The Falcons are pretty strapped for cap space right now, but that is going to change soon. Due to the designation of Desmond Trufant as a “post-June 1st” cut, the team will be receiving a significant windfall of cap relief in early June. Atlanta will be getting back exactly $10.75M next month, with $4.4M in dead cap remaining on Trufant’s deal. This money is going to be used, in part, to pay for the draft class. Due to the top-51 rule, however, this will only cost the team about $2.5M against the cap. That should theoretically leave about $8.25M for the team to potentially use for potential free agent additions.
Today we kick off a new series where we take a closer look at potential free agent targets after June 1st. Beginning with the offense, we’ll take a look at RB. While it isn’t the biggest need on the roster, the abundance of available names on the market and the lack of proven depth—along with injury concerns surrounding Gurley and Ito—could make a veteran signing more likely than you’d think. Here are some of the potential RB targets for the Falcons.
If the Falcons suffer an injury in training camp or simply want some proven veteran insurance for Todd Gurley, the top name left on the market is Carlos Hyde. Hyde has bounced around the league quite a bit over the years, but he most recently had a very successful season with the Texans in 2019—245 carries for 1070 yards (4.4 YPC) and 6 TD. He’s quietly put together a consistently productive career, although he’s 29 and will turn 30 during the 2020 season. Still, there’s no doubt that Hyde could be a solid starter at worst for Atlanta, and he shouldn’t break the bank at this point in the offseason.
The biggest hole in the RB corps right now might be a pass-catching specialist. Devonta Freeman handled that role in 2019, and while Todd Gurley is a capable receiver, there aren’t many other proven options on the roster outside of Ito Smith—whose health is a significant question mark. Theo Riddick has been one of the NFL’s most productive receiving backs since 2015, and could certainly carve out a role as a third-down specialist in Atlanta. He didn’t find a home in 2019 and will be 29 this season, but Riddick would be a cheap, proven addition to add some more receiving chops to the Falcons’ RB room.
A once-promising RB who found himself buried on the depth chart in Kansas City in part due to injury, Spencer Ware is now a free agent. While Ware will turn 29 during the 2020 season, he hasn’t seen a ton of touches due to his status as a committee back. Ware has quietly turned in several very solid seasons, nearly breaking 1000 rushing yards in 2016—his only shot at a starting job. He’s averaged 4.6 YPC throughout his career and has been a capable receiver when called upon. Ware should be available for the veteran minimum and would provide some versatile veteran depth behind Todd Gurley.
This might seem crazy, but Devonta Freeman would actually make a lot of sense back in Atlanta in 2020. The team won’t pay him much—probably $2M at most—but Freeman could fill a niche as a receiving specialist and a capable reserve runner. Plus his experience in the system and his rapport with Matt Ryan give him an obvious leg up on the competition. This is probably a signing that won’t happen until late in training camp, but if Freeman remains unsigned and the Falcons feel they need to add a veteran to the RB corps heading into the season, it could be a match that makes sense for both sides.
The truth of the matter is that there are a ton of available free agent RBs on the market, which means Atlanta can probably afford to wait until late in training camp/preseason to add someone. None of the above names are likely to be significant upgrades over guys like Ito Smith and Brian Hill, but if injuries should strike, all could be solid veteran fill-ins and all (outside of perhaps Miller) will probably only require veteran minimum salaries.
What are your thoughts on potentially adding another veteran RB to the Falcons after June 1st? Any names that you’d prefer in Atlanta? Or are your comfortable with the group we have heading into camp?