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Atlanta Falcons talk: Which of the team’s free agents can they least afford to lose?

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NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

We’re edging closer to free agency, believe it or not, which means it’s time to seriously start thinking about who stays and who goes from the list of upcoming Falcons free agents. From the list of players we’ve been working our way through, there are a handful of really excellent guys who the Falcons will miss, should they wind up with other teams.

Who is the single most vital re-signing, though?

In my eyes, it comes down to the Dontari Poe, Adrian Clayborn, and Matt Bryant triumvirate. Poe absorbed a huge number of snaps in 2017 and played very good run defense and pushed the pocket quite frequently, forming a formidable tandem with Grady Jarrett. Clayborn had one of his best years ever, including a legendary game against the Cowboys, and is still the team’s third-or-fourth best pass rusher by any standard. Bryant is one of the league’s better kickers and was clutch again for Atlanta last season.

It’s a bit of a tough choice, but I’d take Clayborn out here simply because I think the Falcons can get quality results with an improved Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley, a draft pick, and Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby getting more snaps. Ditto Bryant, who is a tremendous kicker but is still a kicker at the end of the day. I’d go with Poe, given the difficulty of replacing him with a player who will immediately provide as much as he did to this defense in 2017, to say nothing of playing as many snaps as Poe did. Of course, given the dropoff between Poe and an early round pick versus Matt Bryant versus literally any other kicker you could hope to scoop up, you might disagree with that assessment.

Let’s hear your take.