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Falcons re-sign DE Steven Means, add DT Jonathan Bullard

One of the team’s most reliable defensive linemen re-joins, and the team announces a new addition.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons wound up relying pretty heavily on Steven Means in 2020. Coming off a major injury that cost him the 2019 season, Means rebounded in a major way last year, playing in 16 games, starting 11, and piling up the third-highest sack total and fifth-largest number of pressures on the team. A sturdy run defender and quality special teamer, Means clocked 59% of the defensive snaps and 29% of the special teams snaps in 2020, and proved to be at worst a capable player for a defensive line starved for them.

After all this time, I sort of assumed the new regime would not be re-signing Means. Fortunately, I was mistaken, as the team announced today that they’re bringing him back and adding defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard. I wrote earlier today that the team’s need for defensive linemen with at least some pass rushing acumen was an acute need indeed, and while these two signings hardly fix that, Means in particular will help round out what’s likely to be a heavy rotation at defensive end.

Means, who will be 31 in mid-September, managed 3 sacks and 14 pressures last year. Chances are good the team won’t have to rely quite so heavily on him this year, but he’ll plug into the rotation and offer solid run defense and reliability for Dean Pees’ new defense. The team’s 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee will probably snag about 30-40% of the defensive snaps if the team adds to the position via the draft, and could see his production rise in an aggressive scheme. It’s good to have him back.

Bullard, 27, is another affordable depth piece who offers a solid track record in run defense. The 2016 third round selection by the Bears spent three years in Chicago and has spent time at defensive end and defensive tackle in his career, primarily serving as a reserve. His most successful season as a pass rusher came back in 2019 with the Cardinals, where he started six games and picked up 1.5 sacks and 9 pressures along the way. He spent 2020 on Seattle’s practice squad and as a reserve and will be competing for a reserve role in Atlanta, likely banking on positional versatility helping his cause.

The team also made the signing of Josh Andrews official. He’ll be expected to be a key reserve on the interior of the offensive line, with Matt Gono, Matt Hennessy and Chris Lindstrom likely ticketed to start at the two guard spots and center this summer.

The Falcons are edging closer to addressing most of their needs with depth pieces, with only safety, quarterback, and the interior of the offensive line (where I doubt Andrews is the last addition) clearly needing more help before the team has a chance to add an infusion of talent via the draft. We’ll see if there are any more veteran minimum deals in the days ahead.