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Recapping the first day of Falcons free agency

The Falcons gained two players and either cut or lost two others.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images

So, what happened in Falconsville during day one of free agency? On a hectic Wednesday, the Falcons...

Released Ryan Schraeder

The release of Schraeder was the sad note in the early excitement of free agency. Like Robert Alford and Matt Bryant before him, the Falcons made a business decision with a player who gave the team some great years, and it was hard to see him go.

Unlike with Alford and Bryant, there’s no ready-made replacement on hand. Isaiah Oliver is entering his second season and could be the team’s long-term #2 cornerback, while Giorgio Tavecchio is under contract for the next two years and is relatively young and quite affordable at kicker. The team’s current and only options to replace Schraeder, a rock-solid right tackle until his shaky 2018, are Ty Sambrailo and Matt Gono. Sambrailo is clearly going to be in play to stick there for 2019 and possibly 2020 after he finished 2018 well and Gono has upside, but that’s a potentially big downgrade.

With two new guards in the fold, Alex Mack still rock solid at center, and Jake Matthews emerging as one of the league’s better left tackles, right tackle is the big picture priority in the short term. The Falcons will likely invest a pick on the draft’s first or second day to pick up their long term starter there, and we’ll hope that guy is as good as Schraeder was at his peak.

Schraeder’s release will save the team quite a bit of money after June 1, allowing them to lock up their rookie class or chase a summer veteran.

Signed James Carpenter at left guard

Carpenter’s a solid signing on a team-friendly deal, or just about what you’d expect the Falcons to pursue at left guard. With Andy Levitre battling injuries the last two years and Wes Schweitzer clearly not in this team’s plans as a starter, Carpenter was added to solidify the position for at least the next two seasons, though he could reach the end of his deal if all goes well.

This fits with what the Falcons want to do at guard. They’ve made half-hearted investments in the draft in recent years, with Schweitzer working out far better than anyone had a right to expect and Sean Harlow looking like a long-term backup at best, but they’ve made their bones in free agency and through trades with Levitre, Chris Chester, and Brandon Fusco. What Carpenter does is given them a proven, largely durable guard option with solid pass protection chops and decent run blocking skills. He’s not tremendously exciting, but he’s an average starter on his worst day, and the Falcons think he’ll be an upgrade on Schweitzer in particular in pass pro.

Signed Jamon Brown at right guard

If Carpenter is the safe, affordable option, Brown is a bit more of a gamble. He doesn’t have the long starting experience Carpenter brings to the table and is coming off a year where he was suspended for two games, unceremoniously dumped by the Rams, and boasting just eight starts for the Giants. The upside here is considerable, however.

Start with Brown’s age. He’ll be 26 in a couple of days, making him the young guard option the Falcons have gotten outside the draft in a while. He’s got size, strength, and two legitimately strong seasons in 2016 and 2017 with the Rams, especially at the same right guard position he’ll be slotting into here in Atlanta. Like Carpenter, his pass protection is solid, but Brown’s had stretches of terrific run blocking and drew a lot of praise from (an admittedly poorly run) Giants team last year after joining them. It’s possible there’s upside here we haven’t seen yet.

Brown carries more risk than Carpenter because of his guaranteed money (which likely locks him into Atlanta through 2020) and uneven performance history. After the Falcons spun through Brandon Fusco, Ben Garland and Zane Beadles at the position in 2018, though, it’s nice to have someone with promise and size stepping into the position.

Lost Tevin Coleman to the 49ers

The writing has been on the wall for this one ever since Devonta Freeman signed his deal, and despite Freeman’s mounting injury issues since then and the team’s continual half-hearted protests to the contrary, there appears to have been no serious effort to bring Coleman back.

He’s off to the 49ers on a two year, $10 million deal, joining Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida under Kyle Shanahan. Coleman will do terrific things with Shanny, I have no doubt, but this team with its current and future cap crunches was not going to be able to pay two running backs starters’ salaries. In San Fran, Coleman has a better chance of being a true starter, while the Falcons will get back a healthy Freeman (we hope) and bring Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and potentially a rookie to bear. Both sides of the coin will be just fine here, but we’ll miss those highlight reel runs and catches.

What’s next?

I had thought we might see the Falcons locking up a low-to-mid tier defensive end and defensive tackle on Wednesday, but not yet. Those are still my two expected signings going forward, even if I’m not precisely sure who they are going to sign.

Other positions potentially in the offing include wide receiver with Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall hitting the open market, backup tight end, and potentially a cornerback. Much will depend on how quickly the Falcons can get Grady Jarrett locked up, settle on a new deal for Julio Jones, and decide what they’re going to do with Brandon Fusco. You’ll hear more about how crazy the market has been in Carter’s links, coming up at 8 a.m.