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ESPN gives Atlanta middling free agency grade

I guess we’ll “C” if they add anyone else. Ahhhhh wakka wakka!

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Well, free agency is entering its lull, with only a handful of guys out there that can make a legitimate difference for a team at their given spot (his name is Jonathan Hankins).

The Falcons were pretty quiet, which makes sense given the team’s tight cap pre-Matt Ryan extension and the general roster’s makeup. We need to stop acting like silence is deadly in this time of the year. The Falcons are the only team to make the playoffs in back-to-back years in the NFC right now, and they’re about to add in another draft class and face down a third-place schedule with more tenured coaching in tow.

Whether you want to admit it or not, Atlanta’s in a good spot right now, despite the financial limitations. They’re young, have lots of talent and have a heck of a head coach in Dan Quinn. There are many teams who would love to be where Atlanta is right now, and yes, if you want to scrub 28-3 from your memories once and for all one day, this regime is far-more trustworthy to deliver that than others have been.

But, again, they didn’t do much in March, which is why ESPN’s Vaughn McClure gave the team a “C” for their overall haul (RG Brandon Fusco, CB Justin Bethel, TE Logan Paulsen).

The Falcons entered free agency with the mindset of bargain shopping without much cap space. They might have been a tad more aggressive had quarterback Matt Ryan agreed to a contract extension and, thus, lowered his $20-million-plus cap figure in 2018. But that wasn’t the case, so the Falcons needed to remain within a strict budget. They were able to fill some needs by signing a guard, a blocking tight end and a special-teams demon. Those moves didn’t exactly put Atlanta over the top, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff firmly believes there were no major holes to fill for a team just two years removed from the Super Bowl. We’ll see.

So, yes, it does appear that the Ryan extension is a bit of a bugaboo at the moment. But, don’t think this cost them a chance at Andrew Norwell or Sheldon Richardson. Nonsense. Ryan’s extension might’ve made TE Ed Dickson more obtainable, or perhaps, at the most, in keeping Adrian Clayborn. This wasn’t the most electric free agency class, and there was not a player out there in Atlanta’s general price range that would’ve dramatically improved the roster. This isn’t 2016 — they’re not an 8-8 team with a mediocre roster in need of major changes. We’ve got to add a little nuance to this conversation. But, Ryan’s deal being drawn out might’ve cost them a more luxurious rotational guy. Welcome to contract negotiations.

McClure says Bethel is the team’s best addition for what he will bring to the special teams unit, and says Dickson is the guy they missed out on.

Money did appear to be the issue there, according to McClure, with Seattle willing to pay the piper to get him in town. But, they got a good blocker in Paulsen, so we’ll have to see if Austin Hooper and Eric Saubert further develop, or if the team opts to draft a tight end to help the rotation. He, of course, lists DT Dontari Poe as the team’s biggest loss.

There’s still time to add a guy or two that’s still available if Ryan’s deal clears before the draft, but the more worrisome spots on the roster (the defensive line, the receiving core, the linebacking depth) will be addressed at the draft, or with cheaper FAs.

Before you chide the team for getting middling marks for their March business, remember these names: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre, Alex Mack, Ryan Scraeder, Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, Grady Jarrett, Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole, Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Brooks Reed, Derrick Shelby, Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Dan Quinn.

And breathe.

We’ll see if the team chooses to add anyone to the mix before draft day.