As free agency hits the middle of its second week, the Falcons remain quiet following the acquisition of superstar running back Steven Jackson. Odds are the former St. Louis Ram will go down as the only high-profile move for Atlanta this off-season, but that doesn't mean Thomas Dimitroff's work is close to done.
With the return of Tony Gonzalez and the signing of Jackson, the Falcons offense is poised to remain one of the most lethal units in the NFL, and perhaps the best in franchise history. That said, the defense remains somewhat of a project, and with the losses of some key members, Mike Nolan's crew still needs a significant face lift before the 2013 campaign begins.
Now that Dunta Robinson is gone and Brent Grimes is up for grabs as an unrestricted free agent, Atlanta has a glaring hole at corner back opposite Asante Samuel. GM Thomas Dimitroff has plenty of different routes he can take to fill the vacancy, some of which will be easier than others.
Could Grimes Still Return?
Bringing back Grimes remains a possibility, but the Falcons can only afford to give him so much money. While the Shippensburg alum's value has dipped due to the Achilles injury that cost him the 2012 season, he'll still receive some attractive offers that may or may not be out of Atlanta's range. Grimes has already met with Tampa Bay, Miami and Cleveland, and could be off the market any day now.
As Pat Yasinskas said earlier in the month:
They have Samuel as a solid No. 2 cornerback and Robert McClain was very dependable as the No. 3 cornerback. With Grimes, Samuel and McClain, the Falcons can be just fine at cornerback.
Of course, they have to go ahead and re-sign Grimes to make it all work.
If Grimes can be had for a reasonable cost, bringing him back would make a lot of sense. Between him, Samuel, Thomas DeCoud and William Moore, the Falcons would have a very well-established, experienced defensive backfield in the fold. The Falcons broke into the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game last year (242.4), and the aforementioned foursome could very well bring the team to an even higher level in this category.
Still, given the team's limited cap space, it seems likely that Grimes will depart.
Looking at Potential Draft Picks
If Grimes chooses to head elsewhere, Dimitroff might have to go a more youthful route. The Falcons should be targeting corners in the upcoming draft -- likely in the first three rounds -- though a rookie probably won't be the answer for a starting role.
Desmond Trufant would be an interesting selection in the first round, and if we're looking beyond the Top 30, David Amerson would make a lot of sense in the second. Still, it's hard to imagine that either of those two -- or any first-year CB, for that matter -- could make the kind of impact a healthy, skilled veteran would.
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What About a Trade?
After being awarded four compensatory picks, the Falcons now possess 11 selections in the upcoming NFL Draft. If Dimitroff was inclined to trade some of these picks for players that could immediately be plugged into starter roles, he may pull the trigger.
While dealing Darrell Revis is out of the question, the Falcons could surely find a way to swing a deal for a corner if they are so inclined.
Another option would be to bring in another free agent, but it appears the quality players on the market will be commanding more than the Falcons may be able to spend:
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In addition to cornerback, the Falcons' defensive line needs quite a bit of work, as well. Next week, we'll take a look Atlanta's current D-line situation and how they can improve in the trenches.