It feels like everything nowadays requires an immediate grade. The team's cheap concession prices? A-. Those expensive PSLs they have been selling? D. Thomas Dimitroff's most recent haircut? B+. Getting tacos for lunch? A+.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell is grading every team's offseason, and does not appear to be overly impressed with what many teams are doing. The Falcons of course fit into this unimpressed category.
A lot of his thoughts are pretty common sense. Good job for getting Alex Mack and upgrading the center position, even though he was really, really expensive. He liked bringing back Adrian Clayborn who "impressed as an interior pass rusher." I liked the Clayborn signing, but he impressed when he was finally kicked out to to defensive end.
The bad? The Falcons did not do much to address the pass rush. We have had some debate amongst the Falcoholic staff about this idea, but I agree with Barnwell. They bring back a similar group as last year, but are expected to swap Tyson Jackson for Ra'Shede Hageman and replaced Kroy Biermann with Derrick Shelby. The team needs Vic Beasley to take a sizable step forward, and get some career bests out of other defensive linemen, and the pass rush can probably be average.
As I see it, the Falcons have some good rotational players, and the young Beasley. I was hoping they could add another starter this offseason, and had my fingers crossed for Mario Williams, JPP, Shaq Lawson, or Olivier Vernon before the Giants destroyed free agency. The team had a few options, but went elsewhere. There is likely hope with better coverage thanks to faster linebackers and Keanu Neal will produce more sacks, but fans have been hearing this same speech for years.
Barnwell places some of this blame on the Sanu contract.
They overpaid for Mohamed Sanu. This is why I can't say the Falcons completely lacked the financial resources to invest in a pass rusher. It made sense for Atlanta to move on from Roddy White, who wasn't an NFL-caliber receiver at this point of his career, but it's hard to see Sanu making the sort of impact his contract suggests. Sanu's five-year, $32.5 million deal includes $14 million guaranteed and $20 million over its first three years. Torrey Smith got $19.75 million over his first three years on his five-year deal last offseason and had been a far more productive receiver by virtually any metric before hitting free agency.
Even during his two years as a starter before giving way to Marvin Jones last year, Sanu averaged 38.9 receiving yards per game. That's roughly what Robert Woods and Malcom Floyd did last year. Atlanta had some success plucking a receiver off of the scrap heap last year in Leonard Hankerson; the difference between Sanu and somebody like Hankerson, who's now on the Bills, in combination with Justin Hardy and another draft pick just isn't enough to justify Atlanta's outlay. That goes double, given how intensely Kyle Shanahan's offense focuses on its top receiver, which isn't going to change with Julio Jones around.
We have seen this criticism in nearly every offseason grade. The team must believe that Sanu can easily outperform his career best season. There is certainly potential, as Sanu struggled in his sophomore and junior season in the NFL. He was then pushed to the back of depth chart for the Bengals last year. Has he improved? Maybe! However, I have to agree with Barnwell. Sanu is not a bad player, but his contract makes very little sense. Sanu lacks the speed the team could use on offense, and got paid like a very good WR2, when he has only performed like a very good WR3.
I will wait to see how Sanu performs before throwing too much criticism at the move, but it is an odd investment considering the team's depth issues and limited draft picks.
Barnwell's overall grade? C+. There is oddly no mention of any of Atlanta's draft picks. It looks like he graded the team's free agency, which I would agree falls somewhere in the C+ range. After getting a look at some of the draft picks and where they will fit, I would argue that grade should be a few slots higher.
Thoughts on Barnwell's offseason grade?