The Falcons are, for the most part, finished making big moves in free agency. They’ve added some worthwhile contributors at several positions of need, but left one spot virtually untouched: defensive tackle. The reason for this appears to be that the team is interested in adding multiple DTs in the 2018 NFL Draft—with DT also the heavy favorite to be the Falcons’ first round pick. But even if Atlanta were to add two players to the rotation, the team would still have only 4 DTs on the roster.
The team is unlikely to roll with only the phenomenal Grady Jarrett, the versatile Jack Crawford, and whatever draft pick(s) they add, particularly with the loss of veteran DE/DT Adrian Clayborn. Instead, we’re likely to see the Falcons bring back an affordable veteran after the draft. A possible candidate for that final roster spot could be free agent DT Ahtyba Rubin.
The 6’2, 310 lb Rubin joined the Falcons midway through the 2017 season after Atlanta’s defensive line suffered some injuries. He provided pretty good run defense as a rotational, base package DT and didn’t break the bank either. Rubin has plenty of experience in Quinn’s defense, having spent two seasons in Seattle (2015-2016) and last year in Atlanta. While he’s a fairly one-dimensional player, Rubin has occasionally provided some pass rushing ability—he has 15.0 sacks in his career, including a 5-sack season in 2011.
Despite playing ten seasons in the NFL, Rubin is still just 31 years old and should be affordable once again. He’s an above-average run defender that fits well in the Falcons’ defense, and would provide a steadying veteran presence for what is likely to be a very young defensive line group in Atlanta. Rubin isn’t a world-beater or an elite player, but he’s reliable, durable, and experienced. You can’t discount the value of players like that on a competitive roster.
To me, this one seems like a no-brainer. The Falcons are thin at DT and could add a proven, affordable player in Rubin to bolster the rotation. But why hasn’t Atlanta made this move already, if it’s such a slam dunk?
Simple: the team wants to see what they get in the draft. If someone like Vita Vea falls into Atlanta’s lap, the need for a pure run-stuffer like Rubin is pretty non-existent. However, if the Falcons select someone like Maurice Hurst instead, Rubin’s skillset will still be needed.
Plus, Rubin—for whatever reason—doesn’t seem to have much of a market. He was cut by the Broncos after two games in 2017 purely due to a numbers situation, and remained un-signed until the Falcons scooped him up a few weeks later. He’s also lingered as a free agent throughout the first weeks of the 2018 league year. Atlanta clearly feels confident that they can wait until after the draft to re-sign Rubin, if they so choose.
What do you think about the prospect of the Falcons bringing back Ahtyba Rubin? Are there any other veteran options out there in free agency you’d like to see Atlanta add? Do you sometimes spell Ahtyba as Ahytba? Because I sure do.