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 use for potential free agent additions.
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Today’s group is LB, where the Falcons have a star in Deion Jones and then plenty of question marks behind him. Atlanta added a rookie in Mykal Walker and a recent free agent in Deone Buccanon to the mix, but could still be in the market for more veteran help. There are quite a few notable LBs still out there, so let’s take a closer look at some potential fits for the team.
One of the top LBs available in free agency, Nigel Bradham has strangely remained unsigned thus far. A solid all-around option with excellent athleticism and size, Bradham put together several strong years in both Buffalo and Philadelphia. Injuries shortened his 2019 season, but he can definitely still help a team in 2020. Bradham will be 31 to start the 2020 season and will probably cost a fair amount, but he’s the top free agent available at the position if the Falcons are looking to add another starter to the mix.
It’s been a little while since veteran Mychal Kendricks was in his prime, but he’s still a very effective NFL LB. In Seattle in 2019, Kendricks put up 71 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, 8.0 TFL, and 1 INT. However, there’s the specter of Kendricks’ guilty plea for insider trading hanging over his future, and teams have thus far steered clear. While it’s entirely possible Kendricks avoids jail time, his price will almost certainly take a hit due to his legal troubles and late-season ACL injury. Kendricks comes with his fair share of risk, but he’d instantly become the second-best LB on the team and shouldn’t break the bank.
Once a rising star at LB in the NFL, Alec Ogletree had a bit of a down year in 2019 and wound up cut by the New York Giants. However, Ogletree had a tremendous year in coverage in 2018 (5 INTs!) and will be just 29 during the 2020 season. He’s a LB who can do a bit of everything and would be a solid veteran option to pair with Deion Jones while the young players continue to get up to speed. The big question is his asking price, and whether the Falcons are willing to go there with very limited funds.
Another player who once was considered a rising talent at his position, Preston Brown put together a tremendous 4-year career with the Buffalo Bills as an absolute tackling machine. Brown then came to Cincinnati in 2018 and was playing fairly well before a season-ending injury, and struggled mightily to start the 2019 season. He was cut by the Bengals and bounced around a bit over the remainder of the season. Brown will be just 28 during the 2020 season and has a pretty solid history behind him—he could be worth a shot on a cheap, one-year contract.
There are a few other names out there in free agency that the Falcons could be interested in, though these players are more likely to be depth options than potential starters. Atlanta was rumored to be linked to both Darron Lee and Malcolm Smith in the past, as both fit their archetypes at LB. Neither has been particularly impressive as of late and would be competing for depth roles. A reunion with Brooks Reed could be an option if the team is less than enthused with their options at SAM, particularly if Mykal Walker needs more time to adjust. Wesley Woodyard is an aging veteran (he’ll be 34 during the season), but he could provide reliable veteran depth to a very young group.
What are your thoughts on the potential for the Falcons to add a free agent LB after June 1st? Do any of the above players stand out to you, or is someone else on your radar?