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5 out-of-the-box 2021 free agent ideas for the Falcons

Who are some random names that might come in at a value and help the team?

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Wild Card Round - Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Next week, the Atlanta Falcons will have some new players on the roster. Now, whether those players will be marquee names, folks in the middle or guys just fighting for a roster spot is yet to be determined, but they’ll be here one way or the other.

The Falcons have new general manager Terry Fontenot calling the shots, and he’s got a litany of roster spots to figure out and not a lot of cash at his disposal. Fontenot has his work cut out for him, with Over the Cap projecting the team to still be $14-15 million or so over the threshold.

The Falcons have spots open at virtually every roster spot imaginable right now, starting or depth, and need to use March to make sure its 2021 team isn’t too young to be competitive. But it also needs to be fiscally aware of its cap restraints and not kick too much money down the hill in restructures to complicate the cap even further in the future.

We know guys who the team might key in on because of past connections (lots of former Titans and Saints), but are there guys out of left field who the team might be doing homework on right now? We’ll think of guys that wouldn’t cost too much, but could either be diamonds in the rough or serviceable veterans who could contribute.

S Tashaun Gipson

The Falcons need a new free safety after parting ways with longtime starter Ricardo Allen, and they may want to turn to free agency to find one.

The safety market is loaded with intriguing names and will likely see some pretty solid players earn a little less with only so many starting spots available. The Falcons won’t be able to afford someone like Anthony Harris or Marcus Williams, but they could likely afford a reliable journeyman like Tashaun Gipson to let someone hold down the position for a few years to get the defense going.

Gipson has spent time with teams like Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston and most recently Chicago, so new Falcons coach Arthur Smith knows him from scheming against him for a few years there in the AFC South. He’ll be 31 when the season starts, with Pro Football Focus giving him pretty respectable scores for the last few years. Gipson only made $1 million with the Bears last year, so maybe a two-year deal for $5 million could be more than enough to get him here as a short-term solution for a safety spot bereft of in-house options.

G Larry Warford

People might’ve forgotten about Larry Warford, who had been a rock-solid guard throughout his career before optioning out of 2020 due to the pandemic. He was with the Saints most recently and was a free agent win for them, so forgive the Fontenot connection. But the Falcons might be his best stop for a comeback, where he could instantly slot in at left guard, where James Carpenter was just released.

He got a 73.1 score from Pro Football Focus and will only be 30 when the seasons starts, and you could probably sign him to a team-friendly contract this year as he gets back into football shape. Unless he wants a multi-year deal, a one-year deal for Warford to slot in and start might be a big boost to a team that needs one on a tight cap. The only question is whether you can make the dollars work.

DE Kerry Hyder

Hyder is one of those guys who either has a quiet year where he’s a decently effective run stopper or a big year, with 8.5 sacks recorded last year for San Francisco. Perhaps that big year will finally help the former Lions standout finally get a proper paycheck, and like Warford, he’ll only be 30 to start the year.

The Falcons need pass rushers, and Hyder might be a legitimate bargain in a sea of crowded pass rushers if he’s on their radar. He might be a good fit for the 3-4/4-3 switch-up change the team is preparing for and he might be a nice option when so many more high-profile pass rushers are getting paid.

OLB Aldon Smith

Smith’s comeback after so many years out of the league was one of the great stories last year, and he’s definitely still got it after his five-sack, 14-quarterback hurry return with Dallas.

The Cowboys might want to bring Smith back, but he might be a steal for some team who needs pass rush power without, again, having to pay one of the top names on the market.

In their 3-4 looks, the Falcons need true outside linebackers who can rush the passer, and Smith might not be such a bad guy to call if they feel like he can build on his first eyar back.

WR Mohamed Sanu

Yes, yes, I know, I know. The former Falcons receiver isn’t quite where he used to be after bouncing around with the Patriots and Lions last year, but he’s still a very solid veteran who could slot right into a passing attack with Matt Ryan and help Arthur Smith find success by giving Ryan a receiver he has familiarity with.

Honestly, it’d be hilarious to see the Falcons re-sign Sanu after the Patriots trade just in theory, but it might also be a savvy way of adding some veteran depth to the passing attack who has already played for the Falcons and has a rapport with Ryan. Sanu on a one-year deal at, like, $1-2 million could be a really nice way to bring back a fan favorite and add in a reliable red zone option Ryan knows. See, out of the box!