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Does the addition of Logan Paulsen impact the Falcons’ draft plans at TE?

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The Falcons added a quality and affordable blocking TE in Paulsen, but how does his signing affect the team’s plans in the 2018 NFL Draft?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a quiet first week of free agency that saw the Falcons make only one addition—starting G option Brandon Fusco—we were finally rewarded on Wednesday with the news that Atlanta has signed another player: TE Logan Paulsen. You may all rejoice in the boundless excitement that I’m sure you’re feeling at this moment.

Paulsen, a former UDFA out of UCLA, has had a seven-year career in the NFL that includes a five-year stint with Washington and brief stops with the Bears and most recently with the 49ers. The 6’5, 268 TE is known primarily as a blocking option that has occasionally provided some limited receiving ability. Paulsen has had only two seasons with greater than 20 catches (2012 & 2013), so he’s not likely to be a major factor there.

Paulsen’s contract, as reported by ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, is reportedly for 1-year, $1.005M. But the most interested part of the deal is that the Falcons have given Paulsen $200K guaranteed—a sign that he is considered a virtual lock for the roster instead of merely a camp body. With the Falcons moving on from Levine Toilolo, the team was in need of a new blocking TE, so the addition makes sense. But with Paulsen’s limited ability as a receiver, do the Falcons still need to address the position in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Unlike with Brandon Fusco and the OL, things are a bit less clear at TE. First, let’s take a look at who the Falcons have under contract right now:

STARTERS

Austin Hooper
Eric Saubert
Logan Paulsen

PRACTICE SQUAD/FUTURES

Alex Gray

Most NFL teams keep 3 TEs on their 53-man roster. The Falcons did, as well, in 2017. However, under Kyle Shanahan in 2016, Atlanta actually kept 4 TEs on the roster for much of the season. Steve Sarkisian is rumored to prefer 2TE sets even more than Shanahan did, so it’s certainly possible that the Falcons will return to keeping 4 on the roster in 2018. In that case, the Falcons could look to add another TE in the 2018 NFL Draft or, perhaps, from the ranks of the undrafted.

But how high do they draft another TE? Is the team looking to upgrade Hooper, or are they simply trying to find a fourth TE? What about Eric Saubert—who tested like a very good athlete at the position and was an electric receiver in college? There are a lot of questions and, at this point, very few clear answers.

What I can tell you is that the team is very unlikely to move on from Hooper, Saubert, or Paulsen. Despite the ire of fans, Hooper is still quite young and has shown flashes of TE1 ability at a position that is notorious for being difficult to acclimate to at the NFL level. Saubert spent his entire first season on the bench—but the team clearly felt strongly enough about him to stash him on the 53-man roster, unlike RB Brian Hill. Paulsen’s contract makes moving on from him pretty unlikely.

We also know that the Falcons have shown plenty of interest in TEs at the Combine. Hayden Hurst, in particular, has been linked to Atlanta through formal interviews. Then again, the team also held a formal interview with C/G James Daniels and showed a ton of interest in G Isaiah Wynn before signing Fusco last week.

At TE, the answer remains unclear. I believe the signing of Paulsen makes the drafting of a TE—particularly on Day 2—significantly less likely. The team could very well still be in the market for a Day 3 target—like Indiana’s Ian Thomas, Central Michigan’s Tyler Conklin, or UCF’s Jordan Akins—in order to bolster the depth and compete with Alex Gray for TE4. Outside of that range, however, it seems like the Falcons may be relatively settled at the position heading into the 2018 season.

What do you think about the signing of Logan Paulsen? Does his addition to the TE corps make it more or less likely that the team adds another TE in the draft? Where would you target the position for Atlanta at this point?