The Falcons are bristling with firepower on offense to a degree that's almost absurd. They have Steven Jackson coming in, re-signed Sam Baker and Garrett Reynolds and have Tony Gonzalez coming back. Inevitably, our eyes turn to the defense.
While the Falcons could use a little help everywhere, pass rusher remains the biggest need. Paul Kruger, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are already off the market, which means the Falcons either have to solve all their problems in the draft or find someone useful in free agency. Today, we're going to look at the latter.
Freeney is slowing down a bit, but he's still an efficient pass rusher and as close to a full-time player as you'll find on the open market. Like Steven Jackson, he may only be a useful player for another year or two, and I'm not sure how useful he's going to be if the Falcons trot out a lot of 3-4 fronts. But he's still a useful player.
Umenyiora is more of a part-time player at this stage of his career, but he can still bring the heat from the edge. If the Falcons are solely looking for a pass rush boost, they could do worse than Osi, but he would not be my first choice.
Has one seven sack season to his name, but this is more upside than anything. Shaughnessy is just 26 years old and has displayed flashes of excellence, but has never put together anything resembling a dominant season. He's stout against the run and just started 16 games a year ago, so if he comes cheap, he's someone I'd be interested in.
A better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, but Phillips has a pedigree as a pass rusher and just put up 9.5 a year ago, the highest total you'll find among these first four names. He's also 32 years old, so we have the same concerns about his productivity going forward as we would with Freeney or Umenyiora. An awfully productive player, though, and someone who would be perfect for that 3-4 front.
The longer his market takes to develop, the better the chances that the Falcons bring him back on a dirt cheap one or two year deal. Abe just posted 10 sacks a year ago and knows the system as well as anybody, but he plays under 50% of the snaps and isn't an asset in the run game. I'd still welcome him back.
Again, primarily intriguing if the Falcons are trotting out a lot of 3-4 looks, Butler is just 25 and showed flashes of brilliance for the Cowboys. The Saints appear interested, so this would kill two birds with one stone.
This one's a wild card. Dumervil is my favorite of these options, a proven pass rusher who has been very successful for Denver. He also is currently under contract, mulling taking a pay cut that would keep him with the Broncos. If he doesn't, they're likely to let him go loose, where he'd be an excellent option for the Falcons.
Who's your top choice, and who are we missing?