This is one of the most contentious times of the year for football fans of all stripes, owing primarily to the incomplete offseasons and the looming NFL Draft. In between free agency and the incoming rookie class, there's plenty of chances to speculate, argue and worry about whether the Falcons are in the process of dropping the ball as we speak.
All of this is natural, even if it tends to bring our the combative spirit in all of us. As is my habit this time of year, though, I need to sound a cautionary note with one particular offseason meme. That would be the idea that signing Player X rules out the acquisition of Player Y.
On one hand, this is an understandable and sometimes correct impulse. Signing Jon Asamoah means the Falcons are not going to head into the draft with an urgent need for a day one starter at guard, and the acquisition of Devin Hester means the Falcons aren't necessarily going to sink an asset into a returner. That's common sense, and there's nothing wrong with pointing that out.
The issue is when we look at the potential signing of Rafael Bush and decide that the Falcons won't draft a safety, or when we take the 3-4 talk to mean that ends you or I might consider traditional 4-3 fits are no longer on the table in May. It's worth remembering, however, that there are a handful of potentially elite safety prospects available in this draft, and that the Falcons will still run mixed fronts throughout the 2014 season and beyond. The moves the Falcons have made to this point give them options—and in Bush's case, a likely starter if they can't or don't go free safety early—but should not be taken as an excuse to apply whiteout to your draft board.
Simply put, the Falcons can't afford to rule out much. Even with the upgrades they've made to this roster thus far, there are positions across the board that could stand an upgrade, even if that upgrade winds up taking the form of quality depth.
We've been surprised before, and more than once it has been because we believed the Falcons had already addressed the position in question, as was the case with Robert Alford a year ago. Keep that in mind and you may be less surprised on draft day.