The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, with the Atlanta Falcons roster looking much more shapely than it did before Thursday started.
The team also added a flurry of undrafted free agents to add competition to the eventual 55-man crew.
Could the team add talent elsewhere? They’ll get $10.7 million in cap savings from Trufant’s deal after June 1 and see any future signings not affect the 2021 NFL Draft compensatory draft haul they’ll get for their March departures.
A lot of teams have waited to embark on the second wave of FA with the COVID-19 crisis preventing visits, but with restrictions starting to lax across the country, that may change.
Would any veteran free agents make sense for Atlanta?
Look no further than the tight end position to see where the team might add a veteran.
The team has its March acquisition in TE Hayden Hurst, who has oodles of potential as a featured tight end after falling behind on the depth chart with the Baltimore Ravens. His issue might sincerely have been snaps, and he should be a safe assumption to start this fall, considering what the team gave for him.
2018 UDFA tight end Jaeden Graham also has potential in him to be a part of the offense after showing some of it last fall. XFL addition Khari Lee, Vanderbilt UDFA Jared Pinkney and Utah St. TE Caleb Rupp are your other options on the roster at the moment, and there’s plenty of intriguing options there but no clear-cut #3 guy.
A veteran makes a lot of sense. Former Titans tight end Delanie Walker is approaching 36 and has durability concerns at this point in his career, having only appeared in eight games over the last two seasons. But if he’s healthy, he’d be a great guy to have in the room. From 2014-2018, he had four-straight seasons of 800+ yards and 20 touchdowns.
A one-year flier on him would make a lot of sense and give the position some solid foundation.
Former Seahawks TE Ed Dickson (who the team was trying to sign in 2018), former Cardinals TE Charles Clay, and former Washington TE Jordan Reed (a difficult injury history, but undoubtedly effective when on the field) are also out there to consider, and none of them would be costly. Re-signing Luke Stocker to a cheaper deal also shouldn’t be ruled out, even if his first year in Atlanta was up-and-down.
The health of Foye Oluokun right now is the only thing separating fourth-round pick Mykal Walker from being thrust into a major role far too early in his career.
XFL signee Edmond Robinson could be a buffer for that, but you wonder about the general depth at the linebacker spot right now. Besides LaRoy Reynolds, more of a guy to put in the middle and a core special teamer/leadership booster, the team could use a veteran side-to-side guy to add depth and insurance.
Former Seattle LB Malcolm Smith seems to be the ideal candidate. He’s floated around the league as a reserve, but had a respectable 66 score on Pro Football Focus. He’s been with Dan Quinn before, of course, and could be a good mentor for Oluokun and Walker as both take on more responsibility. He’d also come in on a very affordable deal. You’d feel safer with him on the roster that, if disaster struck, the team wouldn’t be stuck.
Veteran LB Sam Acho could fill that same role, though he’s not got the experience in the scheme just yet. If the team wants Walker to ease into the lineup and not quite start just yet, veteran Eagles LB Nigel Bradham is out there. But Walker playing the third role right away is more in line with the Falcons’ style. Smith feels like a nice candidate for a vet depth role.
This is the big one a lot of folks want, with no shortage of interesting names out there to serve as situational rushers.
No, the team won’t go after Jadeveon Clowney, but some have floated the possibility of former Vikings DE Everson Griffen as a splurge signing over the summer. I’d doubt that, if only because Griffen can still make good money at this point and time, and he may want to go to a bigger team and have a starting role. He would be an excellent addition, however.
The Falcons have made Dante Fowler Jr. the top pass rusher, and seem to be hoping 2017 first-round pick Takk McKinley can turn the corner on his potential in year four as the second fiddle. Guys like Allen Bailey, Steven Means and John Cominsky seem to be primed for more, too. You wonder if the team is eyeing Means to play the Adrian Clayborn role in the defense this fall (should, y’know, football happen).
If the team did want to add to this group, we all know former Seattle (and other places) defensive end Michael Bennett would be the guy to call. He could thrive in a situational role this fall and be the final cog in a retooled Falcons defensive line. The team manage his snaps could send him in like they did with Dwight Freeney on third downs and let him get after the QB. The same could go for veteran rusher Cameron Wake, who was with the Titans last fall.
Former Seahawks DE Ezekiel Ansah could be effective in a limited role. Injuries have slowed his career, but perhaps less snaps and a more focused role in a defense could help there. Former Ravens OLB Pernell McPhee once had interest from the Falcons, and is now available, too. Former Colts DE Jabaal Sheard would also be a logical fit.
It’s certainly possible the team takes Trufant’s salary money, signs the rookie class and waits until training camp (whatever that may look like) to see what they’ve got and wait to sign a veteran then (if at all). Maybe they’re happy with the roster as-is; maybe they’ve been waiting to go shopping. Who’s to say.
All we know is the comp picks are safe after Monday, and more money comes June 1. Above are some of the names that might make sense. What say you? Who do you think would fit in Atlanta?