I turned to the majority of our writers to ask their opinions on free agency thus far. Here's our grades, along with brief explanations.You'll note we have a clear range.
Alex Welch: B-
I could really go with a C+, but I do like a few of the signings. Durant will make a great WLB in Quinn's scheme, assuming he stays healthy. Clayborn barely made a dent in the Falcons cap space. Reed is clearly another upgrade at linebacker.
Unfortunately Atlanta still doesn't possess a tight end or a legitimate pass rushing threat. Yes, Clayborn helps and the Falcons will presumably draft a pass rusher at No. 8, but the current roster isn't a huge upgrade from last year's. Seriously, who is playing tight end? Toilolo is not an option for a team that wants to improve.
The greatest decisions the Falcons made were the ones they passed on. They didn't overpay for anyone. They didn't offer a ridiculous contract to an undeserving player. Dimitroff knows how to manage the cap and plan for the future. Just because they have space now doesn't mean they should load up on stars and backload the hell out of every contract. This isn't Madden (despite what some fans might think). There's still work to do, but the Falcons have taken a step in the right direction.
Another year, another set of confusing moves and perplexing inaction from the team in free agency. Maybe the Falcons are making a philosophical change to sign players at cheap salaries, but it may be harder to sell those players on less money when the team has struggled the last two seasons. Is this team any more talented than it was before free agency? They signed one oft-injured linebacker after allowing another to walk. Osi Umenyiora has been replaced with O'Brien Schofield. Kroy Biermann remains, Levine Toilolo is still the starting tight end, Corey Peters was allowed to leave for a very reasonable contract, Blalock has been replaced with a giant question mark, and the crown jewel of free agency is Brooks Reed.
Unless the Falcons know they will not be losing draft picks for the fake crowd noise scandal, I have no idea how they plan to address the long list of needs through the draft and a few cheap, veteran signings. After 2014, it is far from a guarantee that the Falcons have competent roster plan, and watching the front office sit on their hands while flush with cap is rattling the fan base.
Jeanna Thomas: B-
This hasn't been a great free agency period for Atlanta, as the Falcons haven't added any surefire solutions at their positions of need, but they did upgrade the linebacker position with Justin Durant and Brooks Reed. While they didn't add any guaranteed impact pass rushers, Adrian Clayborn, if healthy, should be a decent addition, and O'Brien Schofield is quality depth on a team that hasn't had much of that in recent years. I'm glad that the team also re-signed Antone Smith, who should be a good fit for Kyle Shanahan's scheme.
I expect the team to address the lack of pass rush with the eighth overall pick, but I'm still concerned about the Falcons' ability to bring pressure, given their tendency to barely do that over the past couple of seasons. The tight end position is a concern, as is left guard, and I'm not even a little bit sold on Charles Godfrey being the answer at free safety.
The reality is that when a team wins ten games over two seasons, it's not a situation that one free agency period can magically fix. The Falcons have filled some holes and added some talent without putting themselves in a precarious cap situation, which warrants a B-. We have the draft to look forward to, and then we'll see how Quinn and his staff coach these guys up and whether they put the talent on the roster in positions to succeed.
Kendall Jackson: B-
Ideally, the perfect grade falls between a C+ and a B-. The Falcons upgraded the outside linebacker positions with Brooks Reed and Justin Durant and the defense is certainly in a better position to rush the passer with Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield. While the team hasn't made any groundbreaking signings, the front office deserves credit for what it didn't do during free agency: overspend.
Making big splashes doesn't constitute a successful free agency - it's having a clear plan in place and putting together the foundation for a rebuild. But I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the Falcons still have sizeable holes at defensive end, free safety, middle linebacker, left guard, and tight end. This free agency period feels similar to 2008 - sans a Michael Turner-esque signing - with a new regime coming in and not going too crazy in spending. Maybe the team has a quick turnaround like it did from 2007 or maybe it takes a couple of years.
Allen Strk: C-
After seeing that the Falcons were ninth in having the most salary cap space, my interest for free-agency increased to an extent. The emphasis on defense was good to see with several signings addressing certain positions. What leaves me frustrated has been from the lack of impact signings. Besides Justin Durant, what can be classified as an impact signing? Can a different scheme elevate Brooks Reed's play? Will Adrian Clayborn stay healthy and live up to his potential? Too many questions for a team coming off a disappointing season. Not one player was signed from my free-agent wish list as well. Hopefully the draft brings a more positive outlook.
The DW: B-
I'd almost lean towards in "Incomplete" but that feels like a cop-out. The Falcons have quite a few positions of need, so filling them all was never going to be a realistic option. But the signings they brought in did specifically target areas of weakness. Both Durant and Reed are clear upgrades, with Durant being a potential steal. If Clayborn can stay healthy, he can be a quality starter at DE. O'Brien Schofield should do well as a rotational piece, and one that knows Quinn's system already.
But there are still needs at free safety, middle linebacker, left guard and tight end. Several of these also happen to be positions that are not particularly attractive in this year's draft. But the Falcons didn't overspend, and in the mindset of this being a multi-year rebuild, I'm fine with the moves thus far, if not particularly excited.
Jake Bennett: C+
Overall, I'd give Atlanta a C+ in this year's free agency thus far. They really improved a linebacking corps that was one of the worst in the league with Brooks Reed and Justin Durant, and didn't really overpay for any acquisition. Neither are players who will explode off tape, but both are solid contributors that will allow Atlanta to explore other options in the draft. Adrian Clayborn is a good addition when healthy, but his contract shows the front office doesn't see him as a long term answer. O'Brien Schofield, Mike Person, and Phillip Adams are all guys who are either rotational or camp bodies and can't be complained about.
Unfortunately, Atlanta let go of young talent in Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters, and was not aggressive in pursuing an established pass rusher. Granted, players like Orakpo and Morgan likely priced themselves too high, but could have been a part of an answer for the Falcons' defense. While they did add talent at linebacker, questions at free safety, guard, tight end, running back, and the defensive line still remain.
Andrew Hirsh: C+
Teams as broken as the Falcons need plenty of time to fix, and Dimitroff, who may have learned from past mistakes, doesn't appear inclined to take any shortcuts right now. And, though no big moves were made, Atlanta is undoubtedly better than it was a few weeks ago. Brooks Reed and Justin Durant are immediate upgrades on defense; Adrian Clayborn and O'Brien Schofield figure to provide the kind of depth this roster lacked in 2014. It's hard to feel too optimistic, however, as plenty of deficiencies remain. The linebacker, safety, offensive guard and tight end positions need to be addressed at some point.
Perhaps this is accomplished before Week 1, but as of today, the Falcons have too many glaring holes to compete. Nonetheless, this has been more encouraging than last offseason, when bloated contracts were doled out to Tyson Jackson and Paul Soliai -- both of whom proved to be underwhelming. Incremental progress, while not ideal, is how most winners are built. Certainly, it's a much, much better route than overpaying for depreciating talent.
Dave Choate: B-
To me, this offseason was about preserving this team's strengths, creating new strengths and assuring at least competence from the entire roster. We're not there yet, which is to be expected.
This is a team that now has a solid linebacking corps, may have more success with incumbent young players without Mike Nolan in the picture and has added two legitimate pass rushing options to a roster that previously had zero. Losing Sean Weatherspoon and Corey Peters stings, but as a whole, I do think the defense is probably better off today than it was at the end of 2014, and that's a victory in my book.
The Falcons have left themselves in an awkward spot with safety, tight end and potentially guard, and they're definitely going to need to grab a gifted young pass rusher in the draft. Some of those needs may still be addressed—this is a patient team with a plan—but at this juncture of free agency, there's too many holes for me to jump up and down.
Share your grade in the comments.