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Falcons tender Taylor Gabriel, Ricardo Allen, two others to get 2017 free agency rolling

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Taylor Gabriel, Ricardo Allen, Ben Garland, and Akeem King should be coming back.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As anticipated, the Falcons are trying to keep some of their best restricted free agents around, and they tendered four of them today.

Gabriel, who broke out in a major way in 2016 after coming over from the Browns, was a no-brainer. He’s one of the league’s most dynamic slot receivers thanks to his speed, and he picked up a handful of carries too. A weapon that versatile and dangerous might be up for a long-term deal down the line, but chances are good he’ll return without another team surrendering a second rounder for the right to sign him away. He’ll have a chance to prove that 2016 was just the start of something special.

Ricardo Allen has been the team’s starting free safety for two years, and while the Falcons may elect to bring in some competition for him, he should be considered the odds-on favorite to start again in 2017. He’s a solid tackler with a knack for coming up with big plays, and he and Keanu Neal were one of the league’s better young safety tandems in 2016.

Garland was a backup interior lineman and part-time defensive tackle, and he was useful in the latter role in particular in 2016. The team will likely try to shore up DT so he can focus on playing along the offensive line this season, but he’s excellent depth either way.

King, meanwhile, is a player with the kind of length and physicality the Falcons covet at cornerback. He or Brian Poole could potentially move to free safety to back up or compete with Allen, but for now, he’s more of a deep reserve with some potential.

Hopefully, all four of these guys wind up back in Atlanta this year with no drama. They’ll also be useful pieces, and Gabriel and Allen will be truly critical ones.

We’ll see if there are any other tenders forthcoming in short order.