We’ve spent most of our time this offseason talking about how many needs the Falcons have, because those needs are myriad. It is worth asking, however, if there are any positions where the Falcons are reasonably set, meaning they could get away with adding a reserve or two and not really touching it otherwise.
The answer, as you might suspect, is that not many of those positions exist. On a long enough timeline, which in most cases would be just 2-3 years, there’s an urgent need to add talent and think about possible replacements for players about to hit free agency just about everywhere. In an offseason where Terry Fontenot is going to have to stretch free agent dollars to address needs, the positions below are the only places where he could probably get away with just adding a player or two at the veteran minimum salary.
Right now, the Falcons have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Olamide Zaccheaus under contract, and can affordably re-sign Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, and Laquon Treadwell. This is a position where the Falcons could and probably should add a rookie with upside, given Julio’s age and contract and free agency looming for Ridley and Gage, but for 2021 there’s no need for dynamite.
I’m particularly interested to see what Arthur Smith and company can do with Zaccheaus, who despite some uneven performances showed he can absolutely leave corners in the dust downfield and will only be 24 years old this offseason. When you have a top four with as much talent as Atlanta does, you really only need to think about the future.
Atlanta will likely make a cut here, either getting rid of Deadrin Senat after mysteriously keeping him but not really playing him for years or trimming one-dimensional run stuffer Tyeler Davison for more space. Even if they do that, defensive tackle remains one of the deeper positions on the roster.
Grady Jarrett is a certified star. Marlon Davidson lost much of his rookie season to injury and COVID-19, but still has sky-high upside and will get the chance to realize it with a new defensive staff in place. John Cominsky is, at worst, a good rotational defensive tackle who is young and still has upside. Senat may be able to do more with the change, too, and Davison is at worst solid on early downs. Chris Slayton is here, too, and is an interesting deep reserve if the Falcons choose not to cut him before his reserve/future deal locks him on to the roster.
You can always use another high-end player here—after Jarrett and maybe Davidson, every player has limitations—but that probably becomes more urgent down the line. With so many other needs, having a group of defensive tackles that runs 4-6 players deep is a damn good start.
Atlanta will need to add pass rushers who can get after the quarterback, and if Dean Pees wants to deploy more conventional 3-4 fronts it wouldn’t be entirely fair to say the Falcons are set at linebacker. Inside linebacker, though? Yeah.
Deion Jones is a very good player who hasn’t quite re-captured the magic of his 2017 season, but remains a tremendous athlete and linchpin of the defense. Foye Oluokun had a strong season in his first year as a full-time starter and still has room to grow, and Mykal Walker looked legitimately promising in his limited rookie year opportunities. Between the three of those players, you have a very good good group as the inside linebackers in 3-4 front and in nickel sets and a quality trio of starters in a 4-3. The Falcons will probably look to add another draft pick with Oluokun hitting free agency next year, but they’re in good shape already for 2021.
Punter and long snapper
Kicker would be on this list if Younghoe Koo was officially under contract, but alas, it’s not official yet. The Falcons are quite set at punter, where rookie Sterling Hofrichter is coming off a solid rookie campaign, and at long snapper, where Josh Harris is one of the most reliable options in the NFL and costs you just $1 million.
A couple of years from now, I’m hoping this list is much more robust, but for now the Falcons will probably take some small comfort in knowing there are a handful of positions they don’t have to pump money into in order to keep them afloat. Atlanta’s avowed best player available approach to the draft means they may well add here, but they’re less likely to use their limited free agent dollars here with needs dotting the roster...well, almost everywhere else.