Unless the Falcons have one hell of a curve to throw us in the near-term, they’re mostly going to sign free agents after the initial frenzy of signings have died down. That means we must retire our dreams of signing some of the biggest names on the market in favor of (hopefully) quality players who don’t exactly excite the fanbase, which will hopefully work out well and not hamstring this team financially.
One of the positions where they may sniff around is defensive tackle. That may seem odd—Grady Jarrett is under contract, Jack Crawford was a very useful player in 2018, and Deadrin Senat has a ton of promise—but bear in mind that they went out of their way to sign and use Terrell McClain last year, and that Jarrett’s current long-term uncertainty and Crawford’s impending free agency makes a signing a real possibility. That may be true even if the Falcons intend to invest a top pick at the position, but assuming their interest in edge rushers like Brian Burns and tackles like Cody Ford is legit, they may just focus on free agency.
If that’s the case, we need to look beyond the biggest names in this class and toward some mid-tier options who could be immediate parts of the rotation and contribute, especially against the run. In service of that, I’ve compiled a list of options who may be fits contractually and with what the Falcons are looking for, and we’ll take a look at other positions in the days ahead.
Defensive tackle options
- Rodney Gunter, 27, Arizona
- Darius Philon, 25, San Diego
- Caraun Reid, 27, Detroit
- Tyeler Davison, 26, New Orleans
- Kerry Wynn, 28, New York Giants
- Christian Covington, 25, Houston
The names on this list run from reasonably expensive to potentially quite cheap, and all of them are under 30 with some history of production.
Gunter figures to be the most expensive after a year where he was strong against the run and amassed five sacks, and there are already rumors that teams like Miami are sniffing around him. If the Falcons could free up the money Gunter would be a killer signing who could push Crawford to more of a complementary role, but his production makes the possibility of doing so for cheap enough seem unlikely.
Philon’s next on the wish list as he’s young, capable (4+ sacks in each of the last two seasons), and has played in all 16 games in both 2017 and 2018. The Chargers should want to re-sign him, but if he makes it to the market he’s unlikely to break the bank and quite likely to be useful for Atlanta. A multi-year deal for Philon would, if they can also get Jarrett signed to a long-term deal, give the Falcons three very good DTs under the age of 27, which would go a long way toward keeping this defensive line solvent while they rebuild at DE.
From there, your mid-market options are less exciting but still interesting. Reid is a player I was hoping the Falcons would prioritize back in 2014, and now there’s an opportunity for the Falcons to make that fix by bringing the reliable run stopper over. Reid’s been a part-time player for each of the last three seasons, but he consistently grades well when he does play.
Davison has played in all but three games over the last four seasons in New Orleans and has been a versatile run defender the entire time, starting a combined 48 games as a defensive end and defensive tackle and helping an improving New Orelans defense put the brakes on other backs. He only has 3.5 career sacks and isn’t a compelling pass rusher, but he’d be an upgrade on Terrell McClain, is young enough to still have some upside, and shouldn’t be overly expensive despite his starting experience.
Wynn has played both defensive end and defensive tackle and has been an asset against the run at both spots for the Giants, grading out especially well in the early going in 2018. That positional versatility and his ability to get after the quarterback when the stars are properly aligned would make him a solid signing who (you’re sensing a theme here) would represent an upgrade on McClain.
Finally, Covington is a capable, young run defender who is coming off a terrific year. The market is actually pretty good at defensive tackle, so there’s a decent chance Covington doesn’t luck into a monster deal. Like Philon and to a lesser extent Davison, he’d be an immediate upgrade on what McClain offered last year with an opportunity to be a genuine starter down the line.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but don’t be surprised if the Falcons do wind up coming away with one of these guys in the coming weeks. Who would you add to it?