While the Falcons’ roster has rarely looked stronger, it’s also true that no roster is free from turnover. Here are a few positions where the Falcons may change starters in 2017.
Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo are unrestricted free agents, while D.J. Tialavea is a restricted free agent. That leaves only Austin Hooper, Josh Perkins and future/reserve contract signee Darian Griswold around for certain, and my hunch is that you’ll see Tamme heading elsewhere, with Hooper taking over the job.
I’m not sure Hooper will have an uncontested shot at the gig, even so. Toilolo and Tialavea could very well return as blocking options, and Toilolo’s well-rounded skill set could make him the de facto guy here. Either way, I’m guessing this won’t be Tamme’s spot any longer.
I’m figuring one more year for Andy Levitre, who was very good in 2016. With Kyle Shanahan heading out of town, I imagine we won’t see Chris Chester return, leaving one starting spot open on a quality offensive line.
Last year’s sixth round pick Wes Schweitzer is one obvious candidate for that gig, given how much he impressed the coaching staff over the summer. It’s exceedingly likely the Falcons will add a rookie guard to groom who may be able to battle his way past Schweitzer, as well, but if all goes well they’ll both have starting gigs in 2018. Keep an eye on Forrest Lamp and Dan Sweeney from this upcoming draft class.
Grady Jarrett is a budding star and should be an uncontested starter, but with Jonathan Babineaux facing free agency and neither Tyson Jackson or Ra’Shede Hageman locked in as starting options, we could see a change here.
Again, keep your eye on a rookie. The Falcons would love to have a pair of young, potent starters on the interior of the line, and some of the best players likely to be available at pick #31 will be defensive tackles like Florida’s Caleb Brantley and Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson. This is where I’d like to see the Falcons go with their first round pick if the talent is there, honestly.
A healthy Derrick Shelby will still get significant run, no matter what the Falcons do.
Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell are locked in as starters, and may wind up being a couple of the better linebackers in franchise history if they continue to build on strong rookie seasons, particularly Jones. There’s still one opening when the Falcons aren’t in nickel sets, however.
The team could very well re-sign Paul Worrilow, Philip Wheeler, Sean Weatherspoon, LaRoy Reynolds, and even Tyler Starr and let them mix it up at the position, but this is an obvious spot to upgrade given that they were relying on replacement-level players there all season. Unless Starr is healthy and ready to take a major step forward, this feels like one of the most obvious places for the Falcons to use their free agent dollars to target a genuinely above average option.
This one’s a little questionable, but I’m not ruling it out. Ricardo Allen has shown over the last two seasons that he’s at least a solid starter, and given that he’s an exclusive rights free agent, he’ll certainly be back and in the mix here. That doesn’t mean he’ll just be handed the job, though.
Most of the candidates here would be internal ones, I’d wager. The Falcons aren’t going to go out and get Eric Berry and stick him at free safety with their cap situation—unless they’re planning to free up a lot of space, anyways—which means physical young cornerback Brian Poole and rangy corner/safety Akeem King could move over and compete with Allen. That’s a gig Allen should win, but keep an eye on the battle, regardless.
No, just kidding.