With both NFL free agency and March Madness around the corner, here’s a chance to honor all of the Falcons’ best player signings ever throughout the modern free agency period with a 64-player tournament. Because, seriously, what else do we have to do while we twiddle our thumbs and wait for the start of free agency?
The bracket includes, in rough order, the best 64 players the Falcons have signed during the off-season as veteran free agents throughout the modern NFL free agency era (i.e., since 1992). Seeding is roughly based on each player’s performance during his respective Falcons career only. This bracket only includes players who were signed as unrestricted free agents during the off-season. That means that no players acquired via trade were included (e.g., John Abraham), no undrafted free agents were included (e.g., Brent Grimes), no in-season pickups were included (e.g., Brian Finneran), and no waiver claims were included (e.g., Taylor Gabriel).
Because the emphasis here is on best free agents, players like Jason Webster, Ray Edwards, Joey Harrington, and Pierce Holt were excluded so we wouldn’t have to shed any tears thinking about any of those guys. We’ve had more than enough heartbreak lately to have to deal with any of that.
That being said, below are the 1st round matchups, beginning with the top-left part of the bracket, known as Turner’s Corner. If you want to weigh in on all/any of the 1st round matchups, please vote in the polls below by midnight Eastern time tonight (March 2nd) and then we can move onto Round 2.
(1) RB Michael Turner (FA Class of 2008) vs. (16) LB Coy Wire (2009)
Turner and his 6,081 rushing yards with 60 rushing TDs over 5 seasons face off against CNN anchor and special teams extraordinaire Coy Wire.
(8) KR/PR/WR Devin Hester (2014) vs. (9) K Jason Elam (2008)
A matchup of 2 special teamers who dominated at their respective positions upon arrival in Atlanta.
(5) CB Ronnie Bradford (1997) vs. (12) QB Chris Redman (2007)
Bradford brings his 5 years experience as Falcons CB2 to take on Redman and his 5 years experience as QB2.
(4) QB Bobby Hebert (1993) vs. (13) DE/DT Adrian Clayborn (2015)
2 players signed away from Falcon divisional rivals, run-and-shoot QB Hebert attempts to Cajun Cannon his way past the fearsome bull rush of Clayborn.
(3) OLB Cornelius Bennett (1996) vs. (14) CB Robert McClain (2012)
The Biscuit’s 3-year string as Falcons outside linebacker vs. Bobby Mac’s 3-year string as Falcons nickel back.
(6) OLB Clay Matthews, Jr. (1994) vs. (11) FS Dwight Lowery (2014)
Another old-enough-to-be-his-father matchup as the elder statesman Clay Matthews takes on one of the few bright spots of the Falcons 2014 defense in Lowery.
(7) DE Brady Smith (2000) vs. (10) OG Jon Asamoah (2014)
The consistent complement-to-Kerney Brady Smith stunts inside to face off against Asamoah, who was one of the only bright spots on the Falcons 2014 offensive line.
(2) C Alex Mack (2016) vs. (15) DT Tyson Jackson (2014)
The 2016 teammates face off, though only one of these two earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2016. (You know which one.)
(1) RB Warrick Dunn (2002) vs. (16) OLB Brooks Reed (2015)
Warrick Dunn takes a trip down from the owners box to try to shift and slide his way past super-sub Reed.
(8) CB D.J. Johnson (1997) vs. (9) P Chris Mohr (2001)
Johnson takes his 7 interceptions over 2+ Falcons seasons to battle against Chris Mohr’s 40-yard punting average over 4 seasons with the Falcons.
(5) KR/PR/CB Allen Rossum (2002) vs. (12) RB Steven Jackson (2013)
The speedy Rossum hopes to get into a foot race against the savvy, bruising ways of Steven Jackson.
(4) FB Patrick DiMarco (2013) vs. (13) K Todd Peterson (2005)
As a warm-up before his chance at real NFL free agency, DiMarco looks to crush some huge holes against Peterson, who crushed a 92% field goal percentage in his one year with the Falcons.
(3) FS Eugene Robinson (1998) vs. (14) WR Drew Hill (1992)
Since this is a “best” list, we only say positive things here. So this is where Eugene lies in wait deep while run-and-shoot cog Drew Hill attempts to go for a big completion past him.
(6) OLB Mike Peterson (2009) vs. (11) WR Mohamed Sanu (2016)
Two guys who can talk up a storm face off over the middle to see who can keep talking for another round.
(7) DT Shane Dronett (1996) vs. (10) SS William White (1997)
The two teammates from the Falcons’ 1998 Super Bowl squad try to Dirty Bird their way into the 2nd round.
(2) K Morten Andersen (1995) vs. (15) WR Aldrick Robinson (2016)
One of these guys is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the other one needs about 7 Pro Bowl seasons in order to catch up.
(1) WR Terance Mathis (1994) vs. (16) DE Courtney Upshaw (2016)
Mathis’ 573 receptions for 7,349 yards and 57 touchdowns as a Falcon may prove to be a tough test for Courtney Upshaw and his somewhat less impressive stats to stop.
(8) TE Jacob Tamme (2015) vs. (9) DT Dan Owens (1996)
Tamme’s 81 receptions over 2 seasons versus Owens’ 13.5 interior sacks over 2 seasons.
(5) OT Todd Weiner (2002) vs. (12) DE Osi Umenyiora (2013)
Weiner brings his stout pass blocking to try to ensure that the last memory we have of Osi Umenyiora is his game-ending touchdown against New Orleans.
(4) SS Lawyer Milloy (2006) vs. (13) S Gerald McBurrows (1999)
The all-safety Lawyer firm of Milloy and McBurrows has 8 combined years of experience in Atlanta and, when not battling each other, is available to meet all of your safety needs.
(3) FB Bob Christian (1997) vs. (14) P Dan Stryzinski (1995)
After 4 years of these two playing together on Falcons special teams units from 1997-2000, Christian tries to utilize his bruising style to rough the punter out of the tournament.
(6) DT Ed Jasper (1999) vs. (11) S Marty Carter (1999)
If a matchup of two underrated defenders with old man names from the Falcons 1999 free agent class doesn’t excite you, I honestly don’t know what will.
(7) OG Chris Chester (2015) vs. (10) CB Dunta Robinson (2010)
Across 5 combined seasons, these 2 combined to start in every game but 1. Dunta wound up with 4 more interceptions than Chester had during those games.
(2) DT Rod Coleman (2004) vs. (15) QB Wade Wilson (1992)
It will be tough for Wilson to escape the bowling ball interior pass rush that Rod Coleman brings, unless Wade can somehow recreate that 110 passer rating magic he had over 4 games for the Falcons in 1992.
(1) FB Ovie Mughelli (2007) vs. (16) DE Dwight Freeney (2016)
One of the best fullbacks in Falcons history matches up against the wily spin move master.
(8) FS Keion Carpenter (2002) vs. (9) DT Grady Jackson (2006)
In yet another D-line versus Safety matchup, Keion takes his 9 interceptions across 3 Falcons seasons to match up against Grady Jackson’s combined 1,000 pounds across 2.5 Falcons seasons.
(5) OG Mike Zandofsky (1994) vs. (12) DT Paul Soliai (2014)
Two 300+ pounders signed 20 years apart battle in the trenches for a chance to move on.
(4) CB Ashley Ambrose (2000) vs. (13) WR Shawn Jefferson (2000)
A matchup of the WR2 and CB2 from the Falcons free agent class of 2000 who both played on the Falcons through 2002. Ambrose averaged 4 interceptions per season while Jefferson averaged about 40 receptions per season.
(3) RB/FB Craig Heyward (1994) vs. (14) CB Juran Bolden (2002)
The bruising Heyward reinvented himself as a 1,000 yard running back after years of playing fullback with the Saints while Bolden reinvented himself as a solid NFL cornerback after initially flaming out as a Falcons draft pick and spending time in the CFL.
(6) S Erik Coleman (2008) vs. (11) OG Matt Lehr (2005)
Two players who were backups on their former teams but turned themselves into solid starters at their respective positions after signing in Atlanta.
(7) DE Jumpy Geathers (1993) vs. (10) S Kevin Ross (1994)
Yet another defensive lineman vs. safety matchup, with Ross supplying solid starts at safety while Geathers gathers the pass-rush relief off the bench.
(2) CB Ray Buchanan (1997) vs. (15) TE Brian Kozlowski (1997)
Two free agent class of 1997 members who went on to play for several years with the Falcons. Kozlowski seeks to Coppin State his way past Big Play Ray.