We’ve already asked you what position group you’d like to steal from the Panthers, and with this week’s opponent increasingly looking like a sad sack of butts, we won’t ask that again. Instead, let’s talk free agency, which will be one of our major focuses here at The Falcoholic in depressingly short order.
The Panthers are a team about to clean house, much like the Falcons. If they fire Ron Rivera, chances are good many of their impending free agents won’t be back. There are enough interesting players in that list that we ought to consider whether some of them might end up in Atlanta.
So let’s do so now. Who do you want to see with the Falcons next year? Here’s the full list, but I’m highlighting a few worth your consideration, bearing in mind the team’s likely cap crunch next season.
DE/OLB Mario Addison
The Falcons need pass rushing help in the worst way, and they’ll need it even more in the offseason. Addison might be one option to help bring that to Atlanta.
Through 12 games in 2019, Addison is sitting at 9.5 sacks. He has at least 9 in each of his past four seasons and in the two years prior to that, he managed six each year. He’ll be 33 years old in 2020, but he’s been able to bring the heat as both a defensive end and linebacker and hasn’t shown any real signs of slowing down to this point.
Addison won’t be dirt cheap or anything close to it despite his age, which means the Falcons would have to dig out of their little cap hell to have a shot at getting him. Assuming they do so, he’s probably the most interesting impending free agent in Carolina, because the Falcons figure to head into 2020 with Takk and virtually nothing else at defensive end.
DT Gerald McCoy
McCoy would very obviously still be a great get. Atlanta’s not going to be able to create an elite defensive end rotation in a single offseason, but adding a player of McCoy’s caliber to the line would mean that the team could send him and Grady Jarrett after opposing quarterbacks, which seems a little unfair.
As is the case with Addison, cost figures to be an obstacle here. McCoy’s pulling down a cool $8 million this year and the Falcons would likely only invest in another terrific interior defensive lineman if they thought they would be able to contend in 2020. Whether they do likely depends on the general manager and head coach hired and the degree to which they trim down the roster.
Okay, that’s it for the hot names. Let’s get into some more affordable, less sexy options.
DT Vernon Butler
Butler was more like Bustler heading into this season, as the 26-year-old defensive tackle had largely disappointed in a sea of other defensive tackles in Carolina. He still hasn’t been spectacular in 2019, but his play has improved and he’s snagged four sacks this year, tripling his career number in the process.
The Falcons figure to go into next year with Grady Jarrett, Deadrin Senat, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and maybe John Cominsky at defensive tackle, with Allen Bailey able to mix in on the interior. Butler’s next contract isn’t likely to be a backbreaking one and at 27 he may still have enough untapped upside to be a quality piece of the rotation in Atlanta. There’s no guarantee that Jack Crawford and Tyeler Davison will be back without Dan Quinn in the picture, so Butler might be worth keeping an eye on.
OG Greg Van Roten
A player to keep an eye on, Van Roten has been solid for Carolina this season, allowing just a single sack and committing just two penalties while clearing the way for Christian McCaffrey and friends. He’ll be 30 next year and doesn’t figure to command major money—which is good, because the Falcons don’t have it—but he’s light enough on his feet to fit a zone blocking scheme if the team retains one. It’s worth noting that Atlanta might not bring back James Carpenter and Wes Schweitzer and that Sean Harlow is still quite unproven, meaning that the guard group might be down to Jamon Brown and Chris Lindstrom. Van Roten could be a solid bridge, or at least veteran competition for Brown.
RB Reggie Bonnafon
Buried behind Christian McCaffrey, the 23-year-old Bonnafon hasn’t gotten many chances to impress this year. In his limited opportunities, though, Bonnafon has looked fast, smooth, and capable.
The Falcons seem likely to move on from Devonta Freeman in 2020, leaving them with a recuperating Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison actually under contract. Brian Hill is a free agent who may or may not return, as is Kenjon Barner, and the Falcons are missing someone who can fly.
Bonnafon has very few miles on him and would be an intriguing, affordable signing if the Panthers decline to negotiate with him. He is an exclusive rights free agent, but with a new regime coming in it’s possible the team moves on, and the Falcons should consider pouncing if he does.
Who are you taking? Don’t limit yourself to one player, we’re going shopping!