The 2014 Atlanta Falcons have a 53 man roster, but it's far from a final roster. This is a team with a strong desire to contend this year, which means they shouldn't hesitate to look for upgrades wherever possible.
Right now, the team has a few reserves who could still be cut to make way for a signing or two. With what looks to be an average or worse pass rush, an offensive line with a couple of young but relatively unproven reserves and a few question marks at safety and linebacker in general,
Here's a short list of players who might be able to help, and may be on the Falcons' radar. Please add your top choices to the list by commenting below.
S Duke Ihenacho
A special teams whiz and solid safety who started 14 regular season games for the Broncos just a year ago, Ihenacho was released despite being fairly talented and just 25 years old. Given the Falcons' real safety concerns, Ihenacho could at at least be a useful reserve and a Keith Armstrong favorite in 2014. If Dwight Lowery went down, he'd have a chance to take the starting job, and certainly if he signs on a multi-year deal, an opportunity to compete with Dezmen Southward in 2015.
If Ihenacho gets a nice contract or the promise of a starting job elsewhere, this one probably doesn't materialize. The fit is excellent, however.
S C.J. Spillman
A fallback for Ihenacho. The 28-year-old Spillman drew rave reviews for his special teams work in San Francisco, and that's chiefly what he would be in Atlanta. If the Falcons are still concerned about their ST units after keeping Eric Weems, Courtney Roby and Tim Dobbins around, Spillman's a real option. If they're looking for someone who can be a real asset on defense, they should probably look elsewhere.
DE Michael Sam
Sam lit it up this preseason, picking up multiple sacks and flashing the motor that made him such an effective collegiate player. Unfortunately, his good work was against backups, and Sam found himself waived by the Rams, with a shot of landing on their practice squad.
Sam's upside isn't a known quantity, but the Falcons still desperately need pass rushing help and Sam may be able to offer it. Tyler Starr is currently on the roster and offers intriguing long-term potential, but I'd argue that Sam looks like he's further along the curve at the moment. If you can spare Cliff Matthews, Starr or even Tim Dobbins, Sam's a logical addition.
C/G A.Q. Shipley
The Falcons currently have Peter Konz, James Stone and perhaps Gabe Carimi offering interior depth on this offensive line, and only Konz and Stone at center. That's enough to make you nervous no matter how much you like Stone.
Shipley's not a great player, but he was a nine game starter for the Ravens a year ago, offers some positional versatility and should come cheap. If the Falcons decide they're not comfortable with what they've got, Shipley makes sense.
T Eric Winston
Winston has been a durable, largely effective tackle for a long while now, though he ideally works in zone blocking schemes. He's bounced around the NFL the last couple of years and just found himself chopped by the Seahawks, though, and it looks like he's hitting his decline phase a little early at the age of 29.
For all that, the Falcons currently have Lamar Holmes starting at right tackle, with Carimi and Ryan Schraeder as his primary backups. That's not a terrible group by any stretch of the imagination, but if the Falcons think Winston's got a lot left in the tank, he's useful as a backup at minimum.
DT Jerel Worthy
A big 24-year-old tackle, Worthy is just 24 and cashed in a nice little rookie season for the Packers back in 2012. Injuries and ineffectiveness ruined his 2013 campaign, the Patriots traded for him and decided to cut him. A former second-round draft choice, Worthy does appear to have the talent to be at least a rotational tackle in the NFL.
The Falcons appear reasonably loaded up front, but a guy like Worthy could be a nice practice squad stash, at minimum.
DE/OLB Dontay Moch
Again, the Falcons are shopping for pass rushers. Moch was once a deeply intriguing option who has disappointed during his short NFL career. At just 26, he is young enough to still turn his career around, and the Falcons lack options. A guy like Moch could well be worth a look.
K Maikon Bonani
If you're going to use one of your practice squad spots to stash a kicker, you could do worse than Bonani. He had accuracy issues this preseason but has a booming leg and is coming into the league as a rookie, and I could see him developing into a nice option if Matt Bryant walks away heading into 2015.
G Garrett Reynolds
Just kidding, you guys!
Who are your favorites?