We’re inching closer every day to the start of free agency. The Falcons have still made very few moves to free up cap space, which leaves them with very little money to pursue potential targets or re-sign major players. Atlanta is currently sitting on just $4.1M, which is...well, not enough to do much of anything outside of signing a few depth players. I’d expect them to start making decisions on cuts as soon as the verdict on a new CBA is delievered (which would be Saturday).
But until then, we don’t really know how much space the Falcons will realistically have available. Whatever limited space they do have will probably go towards adding an EDGE and possibly re-signing a few key depth pieces. However, another possible area to target is LB, where there are plenty of options out there who shouldn’t break the bank. Atlanta returns Deion Jones and Foyesade Oluokun from 2019—along with a smattering of UDFA LB/S hybrids—but is lacking in proven depth.
Let’s take a look at some of the possible Falcons targets in free agency at LB.
Potential re-signing: De’Vondre Campbell
While it initially seemed like the Falcons were comfortable letting De’Vondre Campbell walk in free agency, recent buzz has suggested that there’s a chance that Campbell could return. I still find this exceptionally unlikely—Campbell is going to be one of the most sought-after LBs on the open market, and the Falcons probably can’t match the $6-8M/yr he’s likely to be offered. We know Campbell’s fit in the defense and he’s a fun player to watch, but it doesn’t make much financial sense to pay two LBs big money when Atlanta has none.
2019 Stats: 111 total tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, 1 FF,, 5 PD, 1 INT, 15.9% missed tackle rate, 67.9% completions allowed
Approximate Salary: $4M/yr
If the Falcons are looking to add a starter to the LB corps in free agency but aren’t looking to break the bank, Cincinnati’s Nick Vigil could fit the bill. Initially a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2016, Vigil spent his rookie season as a back-up before taking on a starting role over the remainder of his rookie contract. Vigil struggled with injuries in 2017 and 2018, but played a full season in 2019 and had his most productive campaign as a result. He’s not an overly flashy athlete, but Vigil quietly put together a quality season against the run and the pass (only a 72.9 passer rating allowed and 0 TDs on 56 targets). He’ll be the most expensive of the bunch, but if the Falcons want to add a starter to the LB corps without spending a Day 2 draft pick, Vigil could be an option.
2019 Stats: 10 total tackles, 23.1% missed tackle rate, 85.7% completions allowed
Approximate Salary: $2M/yr
Jatavis Brown had begun to make a name for himself with the Chargers after strong seasons in 2017 and 2018. He’s a solid athlete who can make plays against the run and pass. After missing time early in the 2019 season, Brown was largely relegated to the bench in favor of recent draft pick Uchenna Nwosu. He got few opportunities last season, starting just 1 game and managing just 10% of the overall snaps. Brown isn’t a world-beater at LB, but he could be a capable, young depth piece in Atlanta with starting experience and a versatile skillset.
2019 Stats: 31 total tackles, 13.9% missed tackle rate, 100% completions allowed
Approximate Salary: $2M/yr
A huge draft bust of the Jets who was linked to the Falcons in 2019 after emerging as a trade target, Darron Lee was instead traded to the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Lee is a tremendous athlete at the position—he’s very similar to Deion Jones in most respects—but has struggled to put it all together. He had a solid 2018 season with New York, but didn’t appear to be a good fit in Kansas City after starting just 2 games and allowing a 100% completion percentage in coverage. Lee could be a better scheme fit in Atlanta, and he’s not likely to demand a sizable contract coming off a down year.
2019 Stats: 55 total tackles, 1 FF, 1.8% missed tackle rate, 94.4% completions allowed
Approximate Salary: $1M/yr
Preston Brown was a stalwart in the middle of the Buffalo Bills defense for four straight years before signing a free agent deal with the Bengals in 2018. Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury after just 7 games, and continued to struggle as a result in 2019. There’s no sugar-coating it: Brown had a bad 2019 season, culminating in his benching and release. However, Brown is just 27 years old and has been an excellent tackler and solid coverage player as recently as 2018—where he allowed only a 70.8% completion rate and a 53.5 passer rating along with 2 INTs in just 7 games. He’ll be very affordable on the open market and could provide reliable veteran depth at worst for the Falcons.
What are your thoughts on potential free agent additions for the Falcons at LB? Any particularly players you’d like to see Atlanta add?