A little earlier today, we discussed the undrafted free agents who may be able to hang around on the roster. Now we’re going to discuss the veterans the Falcons will inevitably sign to shore up depth on their roster at some point in the summer, after they’ve let young players duke it out for spots and found some of them wanting.
These are the positions the Falcons seem most likely to add veteran talent between now and the season, per me.
Sort of a no-brainer. The Falcons had Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe dominating snaps a year ago and still gave themselves access to a deep rotation, with Ahtyba Rubin, Courtney Upshaw, and a rotating cast of characters cleaning up snaps. This year, Poe’s gone and the Falcons will play Jarrett a ton again, with Jack Crawford and rookie Deadrin Senat rotating next to him. That’s a good group, but it’s unlikely to be a complete one.
Considering the primary competition for the spot are former UDFAs and current ones, this remains the odds-on favorite for a veteran signing or two before the season begins. Upshaw was a useful, versatile reserve the last couple of seasons and is still out there, and Rubin played 10 or so snaps of effective run defense a game and is still unsigned, as well. I’d bet decent money that one of them will be back again by August.
This team is electing to let two undrafted free agents fight for the position, which I tend to think is smart. Derrick Coleman had some special teams value a year ago, but the team is banking on being able to find a better blocking option between Daniel Marx and Luke McNitt, and there’s at least a decent chance that happens. That said, if we get through a preseason game or two and both of these guys look unready or unskilled, the Falcons may dip back into a shallow free agent market for help. Mike Tolbert and Derrick Coleman are about the only notable options out there at the moment, however.
The Falcons boast a deep (if not hyper-talented) interior offensive line grouping, with Ben Garland capable of playing guard and center, 2017 16 game starter Wes Schweitzer able to step in at guard, and 2017 fourth round selection Sean Harlow still developing. Things are less rosy at tackle, where Ty Sambrailo isn’t the most inspiring emergency option and Austin Pasztor isn’t certain to be any better. The Falcons need to not worry about sunk cost with Sambrailo, and if he doesn’t look better this summer, they should (and probably will) be looking for a replacement.
The Falcons are going to let undrafted free agents duke it out for the spot Sharrod Neasman held down a year ago, with some combination of Damontae Kazee and Brian Poole likely serving as the primary backups for Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. If (or when) those UDFA options falter, the Falcons could look to shore up their final safety spot with cheap veteran depth. Special teams talent and versatile defensive back Corey Graham is out there, as is former Saint Kenny Vaccaro and a few other interesting names. If any of them stay free agents until late in the summer, they might be had cheap as excellent depth.
Ideally, one of the team’s young players like J’Terius Jones will step into a role this year, but it’s no certain thing. The Falcons currently have a tight, strong rotation at defensive end with Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley, Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby, but they’re likely still looking for one more player to add, even with McKinley in particular likely to soak up a ton of 2018 snaps. Robert Ayers, Jared Crick and David Bass are names to watch.
What other positions are you keeping an eye on?