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Falcons likely to chase free agent pass rushers, may look at second tier

There's a growing chorus of reports and rumors indicating that the Falcons will tackle their most pressing need through free agency.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons need pass rushers like you and I need oxygen. That's been obvious for years, but rarely addressed, so skepticism is always warranted when we're talking about the team acquiring more of them.

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the latest to chime in on this front, joining Vaughn McClure of ESPN and Knox Bardeen of FOX Sports in predicting that the Falcons will use free agency to acquire at least one pass rusher. The question becomes what will be available, and DOL names Jerry Hughes, Brian Orakpo, Jason Pierre-Paul and Adrian Clayborn as potential targets.

As The DW wrote this morning, teams with these pass rushers are understandably hellbent on keeping them, with Jerry Hughes, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul all likely to be franchise tagged before they can make it to the open market. That leaves an appealing but not elite second class of guys like the Ravens' Pernell McPhee ( who McClure likes for Atlanta), the Eagles' Brandon Graham and the Steelers' Jason Worilds to serve as the best ones available. Orakpohas injury concerns and Clayborn hasn't been a hugely productive player, so both of those guys could serve as cheaper complementary options than top pass rushers. Getting two of the five players I've just mentioned would be a coup for this team, but we'll have to see how the market shakes out.

It's worth noting that Thomas Dimitroff appears to be amenable to that route.

"We are going to find some very good football players on both sides of the board," Dimitroff said. "(Quinn is) going to get the most out of what we do bring in as pass rushers."

Dimitroff will try to stay away from a so-called "splash" signing.

"You don’t necessarily always have to jump out on the high-tier guys and pay out the roof," Dimitroff said. "There may be a situation where you can get some mid-line guys who fit his system."

One pass rusher that we didn't expect the Falcons to chase is Greg Hardy, and Ledbetter's assessment is that the Falcons will not be interested given his legal troubles and potential looming suspension. Otherwise, I have to believe the team's target list goes pretty deep, and we'll hope they can nail one or two down.

Who's your preferred pass rusher?