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.
If you missed any of the previous entries in this series, you can find them below:
RB | WR | TE | OL | K | EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S
Today we discuss our final group: safety. The Falcons have three starting-caliber players at the position right now in Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee, but depth has been a significant issue over the past few seasons. Atlanta added fourth-round pick Jaylinn Hawkins to the mix, but could still be looking to add another rotational piece. Let’s take a look at some potential targets for the Falcons.
Once one of the best safeties in the league, ex-Dolphin Reshad Jones is now a free agent after an injury-plagued 2019 season where he played only 4 games. Jones will be 31 in 2020, but is a supremely versatile safety capable of playing both in the box and in single-high sets. He can blitz, create turnovers, cover in both man and zone, and outside of two seasons has actually been pretty durable. In 2018, Jones put together an impressive season in coverage with 3 INT, 9 PD, a 56.1% completion percentage, and only a 66.7 passer rating allowed. He’s likely to be the most expensive of the bunch, but if the Falcons are looking for a starter—say, if injuries strike in training camp—Jones would be an above-average option at worst.
If Jaylinn Hawkins disappoints in training camp, or if the team has concerns about Keanu Neal’s health, ex-Panthers SS Eric Reid could be an affordable veteran option. Reid is just 28 years old and is excellent in the box, with 130 tackles and 7 TFL in 2019. He’s also a weapon as a blitzer, with 4.0 sacks, 5 QB hits, and 8 pressures last season. Reid struggled in coverage in 2019, but his strengths as a box safety and blitzer make him a valuable rotational player at worst. He shouldn’t break the bank and would provide a potential starting option for Atlanta.
If the Falcons are looking for a potential bounce-back candidate in 2020, ex-Ravens safety Tony Jefferson could fit the bill. Jefferson spent the early part of his career in Arizona, where he played a rotational role before earning a starting job in 2016. An excellent performance that season earned him a contract with the Ravens, where he had good seasons at strong safety in 2017 and 2018. Jefferson played in just 5 games in 2019, with injuries slowing him down in a big way. Jefferson was a quality starter in 2018 and will be just 28 years old in 2020. If the team is looking for a buy-low option to provide starting-caliber depth at safety, Jefferson could wind up being a bargain.
Another option, similar in many ways to Eric Reid, is Morgan Burnett. Burnett played 8 seasons with the packers, starting all 102 games that he played in. He’s a very versatile player who has spent time at FS, SS, and even LB at times. Burnett will be 31 in 2020 and is coming off two relatively disappointing and injury-plagued seasons. He’s still a quality tackler and blitzer, and was good in coverage in 2018 while being fairly mediocre in 2019. Burnett should be quite affordable and could provide veteran depth for Atlanta.
The safety market—much like it was in the 2019 offseason—is absolutely stacked, even late into the offseason. There are a number of potential rotational/depth options here for Atlanta to consider. Clayton Geathers played a similar role to Kemal Ishmael for the Colts, although he’s a better athlete and offers more in coverage. Antoine Bethea will be 36 in 2020, but has remained a solid starter over the past two seasons with respectable tackle and coverage numbers. The Falcons brought in J.J. Wilcox last offseason and were apparently impressed with him, but a season-ending injury in training camp ruined his roster hopes. They could elect to bring him back for competition and depth once more. Jahleel Addae was a multi-year starter for the Chargers before taking on a depth role with the Texans in 2019. He’s a solid all-around player who can play multiple spots in the secondary.
What are your thoughts on the potential for the Falcons to add a safety after June 1st? Do any of the names on this list stand out to you, or do you have another player in mind?