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Jonathan Babineaux to become an unrestricted free agent

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The long-tenured Falcons DT will hit the market.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We heard from Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff at the start of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine yesterday, and one of the things we learned was that the Falcons will let 12-year veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux become an unrestricted free agent. We were speculating last week when Babineaux posted a thank you to fans on his Instagram, so this news adds some clarity to the matter.

There are a couple of things we can note from this development:

  1. Just because Babineaux will become an unrestricted free agent does not necessarily mean he will end up leaving the Falcons. He may very well test the market and sign with the Falcons once again, perhaps on a short-term deal. However, it is telling that the team has not made re-signing Babineaux a priority considering his importance to the franchise over the last decade-plus.
  2. Remember that whether Babineaux returns or not, improving in the trenches is a priority for the Falcons this offseason. The Falcons need depth and size up front and will be looking to add talent to a group that didn’t always deliver results in 2016. Expect the team to take advantage of a deep class of defensive linemen and pass rushers in this year’s draft in addition to considering quality free agent options. This is a position group the team is still actively building, and Babineaux’s status won’t change that.

Jonathan Babineaux was the longest tenured Falcon on the roster last season and a consistent, if underrated, defensive tackle throughout his career. He will go down as one of the best defensive tackles in franchise history, not to mention a leader and fan favorite. If Babineaux indeed moves on to another team or retires, he will surely be missed.