Cornerback doesn't jump immediately to mind as a need for this Falcons team, which is a credit to Desmond Trufant and his sorcerous powers in coverage. Yet it remains a need.
The Falcons head into 2015 with just Trufant, Robert Alford and Ricardo Allen under contract. Alford may stack up as the team's corner opposite Trufant and Allen may yet be an asset for this team, but there's not enough depth here, and it's fair to wonder if there's enough talent beyond Alford and particularly Trufant.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some potential free agent targets for the Falcons, and one familiar name who will likely not land here.
The crown jewel of the free agent class, Maxwell is a big, rangy cornerback who picked six passes each of the last two seasons. Playing with the Seattle defense in front of him makes all the difference in the world, of course, but Maxwell is just 26-year-olds and would seem an ideal fit for Dan Quinn's defense, given that he played the last two seasons in it.
The issues with Maxwell is cost, given that the Falcons aren't particularly likely to make cornerback their top free agency priority, and the best corner on the market will not come cheap. He could well be worth every penny.
He may not be as athletically gifted as he once was, but Cromartie remains as consistent a cornerback as you could hope to find. He's had at least three interceptions and nine pass deflections in each of the last six seasons, which is a testament to his aggressive coverage and talent. Chances are you can get Cromartie for much less than Maxwell, and while he's older, he is nonetheless a strong fit for almost any defense.
Flowers is one of the big names of the free agent class, which is why I list him. But the 5'9" Flowers is not an ideal fit for any scheme that calls for press coverage, and it's likely Dan Quinn's scheme in Atlanta will do so. Don't look for him in Atlanta.
Jackson has had mixed success in Houston, but has consistently started for the Texans and has put together fine 2012 and 2014 seasons sandwiching a mediocre 2013. He doesn't have ideal size or physical tools, but he is a competent cornerback who should fit nearly any system, and should command a nice contract from someone. He'd be my third or fourth choice for the Falcons.
Wilson has proven virtually useless outside in his NFL career, making him a major disappointing as the Jets' former first round pick. The 27-year-old has fared better in the slot, however, and is a sure tackler no matter where he plays. His draft status has ensured that he's considered a disappointment, and he could well be a strong, low-cost signing for the Falcons as the team's fourth cornerback.
McClain had a wonderful 2012 season, and was a core player on the defense that year. In the two seasons since then, McClain has swung between being merely average and an active liability in coverage, even as he managed a couple of interceptions and several pass deflections in 2014.
Wilson was the textbook definition of average in 2014, and for the Falcons. He's not young, but he'll likely be reasonably priced once more and could return to the team to fill out the depth chart.
Which cornerback on this list would you sign?