It is true that 2014 NFL free agency doesn't formally open until March 11, but 2014 Falcons free agency begins today. The Falcons will have the ability to talk contracts with any and all agents for impending free agents starting at 12 p.m., so they can get a jump start on the inevitable market flooding that begins Tuesday.
This is an exciting, uncertain time for Falcons fans, and we all want to know what direction the team will head in once they're able to start legally tampering. It's woeth remembering that agents can talk numbers but can't agree to a contract formally, and that teams can't talk directly to players until March 11. Here's a rundown on cap space, in-house free agents, top needs and potential priority signings from your friends at The Falcoholic.
2014 NFL Salary Cap: $133 million
2014 Falcons Cap Space: $26.7 million
The Falcons have the potential to free up over $6 million in additional cap space if they elect to cut Thomas DeCoud and part ways with Osi Umenyiora. If Umenyiora accepts the pay cut the Falcons have proposed, it'll likely be closer to $5 million. Either way, they're sitting on $30-plus million dollars, so they can be as active in free agency as they care to be.
Free Agent List
Chase Coffman, TE
Sean Locklear, OL
Jeremy Trueblood, OL
Joe Hawley, OL
Mike Johnson, OL
Jonathan Babineaux, DT
Peria Jerry, DT
Omar Gaither, LB
Dominique Franks, CB
Robert McClain, CB (Restricted)
Drew Davis, WR (Exclusive Rights)
Kevin Cone, WR (Exclusive Rights)
Bolded players are the ones I believe the Falcons have the best chance of re-signing. It's a short list, as you can see.
Offensive Line: The Falcons desperately need an upgrade at right guard. If they're interested in making a splash and don't believe Peter Konz and Lamar Holmes are going to grow into competent starters, they could be actively sniffing around for quality centers and tackles, as well.
Defensive Line: The Falcons could stand to add an impact defensive end. The heaviest need is at defensive tackle, where a recuperating Corey Peters, Travian Robertson and Adam Replogle are the only three guys are under contract.
Tight End: Vaughn McClure of ESPN believes the Falcons will stand pat with Levine Toilolo as a starter, and I agree. They lack any semblance of depth at the position and need to go shopping, however.
Safety: Whether you're looking to an impact player or simply a more consistent one, the Falcons must add a starting-caliber safety to the mix for 2014. Must.
Cornerback: The Falcons are reportedly in the market for a nickel cornerback and need depth at the position.
Running Back: If a young, capable back becomes available in free agency, they could elect to take a shot, though I believe the position will more likely be addressed through the draft.
Quarterback: Veteran backups. Anyone seen Rojohombre?
Geoff Schwartz: Arguably the best guard in the class and a huge upgrade for a basically empty right guard job.
Jon Asamoah: Some questions about his strength and fit in a traditional blocking scheme, but a quality player with a history of production as a starter who would slot in naturally at right guard.
Willie Colon: A 16 game starter for the Jets in 2013 who showed well in pass protection and can likely be had cheap as he recovers from a late season injury.
Uche Nwaneri: Nobody's idea of an exciting signing, Nwaneri is a capable pass blocker and middling run blocker at this stage of his career. Still an upgrade at right guard.
Alex Mack: A pipe dream, but the Falcons could technically throw a ton of money at Mack, have the Browns refuse to match and come away with one of the league's best centers. Not likely.
Branden Albert: I'm putting him here because so, so many fans would like to see him, or at the very least Eugene Monroe. The Falcons are extremely unlikely to pursue an expensive veteran tackle, but never say never, I suppose.
Michael Johnson: A run-stopping force who happens to be one of the better complementary pass rushers working today. He'd be an excellent fit in Atlanta, though expecting 10 sacks per season from him would likely be a stretch.
Linval Joseph: An impact defensive tackle. That's all you need to know.
Lamarr Houston: Intriguing because of his ability to move around from end to tackle, a la Jonathan Babineaux. Houston has never had stellar production, but he's a fine player who would fit in well with what Mike Nolan likes to do on defense.
Vance Walker: An above average pass rusher from the middle of the line and someone quite familiar with the Falcons. Bring him home, TD!
Tyson Jackson: Never a hugely productive pass rusher, but stone solid against the run and very familiar to Scott Pioli. Can take some snaps in the middle of the line, if necessary.
Michael Bennett: It would take a sizable contract to pry him away from Seattle, but Bennett is one of the best pass rushers on the open market.
Paul Soliai: Known to Mike Nolan, a huge nose tackle who can plug up the middle. The Falcons haven't had one of those in a few years.
Jairus Byrd: One of the best free agents on the market, Byrd is a free safety who excels in nearly every facet of the game. He won't be cheap, but he will be a target.
Louis Delmas: If Byrd falls through, look for the Falcons to possibly roll the dice with Delmas. His knee will always be a concern, but when healthy he's a fine player.
Champ Bailey: Can't see it, but there's been enough smoke to at least consider the possibility that Bailey comes home to Georgia as a nickel or backup cornerback for the Falcons.