To date, the Falcons have had an exciting off-season on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side, they've been curiously quiet.
Aside from defensive end, no position has received more scrutiny than cornerback, and deservedly so. The Falcons currently have three known quantities under contract and a couple of other options in the mix. Here they are:
- Asante Samuel, an aging but still effective cornerback
- Robert McClain, a surprise breakout a year ago who profiles as a very good nickel back
- Dominique Franks, who looks more and more like a long-term backup and special teamer
- Terrance Johnson, who the team seems to like but is an unknown quantity to most of us
- Peyton Thompson, a practice squad guy with some upside
That's not going to strike fear into anyone. Even if you assume the Falcons would be content trotting McClain out as the second cornerback—don't totally rule that out, by the way—their nickel situation today is dicey. Maybe Johnson or Thompson can step in and play well next year, but it doesn't seem like the likeliest outcome.
The potential answers here are manifold. The Falcons could try to re-sign Brent Grimes, but he appears determined to get as much money as possible on the open market and the Falcons may not be willing to give him much. Chris Owens could return and man the nickel, but the Falcons haven't indicated one way or the other whether they're all that interested. There's a few talented but flawed options on the open market. It's also a deep draft with some quality options.
Any way you slice it, the Falcons probably don't stand pat with that depth chart. There's some young promise there in Thompson, Johnson and (yes) even Franks, but Nolan uses a ton of nickel packages and will need three quality cornerbacks to execute on that. I think they have more faith in their own players than most of us realize, but given relative cap limitations and the depth of the draft class this year, I have to think they'll look to grab a corner early. If they do that, bring Owens back and let Johnson/Franks/Thompson shake out, they'd be in pretty good shape.
Don't be surprised if the Falcons choose to stay young after Sameul, either way. What are your thoughts on the depth chart?