The Atlanta Falcons started off free agency not without a whimper, but a bang. From there, it settled into a familiar, very Falconly rhythm from there. It was a fine first day, if not a stellar one.
In this initial salvo, the Falcons landed one of the better starting centers in football, an intriguing defensive end with some upside in Dan Quinn's scheme, and a veteran backup quarterback option that we'll spend as little time discussing as possible. There are many holes left to patch on this Falcons team, and more work to be done in free agency, but this was a decent start.
What it lacked was multiple big signings, and I know we're all disappointed by that. I wanted George Iloka, you may have wanted Olivier Vernon, and so on, but in this crazy spending environment the Falcons largely avoided getting themselves locked in to albatross contracts. The two disappointments were Iloka and Danny Trevathan, who filled major needs and didn't require massive amounts of money, but it's impossible to know what the Falcons offered there. As always with free agency, you have to realize it's not the best solution to the team's problems. They have to nail their draft classes going forward, and they have to have legitimate solutions like Alex Mack and gambles like Shelby work out for a change.
Let's look at Monday's signings.
The 30-year-old center had a down year by his standards, but he's one of the best players at his position in the NFL, and he figures to be able to play at a high level for at least 2-3 more years, if not the life of his five year deal. He's a massive upgrade on Mike Person, he should improve the interior of the offensive line basically by himself, and Mack joins the talented Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder on on of the better lines the Falcons have had in years. They had to pay a pretty price and there's no guarantee he'll be great for five years, but this was an impactful signing for Atlanta.
Shelby's stats don't leap off the page, but there are a lot of smart people who like this signing. He's just 27 years old, played very well when he was called upon to start for the Dolphins last year, and he's also been a terrific run stopper and decent pass rusher when called upon. Dan Quinn will likely move him around the formation a bit, and he has a chance to be a very nice value for Atlanta. At worst, it's a solid deal for a rotational player.
The versatile defensive end returns on a two year deal after staying healthy and being reasonably productive for Atlanta last year. He'll likely be asked to rush from the inside again quite a bit, where he was pretty successful, and could form a nice rotation with Shelby over the next couple of seasons at end when he kicks out. The line looks pretty solid for next season with him back in the fold.
Eh. Schaub is a veteran backup familiar with Kyle Shanahan's offense. If Matt Ryan goes down for any length of time the Falcons are boned anyways, but Schaub's penchant for costly interceptions in recent years means I'm not exactly overwhelmed by the signing. With any luck, the Falcons will add a UDFA quarterback they like and have Schaub duke it out with him.