With the new league year starting on Tuesday and teams allowed to deal with impending free agents as early as Saturday, rumors and talk of potential signings are heating up around the NFL. The Falcons, now in the midst of another busy offseason, are no exception.
On Wednesday, longtime AJC beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter unveiled his list of players that could be sought after by Atlanta in the coming days, a number of which haven't been discussed much among the fan base. These aren't free agent class headliners like Brian Orakpo or Julius Thomas. And even if they were, let's face it: the Falcons have too many gaps on the current roster to sink much of their $33.5 million in cap space on any one player.
No, these are players in the second and third tiers of the free agent talent pool that this team A) has a much better chance of signing, and B) can acquire at a better value. Here are a few of DOL's lesser-known names that stood out:
FS Ron Parker (Chiefs)
Coming on the heels of Charles Godfrey signing a one-year extension with the Falcons, interest in another safety might not seem like a logical route. However, what sets the 26-year-old Parker apart from other safeties is his experience at cornerback, which is almost certainly a position the team will try to address.
After two seasons in Seattle after making the squad as an undrafted free agent, Parker went on to earn significant playing time with the Chiefs in 2013 (mostly at corner) before latching onto the free safety job last season. However, even then he was still credited with four starts at cornerback. The guy is relatively young and inexperienced, but he possesses some of the traits (good coverage instincts, physicality) Dan Quinn might be looking for as he tries to rebuild this defense.
Given Parker's success at safety, though, there's also the chance Atlanta does in fact bring him on board as one and shuffle up the secondary some other way. Predicting the team's moves this offseason has proven difficult, I'll admit.
TE Lance Kendricks (Rams)
Kendricks, a former Wisconsin standout coming off his rookie contract, didn't quite live up to his initial hype as a second-round draft pick in St. Louis. However, that doesn't make him an unproductive player. At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, he's a fairly well-rounded tight end who has solid hands (caught 27 of his 38 targets in 2014) and adequate blocking skills.
He's taken a back seat to Jared Cook in the passing game the last two seasons, but still combined for 129 catches, 1,388 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns across his four years with the Rams. Flashy Kendricks is not, but he would get the job done and at least provide depth where the Falcons badly need it.
LB Arthur Moats (Steelers)
An inside linebacker with the Bills before moving to outside linebacker in Pittsburgh last season, Moats comes with a reputation of being "jack of all trades." He mostly split time with James Harrison as a pass rusher opposite fan favorite Jason Worilds with the Steelers, recording 4.0 sacks, 3 QB hits and 15 QB hurries, but the former sixth-rounder also brings the run-stopping ability and coverage chops of an inside linebacker.
Regardless of what role Quinn would want Moats to handle, he could be pretty useful for a Falcons team wanting to get more athletic at linebacker.
LB Brandon Graham (Eagles)
One more name the Falcons could pursue is Graham, who like Moats comes off a productive season despite not being Philadelphia's first or even second-most utilized pass rusher. And by productive, I mean 6.0 sacks, 8 QB hits and a whopping 39 QB hurries, the last of those numbers ranking fourth-best among all 3-4 outside linebackers.
That output means Graham, a former first-round pick, should generate plenty of interest around the league. If the Falcons miss on a top name like Orakpo, Graham would be an excellent second choice.
Your thoughts on these players or others not mentioned?