The Falcons have been moderately busy thus far in free agency, kicking off a process they hope will improve one of the league's shakiest rosters for new head coach Dan Quinn. There's miles to go before we rest, but you can see the team's philosophy of finding value and acquiring solid players at positions of need in action, and it's at least comforting to know they've thought this through.
In case you've forgotten, here's who the Falcons acquired.
- RB Antone Smith
- WR Leonard Hankerson
- G Mike Person
- DE Adrian Clayborn
- DE/LB O'Brien Schofield
- LB Brooks Reed
- LB Justin Durant
- CB Phillip Adams
There's not an impact player in the bunch, though there's a chance Reed or Clayborn could thrive in Dan Quinn's scheme. What stands out is that the Falcons have limited their cap hits, taken several chances on players with recent injury histories and generally tried to spread their dollars out on multiple improvements. It's an approach that seems intelligent in today's big dollar, instant-regret free agent environment, but it's a little early to tell if it's actually smart.
There's a lot of talk out there right now that the "injury prone" label is usually a misnomer, and that injuries are more or less random. If the Falcons have come to that conclusion due to their in-house analytics and monitoring, then it makes sense that they'd be willing to roll the dice with the Clayborns, Durants and Hankersons of the world, seeing as how they are A) less expensive and B) may have untapped unside that wasn't apparent because they were hurt.
It may just work. A guy like Reed is durable and solid in nearly every phase, while Durant, if healthy, gives the team an effective veteran at the other outside linebacker spot. Clayborn, if healthy, gives the team a complementary pass rusher it has lacked for years. Schofield does the same to a lesser degree. Person is competition for a starting job at best and a useful reserve at worst, Hankerson provides size and receiver depth. Phillip Adams will be a cornerback on the roster. These are, by and large, necessary acquisitions.
There's work to be done. The Falcons have major holes still dotting the roster, and while this team is probably improved from the end of 2014, nothing about this roster screams contender unless the Falcons catch a few lucky breaks. Thankfully, free agency isn't over yet and Atlanta holds the #8 overall pick in the draft, giving them the chance to mortar over more holes and acquire an impactful rookie who could be a force for the team for years to come. We need to see if the team's plan comes to fruition, but they've set themselves up with a solid start that improves the linebacking corps, adds a little young talent and ensures they stay rock solid on special teams.
If the team manages their remaining free agent dollars and draft picks well and manages to snag another pass rusher, a starting-caliber guard, a tight end and some safety help, I'll be feeling pretty enthusiastic about the team's direction. If they only mange to fill one or two of those holes with immediately helpful players, well, at least 2015 will probably be better than 2014.
May today bring us good news.