Atlanta figures to start three of the most interesting, athletic linebackers in the NFL in 2018. Deion Jones is already a superstar, De’Vondre Campbell is a very good starter, and there’s enough talent in Duke Riley’s frame and frosty mullet to suggest his second season will go much better than his first.
The issue—and stop me if you’ve heard this with other positions—appears to be with depth. The Falcons have the always reliable Kemal Ishmael and the interesting rookie Foye Oluokun, but aside form that, there’s nothing here but undrafted free agents with unknown outlooks. The Falcons don’t know that Riley is going to take a step forward or that Oluokun will be ready to contribute, so this feels like a prime position for a veteran depth signing. They did it multiple times during the 2017 season with the likes of Jordan Tripp and Sean Weatherspoon, after all.
The Falcons are surprisingly set at any number of positions, honestly, and I think this will be a relatively quiet year for veteran pickups unless there are massive struggles or injuries that crop up this year. But guard and tackle, where the depth is a bit shaky and/or unproven, and linebacker and safety loom as spots where you wouldn’t feel all that confident if a starter went down. Considering the safety market is very robust at the moment and linebacker is at least decent, the Falcons probably will want to get a minicamp look at their options and start picking up the phone if they’re going to. Karlos Dansby, Lamin Barrow, and Michael Wilhoite are names to watch for if the Falcons are just looking for veteran stopgaps, while Falcons-linked Arthur Moats and reasonably interesting options like Gerald Hodges and Erik Walden are still hanging out looking for jobs. Moats in particular seems like he’s only a call away as a veteran option.
Of course, it’s quite possible that Oluokun hits the ground running and makes the Falcons feel quite confident he can step in as a reserve and in case injury strikes. It’s very possible that Riley takes a huge step forward. But I wouldn’t count on Atlanta being so confident in that outcome that they don’t go out and see what’s in the market between now and, say, early August.