The Falcons have a lot of work to do between now and training camp in July. A small army of Falcons free agents will soon hit the open market. Thanks to recent restructuring of Matt Ryan and Grady Jarrett’s contracts, the Falcons stand a fighting chance of re-signing Austin Hooper, but they’re unlikely to otherwise be financially competitive in free agency.
But assuming the Falcons have to prioritize (and they do; oh, believe me, they do), what should their priorities be?
The Falcons pass rush is a perennial disappointment. Sacks aren’t everything, but Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley combined for 11.5 sacks in 2019, most of which came during the second half. The Falcons pass rush ranked among the league’s best in time to throw, but according to Pro Football Focus, Takk and Vic graded out as the Falcons’ 7th and 11th best pass rushers. As a caveat, that puts guys like Deion Jones and John Cominsky ahead of Takk and Vic, which is unfair because the former two only saw a fraction of the pass rush snaps as the latter two. But Adrian Clayborn, Tyeler Davison, Allen Bailey, and Takk all had better pass rush grades than Vic. Clayborn had a better pass rush grade that Takk. The bottom line is this: Takk and Vic weren’t the team’s best pass rushers. Takk was the third best regular pass rusher and Vic was (for most of the season) the worst. I don’t think any of you would, but don’t let Vic’s run of sacks during the second half fool you.
Look, it’s undeniable that the Falcons figured out their pass rush at certain points in 2019, but it was a team effort, driven in large part by Jarrett’s otherworldly pass rushing abilities. Clayborn, headed for free agency, led the team with 39 hurries. Jarrett was 2nd on the team with 29, Vic was 3rd on the team with 24, and Takk was 4th on the team with 19. Given that the Falcons aren’t likely to bring back Vic and a compliment to Jarrett to plug inside wouldn’t hurt, this is a pressing need. Make it happen, Thomas.
Alex Mack isn’t getting any younger (or cheaper) and the Falcons were an abject disaster at left guard in 2019. That doesn’t mean they will walk back the Jamon Brown/James Carpenter signings any time soon, but if they don’t focus on the future at guard/center in the draft, something will have gone horribly awry. If they can find a player early in the draft (i.e., with the 16th overall pick) capable of playing left guard right away and taking over for Mack long-term, they will pull the trigger.
I don’t believe the Falcons are as thin at cornerback as some would have you believe. Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, and Kendall Sheffield comprise a solid core that the team can realistically build on headed into next season. That trio wasn’t perfect in 2019, but there was a lot to like, especially during the second half.
Running back and tight end may also be positions of need, depending on how the front office chooses to handle the emerging cap crisis and whether they are able to re-sign Hooper.
But what say you, Falcoholics? Where do the Falcons need to focus their attention during the offseason?