The Atlanta Falcons have scooped up a handful of new players, but the big bucks signings are nowhere to be found this March.
New general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith are moving slowly-but-surely into their time at the helm of the Falcons, only adding a handful of pieces that arguably could be more smart depth guys than true starters when fall rolls around (save Erik Wilson, who realistically could be the new free safety in a camp battle).
With the cap still tight and the odds of bona fide starters for the future more likely found in the draft, what players out there could the Falcons key in on without having to break the bank as the second wave of free agency begins?
Let’s break it down first by possibilities on offense.
The Falcons may want to find their long-term starter in the draft, and all indications right now hint to them adding to the position in a meaningful way in the first few rounds of April’s selections. Though, unless they view Ito Smith as the de-facto second fiddle going ahead, they may want to find a nice counter runner in free agency.
Atlanta native Jerick McKinnon immediately comes to mind. A Georgia Southern alum, McKinnon was once thought to be one of the premier pass-catching running backs in the NFL. Two years of season-ending injuries have derailed his career as being a starting option, but he rebounded pretty well in San Francisco last fall with 572 total yards and six touchdowns in the air and on ground. McKinnon could return home and complement whoever Atlanta brings in with the draft and Ito Smith to form a sound trio in Arthur Smith’s first season calling plays. He’s likely going to be pretty affordable, too (think one year, $2.5 million).
If not McKinnon, the team could add former Texans running back Duke Johnson or former Falcon Tevin Coleman to fill roughly the same void. Former star Le’Veon Bell could be a reliable member of a committee attack, and honestly, the team could bring back Todd Gurley probably on the cheap for another year and see if he can keep his red zone magic alive in Arthur Smith’s offense.
The Falcons have a left tackle, right guard and right tackle locked in and ready to go. They’ve, hypothetically, got a promising center prospect in Matt Hennessy, too, even if reports said they might be looking elsewhere.
The left guard spot is wide open, though, and center, quite possibly, could be, too, if the team isn’t ready to start Hennessy.
Of the offensive linemen out there, former Rams center/guard Austin Blythe might be a good, young guy to bring in and compete, and former Saints utility lineman Nick Easton could be a valuable depth option. Former Packers starting guard Lane Taylor might be a great example of a stopgap option at left guard on an affordable contract, as could longtime mauler Kelechi Osemele, who was just recently with Kansas City. The latter will be more expensive but the Falcons can shake the money tree a bit by re-visiting Grady Jarrett’s contract.
As for former Titan, tackle Dennis Kelly might be a splurge with Matt Gono already on the roster, but one can never have too many tackles, right?
Wide receiver/tight end
With the Falcons loaded at wideout right now and the team acquiring Lee Smith to be its primary blocking tight end, we shouldn’t expect anyone major to be added here until the draft. Still, the team could always add to the depth and competition with some affordable contracts.
Speedster Marquise Goodwin might be a fun third or fourth option in the passing game if the team wants a deep threat to mix in, and former Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu remains a free agent, ready for his grand Falcons return. So does Taylor Gabriel, who was with Dave Ragone in Chicago for a brief spell and has expressed interest in returning.
Ace returner Cordarelle Patterson could be an option for Ragone to bring over from the Bears, too. He’d immediately take over at kick and punt returner and could, every now and again, factor into the passing and running game as a gadget player.
Former Titans receiver Adam Humphries could be a target for the slot, and former Titans returner Kalif Raymond could be a Arthur Smith guy to come in and pad depth at the receiver spot and take over returning duties. Laquon Treadwell could return, too, a late-season red zone weapon who had some nice games down the stretch. More names, like Rams’ Josh Reynolds, Jaguars’ Dede Westbrook and Bills’ Isaiah McKenzie, could be enticing as depth signings.
At tight end, watch for MyCole Pruitt, who didn’t re-sign in Tennessee and could come in as a depth option behind Hayden Hurst, given that the team lacks a second pass catching option with a track record. We wonder if the team may target a tight end early with draft smoke forming behind Florida stud Kyle Pitts in the first round. With Lee Smith here, it does seem to fair to think that plans for tight end won’t unfold until later.
Quarterback is a spot we won’t dive into right now since we highly doubt the team will add here until during or after the 2021 draft. If the Falcons don’t draft a QB, they might opt to sign a veteran backup in May or in the summer.
We’ll cover the defense soon, but for now, are there any ideas you guys have?