The two biggest offseason events have finally wrapped up for the Atlanta Falcons. After coming out of a second 7-and-9 season, Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn knew they had to make some changes with this roster in free agency and the draft.
Free agency was highlighted by unexpected splash signings like Dante Fowler and Todd Gurley, and the draft unexpectedly had nothing splashy. The team did not trade for the first time in the Dimitroff era, instead sticking with all six of their original draft slots.
How much was fixed between both free agency and the draft? Let’s take a closer look at the team’s remaining roster needs.
The Falcons added versatile Fresno State linebacker Mykal Walker in round 4. He looks set to play heavy snaps with the promising but under-utilized Foye Oluokun. We know Deion Jones is taking every defensive snap at middle linebacker. That is enough for a starting base defense, followed up by career backups Edmond Robinson, Ahmad Thomas, and LaRoy Reynolds. That is assuming Oluokun and rookie Walker can take those starter snaps.
Linebacker is definitely the shallowest position on the team with a lot of unproven players forced into starting. The Falcons will certainly add a handful of undrafted free agents for competition, but expect the team to add a veteran with playing experience before training camp.
Outside of the lone pick of Matt Hennessy, the team ignored the offense in the draft. That stings a bit with losses of Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy. Russell Gage is an exciting WR3, but after him there is a group of forgettable talents like Christian Blake, Devin Gray, Laquon Treadwell, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Brandon Powell. Even if one of the aforementioned steps up, the team is still a bit shallow at pass catcher.
While linebacker looks like the clearest team need, wide receiver is among the next tier of positions only one injury away from an unproven player seeing major playing time.
I can’t believe offense has popped up again but running back is an elite talent with a problematic knee and a lot of replacement-level talent. Gurley, even in 2019 form, should be a big improvement. However, if he deals with any nagging injury, the team is stuck with the same anemic backs they had from 2020. We can hope for Ito Smith’s healthy return after a scary neck injury, development from Qadree Ollison, and perhaps a rejuvenated Brian Hill, but none have shown they can carry the load.
Rounding out the second tier of roster needs is definitely cornerback. The Falcons replaced Desmond Trufant with rookie AJ Terrell likely starting with Isaiah Oliver and nickel Kendall Sheffield. Assuming some development, that should be a competent but young group. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has shown he is a competent fill-in, but one you don’t want starting. After Wreh-Wilson, things get even more concerning. Similar to the wide receiver group, the corners need everything to break their way to not be dealing with a major issue.
Going through the roster, it is clear the team did a solid job of addressing needs in the draft. There was no way to fix the roster in just one offseason with such limited cap space, but I have to give them credit for doing much more than I thought was possible.
Looking at the depth chart, the defensive line looks pretty decent with an outside chance at good. If Jaylinn Hawkins can live up to his draft status, the safety position is in a much better spot. Maybe the team could use a veteran tight end but the depth chart is not much different than 2019, if you believe Hayden Hurst has similar talent of Austin Hooper.
Ultimately, the Falcons are not in a bad situation. The team could really use one experienced veteran linebacker who can start. After that, the team just needs some veteran depth or some younger players to step up in camp. That is doable.