The NFL Combine is finally here, folks. Prospects are arriving, and the media is starting to get their first access to coaches and executives. There were some interesting tidbits of news from Thomas Dimitroff’s interview during today’s NFL Combine press conference. He talked briefly about the state of the roster and was asked about which free agents the Falcons were considering this offseason. Dimitroff was able to provide some clarity on the team’s current plans.
Levine Toilolo and Kemal Ishmael were both valuable depth players throughout the 2016 season. Toilolo contributed 13 receptions for 264 yards and 2 TD, for a rather ridiculous 20.3 yards per catch. It seemed like every time Ryan threw the ball to him, he was wide open due to a clever play design. Regardless, he was a decent receiver and a capable blocker throughout the year, and was certainly going to draw some interest around the league.
Ishmael had long been the reserve and third safety for the Falcons until his 2016 season was cut short due to injury. Before then, he filled in capably at SS, and was even tried out at WLB, to some success. Ishmael is a versatile player and an excellent tackler who also contributed on special teams. I’m glad they’re thinking of bringing him back (go UCF!).
Dimitroff also gave some information about which RFAs the Falcons were interested in tendering.
Thomas Dimitroff said Taylor Gabriel and Ben Garland will be tendered as RFAs. Didn't say what level.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 1, 2017
Neither of these are very surprising.
Gabriel was a surprise sensation for Atlanta last year after being picked up on waivers following training camp cuts. He proved to be an electric deep threat with very good vision and elusiveness, and had a great rapport with Matt Ryan. I suspect the Falcons will eventually place a second round tender on Gabriel, and it’s unlikely any team would be willing to give that up for him. Here’s to hoping Atlanta can lock him up long-term, as well.
Garland was also a surprising player in many ways. He made the roster as the primary back-up center, but ended up actually playing more snaps as a defensive tackle. Garland was capable in both roles, providing a run-stopping presence in the base package (and getting a safety) and filling in admirably for Alex Mack at times. He’s a valuable, two-way player, and I suspect the team has plans for him down the road.
What do you think about these moves? Are there any other players you’d like to see the Falcons re-sign this offseason?