Frustrated by the Falcons' efforts in free agency? Confused why the team would choose to spend big money for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and fail to sign any reasonable linebackers or safeties? Well, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com doesn't agree. Wesseling gave the Falcons an A- for their efforts in free agency.
Signing center Alex Mack definitely skews the Falcons' grade positively. With the addition of Mack, the Falcons not only have a competent center, which they sure didn't have last season, but they have a Pro Bowler who should elevate the play of the guards around him as well. Factoring in two good tackles, assuming Ryan Schraeder is back next season, and the offensive line is significantly upgraded. The o-line has been a problem for the past three seasons, and shoring it up was necessary.
Did the Falcons need to spend what they spent on Mack to fix the line? Maybe not, but it's difficult to complain about the team getting the very best available player to fill a glaring need, especially when they had the cap space to comfortably do so.
For many fans, it's not so much that the team opted to sign Sanu that's a concern, but rather Sanu's contract. Wesseling believes that Sanu is an instant upgrade over Roddy White. Sanu certainly had fewer opportunities on a Bengals offense that included A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, so we'll see what he can do in Atlanta and if he lives up to the contract.
The other two moves Wesseling specifically mentioned in support of the A- grade were re-signing Adrian Clayborn and adding Derrick Shelby. Clayborn looked really good as an interior pass rusher last season, and Wesseling says he expects Clayborn to team with Shelby to generate pressure on obvious passing downs. This team has been abysmal at rushing the passer, and hopefully the Falcons are not done addressing it, but having a couple of guys who can disrupt the pocket from the interior is certainly a step in the right direction.
Elsewhere in the division, Wesseling gives the Panthers a B+, citing the re-signings of Charles Johnson and Mike Tolbert as well as the addition of former Falcon Paul Soliai as positives. The Bucs earned a B from Wesseling, primarily because of re-signing Doug Martin and adding J.R. Sweezy at guard. Wesseling isn't sold on the Bucs' decision to add former Falcon Brent Grimes.
The Saints' free agency acquisitions didn't impress Wesseling at all. Wesseling isn't convinced that James Laurinaitis brings enough to the table to substantially improve their genuinely terrible defense, and he wasn't at all impressed with the decision to let Ben Watson walk and sign Coby Fleener instead. I'm just going to leave this here to illustrate Wesseling's point.
What grade would you give the Falcons for their free agency efforts?