Thus far, the Falcons have made upgrading linebacker a priority, with their focus shifting to other positions of need in the hours ahead. Let's take a look at the team's signings, the early reaction and, when available, contracts.
The reaction to Justin Durant has been mixed, but leaning positive. Everyone agrees he's talented, but there are some who are justifiably wary about his injury history. SI's Peter King and ESPN's Field Yates were pretty glowing, however.
Durant's deal is very affordable, which is likely a consequence of his injury history. He's signed for three years, $10.3 million, with only $3 million of that guaranteed. If he starts and plays well, that would be a legitimate steal.
In a conference call with the media, Durant confirmed he'll be playing weakside linebacker, or WILL, which was his role in Dallas. If he's healthy, he's the early favorite to win a starting job there, and he should be an asset in coverage and as a sure, athletic tackler.
Then there's Brooks Reed. The fanbase has been divided between thinking he's a better version of Kroy Biermann and that he's a reserve who doesn't bring much to the table. The reality is that Reed is probably a better version of Biermann, he's a likely starter, and he confirmed Wednesday that he's expecting to play the strong side, or SAM, in Dan Quinn's defense. Everyone appreciates his run stopping acumen, but I think they'll appreciate it more if the Falcons land a couple of pass rushers who enable him to do what he does well without the expectation that he'll be a pass rusher.
Antone Smith? Universal applause. People love that dude, and they have every reason to. He'll probably get limited touches even under Kyle Shanahan, but could be in for a slightly larger role, more touches and more options to split out wide as a receiver. He's a matchup nightmare with that speed.
Leonard Hankerson just signed today. I loved the tall, athletic receiver coming out of college, but he's had a largely disappointing career to this point. He'll re-unite with Kyle Shanahan, he'll have a much better quarterback throwing to him and an improved receiving corps around him, so with a better environment we'll hope for a better year. Lots of folks are reacting positively.
@TheFalcoholic is it just me or is 1 year, 1mil an absolute freebie for a young WR with upside?— Blogging Dirty (@BloggingDirty) March 11, 2015
Hankerson is signed to an extremely affordable one-year, $1 million deal, and if he's healthy and ready to go, he could compete for snaps as the teams #3 receiver. We'll hope he's a great fit.
Finally, we come to Mike Person. Most people don't have strong opinions because he has so little tape and play to go off of. At least his name is terrific.
These quotes are excellent. He's like Area Man RT @AtlantaFalcons: Person on blocking for QB Matt Ryan: Who wouldn't want to?— Jason Kirk (@JasonKirkSBN) March 11, 2015
Person likely slots in as versatile depth along the offensive line. And a person.
Stay tuned for more signings.