I hope you’re sitting down for this, but the Falcons still have some roster needs, even after signing a couple of guards, a third-string running back, and a backup tight end. Here are a few we’re focusing on, which the Falcons will hope to address between their remaining free agent dollars and nine 2019 NFL Draft selections.
I’m thinking specifically of defensive end, where the Falcons are going to be relying on Takkarist McKinley, Vic Beasley, and Steven Means to provide pressure at the moment, but I’d take meaningful additions virtually anywhere.
The names to watch are Bruce Irvin (still a rumored target), Benson Mayowa, and ummm not much else out there right now, really. The Falcons will also almost certainly draft multiple pass rushers with Beasley on a one year deal and the cupboard bare outside of Takk and Grady Jarrett heading into next year.
This team has one of the best top threes in the NFL, with Julio Jones a top three receiver period, Mohamed Sanu providing value and versatility, and Calvin Ridley looking like the best receiver out of last year’s draft class. It’s just that they currently have nothing behind the three of them, and will have to remedy that.
Russell Gage is a legitimately intriguing receiver because of his speed, but he’s still likely to stick to being a core special teamer in his second season. With Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall probably leaving, the Falcons probably won’t double dip in the draft when they could use a savvy, veteran fourth receiver, especially if injury strikes. Look for them to keep an eye on the market and try to pounce soon, especially with options dwindling.
I have gone on record multiple times saying that I like Matt Gono and hope he gets a shot to prove himself. Even if he does, the Falcons still have a long-term need at tackle that should be addressed in one of the next couple of draft classes. They’ve already been linked to multiple tackles in this one.
The team’s cornerback situation is more unsettled than it has been in years. Desmond Trufant remains on the payroll and the team’s #1 corner, but while he’s been far better than most of the fanbase is willing to give him credit for these last two seasons, the Falcons may explore re-structuring his contract in 2020 given that he’s not playing at an elite level. Regardless, he’s the only proven quality corner on the roster. Isaiah Oliver has loads of promise but is unproven, Blidi Wreh-Wilson has played exceptionally well but only in very short bursts, and Damontae Kazee is expected to move over from free safety to play cornerback, which is promising but not a lock to lead to Kazee becoming an elite corner.
A Trufant/Oliver/Kazee/Wreh-Wilson quartet should be good, but with Trufant’s contract situation and Wreh-Wilson on a one year deal, the Falcons are going to have to add to the position. It would not surprise anyone if they did so both through the draft and free agency.
On paper, a grouping of Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Kazee, and Sharrod Neasman is pretty great. In actuality, though, that group isn’t quite the excellent one it appears to be.
Neal and Allen are both coming off of significant injuries, with Neal (from what we know) further ahead than Allen. Kazee is expected to get time at cornerback if he doesn’t switch there full-time, leaving Neasman as the team’s only real proven reserve. With Jordan Richards hitting free agency and not a lock to return, the Falcons are going to need to invest at the position, especially if they have any level of concern about Allen’s readiness to begin the year. As you may have heard, the safety market is pretty absurd at the moment, meaning there are good players out there if the Falcons want one and can afford one.
My strong preference is that the Falcons address this need through the draft, especially with a quality class. But I’m also quite certain they’re going to at least take a swing at it through free agency, chasing a rotational option who can slot in to Terrell McClain’s 2018 role with more success.