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Falcons vs. Saints: A Look At Key Roster Additions And Subtractions

How the Falcons and Saints got better and worse in 2014.


The Falcons underwent a major roster overhaul this offseason, while the team they're playing Sunday made a handful of key changes. The difference between the two teams' 2013 records should tell you why.

With the game looming, I wanted to take a look at key additions and subtractions for the Falcons and Saints and deliver a quick verdict on whether each roster improved heading into 2014. I expect you know my answer for Atlanta, but read on, nonetheless.

Atlanta Falcons

Key Additions

QB T.J. Yates (Trade)
RB Devonta Freeman (R)
WR/KR/PR Devin Hester
TE Bear Pascoe (FA)
LT Jake Matthews (R)
RG Jon Asamoah (FA)
G/T Gabe Carimi (FA)

DE/DT Tyson Jackson (FA)
NT Paul Soliai (FA)
DE/DT Ra'Shede Hageman (R)
ILB Prince Shembo (R)
CB Josh Wilson (FA)
CB Javier Arenas (FA)
S Dwight Lowery (FA)
DL Coach Bryan Cox
OL Coach Mike Tice
Assistant GM Scott Pioli

A glance over this list will give you an idea of the Falcons' priorities heading into 2014. The team wanted to add talent and size on the offensive and defensive line, improve their special teams units, adds young defensive talent and give themselves veteran insurance at quarterback. They also clearly wanted to overhaul the secondary a bit, and while that's more of a mixed bag, they certainly made real changes.

Don't understate the additions of Tice and Cox, two fiery coaches who seem to be getting more out of their players than their predecessors already. I don't know exactly how much credit to give Pioli, but it's hard to argue that he didn't influence the team's approach on the lines.

Guys like Soliai, Hageman, Asamoah, Matthews, Lowery and Hester could potentially be huge additions to this team, while Jackson, Shembo, Carimi, Wilson/Arenas and Freeman should be contributors. This isn't a truly great roster by any stretch of the imagination, but it's greatly improved from a year ago. Let's look at who the Falcons lost.

Key Subtractions

RB Jason Snelling (Retired)
WR Darius Johnson (Retired)
TE Tony Gonzalez (Retired)
RG Garrett Reynolds (Cut)
RT Jeremy Trueblood (Left)
LB Stephen Nicholas (Cut)
LB Akeem Dent (Traded) 
CB Asante Samuel (Cut)
S Thomas DeCoud (Cut)

Gonzalez dwarfs every other name on this list. The Falcons have lost one of their most effective offensive dimensions without him, and will need to lean more heavily on their wide receivers going forward. Samuel was playing fine and Snelling was an insanely useful back-of-all-trades, but neither are irreplaceable. Losing Trueblood, Reynolds and DeCoud and replacing them with Jon Asamoah, Lamar Holmes and Dwight Lowery probably yields an upgrade.

On Balance: The Falcons look like an improved football team. Whether that improvement translates to 6 wins, 8 wins, 10 wins or more remains to be seen, but it's tough to argue that they're worse off than they were during a dismal 2013 season.

New Orleans Saints

Key Additions

QB Luke McCown (FA)
FB Erik Lorig (FA)
WR Brandin Cooks (R)
C Jonathan Goodwin (FA)
ILB Khairi Fortt (R)

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (R)
S Jairus Byrd (FA)

The Saints were the better team in 2013, so it stands to reason that they would have fewer signings and coaching staff turnover than the Falcons. By and large, the ones they did have were impactful.

Goodwin gives the team an effective starting center, albeit an aging one. Byrd gives an already terrific safety group a massive boost, and New Orleans now probably has one of the three best safety tandems in football. Lorig is a powerful blocker for a multi-dimensional ground game, while Cooks gives Drew Brees another speedy, dangerous weapon. Jean-Baptiste could be a very effective starting cornerback down the line, while Fortt should help shore up a linebacking corps in need of real depth.

Aside from Byrd, Goodwin and Cooks, none of these guys are hugely impactful, but the Saints already have one of the NFC's better roster. It's tough to argue they didn't make key improvements, as sad as I am to say that.

Key Subtractions

RB Darren Sproles (Traded)
WR Lance Moore (Cut)
DE Will Smith (Cut)
LB Victor Butler (Cut) 
CB Jabari Greer (Cut)
CB Malcolm Jenkins (Cut)
S Roman Harper (Cut)

The Saints never got anything out of Victor Butler, but he certainly had pass rushing potential. Ditto Champ Bailey, who I didn't include on this list because he was an addition and then a subtraction.

What strikes you here is cornerback. Saints fans were not fond of Jenkins and not particularly fond of Greer, but the team's cornerback corps looks middling beyond #1 Keenan Lewis. The Saints have plenty of useful backs, but losing Sproles takes away a dimension to the offense that made them even more difficult to scheme for. All in all, these losses are far from crippling, but it is fair to wonder how much the Saints' safeties and adept front seven will need cover for their cornerbacks this season.

Bottom Line: The Saints are probably a tick better than they were a year ago, when they went 11-5 and advanced in the playoffs, and they certainly don't figure to be significantly worse. We'll hope for regression on defense and a sharp decline from Brees on the other side of the ball.

Your thoughts on these two rosters?