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Falcons free agency 2016: Predicting who Atlanta will re-sign and let walk

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We list out the Falcons' free agents and determine who will return

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is right around the corner, as you know, which means we need to take a hard look at the team's upcoming crop of free agents and determine who is sticking around. With just five draft picks and probably no more than $28-30 million in cap space when the dust settles, the Falcons can't afford to just cut all these players loose.

When I note contract extensions for guys like Ryan Schraeder, I'm not even going to hazard a guess what they'll be paid, because it will be such a huge leap in compensation that I'll almost certainly be way off.

Here's the list.

Unrestricted free agents

Adrian Clayborn

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 2 years, $5.5 million

Clayborn was an effective rotational piece, and I think Bryan Cox would like the opportunity to remedy his 2015 mistake and play him more off the edge. Clayborn will likely want a little more security than a one-year deal would offer, and after playing for one year and $3 million in 2016, perhaps a heavily front-loaded two year deal would get it done.

Chris Chester

Will he stay? No

I think Chester will be an option of last resort for Atlanta, but ultimately he won't return as the Falcons figure something else out at right guard. If they somehow strike out completely, a one year, $1 million deal seems reasonable.

Kroy Biermann

Will he stay? No

This might be the year Biermann exits stage right. If he does, he'll leave behind 23.5 sacks since 2008 and a very solid career for a fifth round pick. If the Falcons do as I expect them to and add free agents and draft picks at end, and bring back Clayborn and Schofield, I just can't see Biermann sticking around.

O'Brien Schofield

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 3 years, $4.5 million

Schofield is a reserve on this defense, ideally, but he's a genuine leader, a valuable and versatile backup, and the kind of guy you like to keep around. After a one year, $1.7 million deal in 2015, I can see Schofield returning on something a little more long-term with slightly less money per year.

Jake Long

Will he stay? No

Long is going to want a shot to start somewhere, and he's not getting that in Atlanta, where Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder are locked in at the two tackle spots. He'll strike out into free agency.

Shayne Graham

Will he stay? No

Matt Bryant should be back for another year, even if it may be his last. Graham will be on the team's speed dial if anything should happen to Bryant, but he may have earned himself a shot elsewhere after a pretty impressive stint with Atlanta.

Philip Wheeler

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 1 year, $1 million

Wheeler played as a reasonably high level for Atlanta after signing, ESPN's Vaughn McClure has predicted he'll be back, and he'd be a nice veteran reserve for a rebuilding corps of linebackers. A one year deal should get it done.

Phillip Adams

Will he stay? No

Adams got quite a bit of playing time in 2015, but with Jalen Collins and Akeem King hopefully taking steps forward and his level of play last year, the team probably won't be looking to re-sign him.

Charles Godfrey

Will he stay? No

Godfrey bounced on and off the roster all year and could be on the team's emergency list in case of injury, but I expect Kemal Ishmael, Robenson Therezie, and a draft pick or younger free agent to be in the mix. Don't expect him to re-sign.

Tony Moeaki

Will he stay? No

D.J. Tialavea is around as a developmental option, the team could try to add more youth to the position, and Moeaki offered them very little in 2015, failing to get on the field ahead of block-first Levine Toilolo. He won't be back.

Bryce Harris

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 2 years, $1.3 million

Harris is nobody's idea of an ideal swing tackle, but with Long likely exiting and Harris having some familiarity with the offense now, I'm willing to be he'll be back on a team-friendly two year deal.

Gino Gradkowski

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 1 year, $2 million (heavy on incentives)

The team will likely bring Gradkowski back, because they seem to like what he brings to the table, but they're not going to want to pony up a ton of money. A one-year, incentive-heavy deal could be the right move for the team, ensuring that he's paid decently if he winds up starting but isn't sniffing big money if he's a reserve or winds up cut. If the team drafts a center, starting Gradkowski in 2016 might give him a chance to develop.

Restricted free agents

Nate Stupar

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? 1 year RFA tender, original round level at $1.539 million

Stupar will likely be buried on the linebacker depth chart if Wheeler and Schofield return, as I expect they will, but he remains arguably the Falcons' best special teamer, and that has real value for Atlanta if Kroy Biermann is riding off into the sunset. They're not going to fear losing him to another team, more than likely, so the 1st and 2nd round tenders won't come into play.

Ryan Schraeder

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? Possible four year extension/ 1 year RFA tender, 1st round tender at $3.347 million

Schraeder was quietly one of the better right tackles in the NFL in 2015, and the team doesn't want to take the chance they'll lose him by lowballing him with an original round or 2nd round tender. If they can't strike a long-term accord, I fully expect them to pony up the 1st round tender to ensure Schraeder returns.

Paul Worrilow

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? Possible extension/ 1 year RFA tender, original round level at $1.539 million

The team seems to have interest in bringing Worrilow back, given that he's a team captain, a willing run defender and capable enough pass rusher, but his liabilities in coverage are legendary at this point in his career. I imagine the team will shoot for a reasonable long-term accord and slap an original round tender on him otherwise.

It's worth noting that if the team does return everyone I've predicted, they'll have Brooks Reed, Worrilow, Wheeler, Schofield, Stupar, and Tyler Starr under contract already and will need to sink at least one pick or signing into the group. That's fairly crowded with players who aren't standouts, which is a little worrying.

Exclusive rights free agent

Ricardo Allen

Will he stay? Yes

What's the contract? Possible extension/ 1 year ERFA tender, $600,000

The Falcons will more than likely elect to keep Allen around at the $600,000 for this year and then explore a longer contract if he remains the starter and plays at a high level in 2016, but there's always the small chance they'll elect to lock him for the long haul if he's a big part of their plans. Expect the tender, though.

Final Analysis

The team doesn't have any major holes based on this forecast aside from the loss of their starting right guard in 2015, but I think they'll be able and willing to replace Chester. Everyone else I have leaving is a backup, and the Falcons should be able to paper over the loss of guys like Phillip Adams, Kroy Biermann, and Tony Moeaki with budget free agents the way they did a year ago. Re-signing Clayborn, Schofield, Bryce Harris, Wheeler, and their restricted free agents give them some decent reserves and rotational pieces as they transition toward what we all hope is a brighter future.

Look for Allen Strk to do deep dives on a few free agents in the next couple of weeks, but hopefully this list will whet your appetite until then. Share your predictions in the comments.