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A look at the Falcons roster after the first wave of free agency

There are holes here, as you’d expect, and the Falcons have to fill them between now and September or we’re all going to be nervous.

Atlanta Falcons Practice
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 02: Atlanta Falcons helmets on the field during the Super Bowl LI practice on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

With the first wave of free agency well over and the team’s biggest rumors having to do with re-signing Julio Jones and perhaps bringing back Kemal Ishmael, this is an ideal time to take stock of the roster as it stands and see what spots need attention most desperately with teh team’s remaining dollars and upcoming draft picks.

Let’s do so now, because you would not be anywhere else on a Sunday.

Current Falcons roster

QB Matt Ryan
QB Matt Schaub
QB Kurt Benkert

Likely final, with the only real question being whether Benkert sticks around or not.

RB Devonta Freeman
RB Ito Smith
RB Kenjon Barner
RB Brian Hill

Hill is behind Barner because the latter would appear to have more special teams value as the presumptive returner, though Hill should get a fair shot to stay as a more reliable and physical runner.

FB Ricky Ortiz

Ortiz is not a lock to return with Hill available, Luke Stocker reportedly set to be considered as a part-time fullback, and the always shaky role of the fullback in this Falcons offense.

WR Julio Jones
WR Mohamed Sanu
WR Calvin Ridley
WR Justin Hardy
WR Russell Gage
WR Christian Blake
WR Devin Gray

If one of Blake or Gray is intriguing to Falcons brass, there’s a legitimate shot that the team won’t bother dipping into the draft for a receiver. With Dirk Koetter on board, though, that seems like a longshot. This is still a good group, with a top five set of three receivers atop the depth chart, blocking and sure hands with Hardy, and speed and special teams value with Gage.

TE Austin Hooper
TE Luke Stocker
TE Eric Saubert
TE Logan Paulsen
TE Alex Gray
TE Jaeden Graham

This is a logjam, and the Falcons could still look at adding a player from a deep tight end class. Saubert might be in his last year to prove he can carve out a real role in this offense, Stocker and Paulsen figure to be blockers if they both stick around, and Gray and Graham were interesting practice squad stashes. The Falcons may legitimately keep four players at the position.

T Jake Matthews
T Ty Sambrailo
T Matt Gono

This feels like an incomplete picture. Matthews is a strong left tackle and Sambrailo is a passable stopgap, but the Falcons don’t appear likely to trust Gono as a swing tackle just yet. Expect a draft pick here, potentially as early as day one.

G James Carpenter
G Jamon Brown
G Wes Schweitzer
G Brandon Fusco
G Sean Harlow

This group is probably closer to finished. The Falcons know they can rely on Schweitzer to give them passable play if pressed into action, they just invested in multi-year deals for Brown and Carpenter, and Fusco’s a fine player if healthy. Harlow should get more time to marinate.

C Alex Mack

Again, there may be an opportunity to add a reserve here, as the Falcons don’t currently have anyone who profiles to be Mack’s backup at center. Look for Fusco, Harlow and Schweitzer to get a look if they strike out in April, but I doubt they will.

DE Takkarist McKinley
DE Vic Beasley
DE Steven Means

Again, a day one or day two draft pick is likely here. Takk still has upside and could arrive this year, but Beasley is no sure thing and Means is a useful rotational end but won’t be counted on to start if either of the others falter. The Falcons could use a compelling pass rusher to complement this group and potentially take over for Beasley in 2020, and I fully expect them to get one.

DT Grady Jarrett
DT Jack Crawford
DT Deadrin Senat
DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

The Falcons invested in Terrell McClain a year ago because they like to have plenty of guys to rotate through at defensive tackle, and they’ll add someone again this year to fill a similar role as a run stopper. Jarrett and Crawford are your passing down options, but look for Senat to take a leap this year as an early down option himself.

LB Deion Jones
LB De’Vondre Campbell
LB Foye Oluokun
LB Bruce Carter
LB Duke Riley
LB Jermaine Grace

If the Falcons bring back Ishmael, this group is in great shape for at least one season. Debo’s a star, Campbell’s solid on his worst days, Oluokun has loads of promise, and Carter is a steady reserve with special teams value. Riley is not the fanbase’s favorite player but is just now entering his third year and remains a player capable of figuring it out, while Grace is an interesting young linebacker who may just need an opportunity. The Falcons could look for their Campbell replacement if they don’t think they can keep him around in 2020, but otherwise this group looks set.

CB Desmond Trufant
CB Isaiah Oliver
CB/S Damontae Kazee
CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
CB Taveze Calhoun

There’s a need here. Trufant is chronically underrated but is no ballhawk and is probably not going to play dramatically better this year, while Oliver is exciting but ultimately unproven and so is Kazee, assuming he steps in as the nickel cornerback. Wreh-Wilson is solid and Calhoun can hang around as a special teamer, but this grouping feels very unsettled after 2019 and the Falcons love corners. Don’t rule out an early selection.

S Keanu Neal
S Ricardo Allen
S Sharrod Neasman

Again, an unfinished group. If Kazee stays at safety at least part-time Atlanta’s in good shape, but an addition feels necesary, particularly with Neal and Allen coming off of injuries. They’re both strong starters if healthy.

K Giorgio Tavecchio
P Matt Bosher
LS Josh Harris

All good here. Bosher’s steady and physical—as we demand from our punters—and Harris is one of the game’s most reliable long snappers. The only question is whether Tavecchio can be a high-end kicker for an offense that should give him plenty of opportunities, and that question is going to keep me up at night.

It goes without saying that this team has real talent, but the holes are significant. The Falcons will need to make smart investments in the offensive line (tackle and center, in particular), defensive line (especially DE), and secondary to really contend this coming season. Let’s hope by the end of April we’re feeling like they accomplished all of that.