With the Falcons finally sitting on a little bit of cap space—around $8 million, last we checked—the time to make a free agent signing or two to improve the roster is probably nigh. I do mean literally just one or two, as well.
For this article, rather than build out a massive list of players I just might be interested in, I’m going to zero in on two positions that are obvious needs right now, though more could crop up because of injury or simply lackluster summers from key players. If I’ve missed your favorite please let me know, but I do think this captures the (relatively few but still important) needs that are left.
Luke Bowanko, 28, 18 career starts
Josh LeRibeus, 30, 15 career starts
Daniel Munyer, 27, 1 career start
One of the few things the Falcons haven’t added to the current ofefnsive line is an experienced center. Adam Gettis can play there in a pinch and the Falcons could ostensibly play Wes Schweitzer or another one of their guards at center if an emergency happened, but with Alex Mack getting older this team will eventually need to invest in someone who could handle the load there if worst came to worst.
There just isn’t much out there on the active market. Bowanko and LeRibeus are reasonably experienced options, while Munyer is a bit younger and plenty versatile. One suspects the Falcons will stick with what they’ve got—they’ve certainly invested enough on this line—but if Gettis and others falter this summer, this is where they might look.
Allen Bailey, 30, 16 games, 13 starts, 6 sacks
Derrick Morgan, 30, 13 games, 12 starts, .5 sacks
Derrick Shelby, 30, 7 games
William Hayes, 34, 3 games, 2 sacks
Jihad Ward, 25, 6 games, 3 sacks
Bailey looks like the name to watch here, as the Falcons have already shown interest in him. He can play at defensive tackle or at defensive end, he’s a big strong bear of a man who does good work against the run, and he’s a capable at worst pass rusher. He’d be a huge addition to a defensive line that could use more depth and talent.
Morgan would be a fine consolation prize. He’s coming off a shaky season in Tennessee and he never played 16 games there, but in 2016 and 2017 he managed over 16 sacks combined. You have to be wary that he’s falling off, of course, but at worst he’d be an upgrade over Shelby as a pass rusher.
Speaking of which, Shelby is a familiar face. He was a signing I liked a lot for Atlanta, but injuries and stretches of unspectacular play doomed him in Atlanta. If the team strikes out with Bailey and others, they could bring back a guy with a ton of scheme familiarity and chalk up his recent injury issues to bad luck. That feels like an option of last resort, however.
Hayes is one of the least inspiring options on this list given his age and role a year ago, but again, with the Falcons rotating heavily they may decide all they need is one more veteran body to fill out the back end of the defensive end depth chart, and Hayes could be an option if these other guys get snapped up.
In some ways, the most interesting name on here besides Bailey is Ward, a draft bust up to this point who only played in six games last year but managed six quarterback hits and three sacks in those six games. He’s only 25 years old and wouldn’t cost much to add, but could be a nice final piece on the defensive line if the likes of Morgan or Bailey prove too expensive.