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Evaluating the status of every Falcons free agent

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Which impending free agents should remain in Atlanta? We take a closer, updated look, all in one place.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After re-signing key players during the 2016 season, the Atlanta Falcons were unable to attain the same feat this season. The front office relieved most of their free agency stress by giving Ryan Schraeder and Robert Alford long-term deals. Both veterans play a pivotal role in the team’s success. While none of the imminent free agents are as valuable as them, nobody can dispute the amount of talent that could be departing from Atlanta.

Thomas Dimitroff didn’t mince words about their off-season outlook. Several key players are expected to move on. For the first time in his tenure, Dimitroff has prepared himself for some unfortunate losses. The Falcons were fortunate that Ryan was playing on a rookie contract during their successful run from 2008 to 2012. They were able to re-sign key players, while making free agent splashes in acquiring Dunta Robinson and Ray Edwards. That isn’t the case anymore.

Ryan is expected to receive a new mega deal in the spring or summer. Following multiple successful draft classes, they have to prioritize on re-signing young valuable players such as Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews. That’s the cost of being a great team. Tough personnel decisions will be made every off-season. Who you decide to re-sign and let move on can alter your season.

Not bringing back Patrick DiMarco, while re-signing (and recently cutting) Levine Toilolo proved to be a poor decision. Every free agent’s future must be assessed. Here is what the Falcons should do with every free agent, along with making an attempt to predict each player’s future.

Matt Bryant

Does anyone need to give this any thought? Bryant’s resume speaks for itself. The ageless wonder continues to defy the odds.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

Adrian Clayborn

Unlike other noteworthy free agents, Dimitroff didn’t mention Clayborn during his press conference at the NFL combine. The versatile defensive lineman has developed into a true fan favorite in Atlanta. Quinn loves using Clayborn in a variety of different ways. With his ability to cause havoc inside and outside, the former first round pick will be a hot commodity in a depleted edge rusher group. Dimitroff’s recent comments suggest Clayborn could be a top priority for them. Between Quinn rarely letting his favorites get away and Derrick Shelby being released, there are reasons to believe they will keep him. It would be surprising to see the ultra-aggressive, violent pass rusher play for another team in 2018.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

Derrick Coleman

It didn’t matter who the Falcons signed. They weren’t going to replicate DiMarco’s production. Not many fullbacks can create running lanes and and blow linebackers off the ball like the former All-Pro. When they decided to sign a fullback that spent 2016 out of the league, it raised major questions about how they valued the position. Coleman received plenty of snaps yet looked overwhelmed as a lead blocker. Linebackers beat him repeatedly at the point of attack. The coaching staff rarely used him in the red zone, which indicated their lack of confidence. It would be surprising to see him start for any team next season.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Taylor Gabriel

Gabriel was one of the departing players mentioned during Dimitroff’s press conference. The dynamic wide receiver confirmed his exit via Twitter. It’s not surprising to see him move on elsewhere. Steve Sarkisian didn’t know how to devise explosive plays for Gabriel. Unless he called a jet sweep or bubble screen, the game plan rarely featured him. A once productive weapon became a peripheral figure in a disjointed offense. Gabriel’s inability to create separation against press coverage didn’t help matters either. He could use a change of scenery, while Atlanta needs a more reliable third wide receiver.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Kemal Ishmael

Similar to Gabriel, Dimitroff included Ishmael on the list of players not returning. The versatile defender is entering the prime of his career. After being used as a top backup, it’s understandable for Ishmael to pursue a bigger role. He has developed into a savvy linebacker and consistent tackler. This is a prime example of a great team not being able to keep a solid role player. There is simply no full-time opportunity for Ishmael, as the coaching staff focuses on Duke Riley’s development at weakside linebacker.

Should they re-sign him: Yes (although it looks unlikely)

Will they re-sign him: No

Leon McFadden

The Falcons signed McFadden for depth purposes in December. It proved to be a precautionary signing, as Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole recovered from their respective injuries. McFadden never saw the field during his brief stint. There is no reason to re-sign a journeyman corner.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Austin Pasztor

Pasztor suffered multiple injuries during the preseason. After being positioned to be their primary backup tackle, he lost his spot to Ty Sambrailo. It’s difficult to see why they would bring him back.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Dontari Poe

Poe was the final player mentioned in Dimitroff’s response to questions regarding free agency. As previously mentioned, great teams are bound to lose talented players. This is another example following Poe’s strong season. Signing him to a one-year deal proved to be successful. The former Pro Bowler gave them a quality massive body up front to stop the run, while generating a decent amount of interior pressure. They found creative ways to utilize his biggest strengths as well. Adding Poe looked like a perfect fit under Quinn’s scheme. Unfortunately, it will be remembered as a one-year coup. His play assured teams that they can sign him to a long term, premium deal.

Should they re-sign him: Yes (although it looks unlikely)

Will they re-sign him: No

Andre Roberts

The Falcons witnessed a complete role reversal in the kick/punt returner department. They went from a conservative, limited returner in Eric Weems to a fearless, unpredictable returner in Roberts. His decision-making left fans frustrated on a consistent basis. This frustrating tendency overshadowed his ability to make defenders miss and gain extra yards to put the offense in good field position. This is going to be one of their more difficult decisions. As dangerous as Roberts can be, teams want stability at this position. Roberts made too many poor decisions that put the offense at a disadvantage. The front office could opt to draft a wide receiver and use him as a returner.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Ahtyba Rubin

Rubin is another free agent on the defensive line. With Poe likely heading elsewhere, that may boost his chances of returning as a backup. The coaching staff won’t forget about Rubin’s contributions towards helping them stop the run. He added much-needed depth inside to take some pressure off Jarrett and Poe. At 31 years old, Rubin can still contribute in a limited capacity. His past ties to Quinn in Seattle should benefit him as well.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

Jordan Tripp

Tripp was one of their key special teams contributors. Unfortunately, the backup linebacker suffered a season-ending concussion in October. It’s unclear how the front office views someone with an extensive injury history. While they need some linebacker depth, Tripp’s past issues could prevent them from taking another chance on him

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: No

Courtney Upshaw

After ending the 2016 season on a high note, the Falcons rewarded Upshaw with another one-year deal. His power and bend off the edge earned him extra reps across the defensive line. That wasn’t the case this season. Upshaw was hampered by ankle and knee issues. When he returned to full health, his play was largely underwhelming. Offenses had success targeting him in the running game. Upshaw struggled to handle double teams, while failing to make those key effort plays that made him standout in the previous season. There aren’t many reasons for them to keep the former first round pick in the rotation.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Sean Weatherspoon

It’s clear that the Falcons have a soft spot for Weatherspoon. The charismatic linebacker turned into a mentor for the young linebackers. Due to his injury history and initially not being re-signed last year, it seems unlikely that the front office will bring him back. The coaching staff may view him as an emergency option. Weatherspoon’s experience and instincts still makes him worthy of a roster spot.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: No

Blidi Wreh-Wilson

The once-forgotten man ended up receiving playing time in a crowded secondary. After replacing Trufant against Minnesota, he started being utilized in their dime packages. Wreh-Wilson makes up for his subpar speed and stiff hips with his physicality. It also helps that he can play special teams effectively. There are usually a few under the radar players that get brought back. Wreh-Wilson seems to fit the bill, as he will compete for the fourth cornerback spot once again.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes