When you look at how poorly the Falcons fared in 2014, factor in the retirement of Tony Gonzalez and the season-ending injury to Sean Weatherspoon, and then add in some unproven new players and the failure to add a true pass rusher this offseason, it's easy to understand why many fans are not optimistic heading into the 2014 season. Chris Burke at SportsIllustrated.com has a great overview of Atlanta's offseason, and he graded their efforts to improve the team pretty highly.
The article is worth a read for all of the details. Burke identifies Atlanta's Jake Matthews as Atlanta's best offseason acquisition, and I would tend to agree. Burke also says that, aside from Tony Gonzalez, Sean Weatherspoon is the team's greatest loss this offseason. The Falcons did add a bunch of young linebackers this offseason, as well as veteran Tim Dobbins, but losing Spoon is still a big blow to the defense.
Burke also singles out Devonta Freeman as Atlanta's underrated draft pick in 2014. With Mike Smith's recent comments about Freeman's development as a pass blocker coupled with Steven Jackson's disappointing 2013 and age, Freeman may get a chance to really contribute this season. Burke says that the position to watch during training camp is the tight end position. While I'm interested in seeing how the depth chart shakes out defensively at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and nickel back, Burke is correct that the tight end position without Gonzalez is somewhat of an unknown. Gonzalez's production cannot be replaced by anyone currently on the depth chart, and I don't expect the Falcons to even try to do that, but it will be interesting to see how they utilize Levine Toilolo in the offense as well as how Bear Pascoe, Mickey Shuler, or possibly undrafted free agent rookie Jacob Pedersen fit into the picture for Atlanta.
Overall, Burke gave the Falcons a B+, and I'm inclined to agree. What do you think about Burke's observations, and what grade would you give Atlanta's offseason overall?