The Atlanta Falcons have completed the first leg of the offseason relay, stacking the team with free agents, draft picks and undrafted faces to throw into competition.
The roster looks much, much better now than it did a few months ago, naturally, but it also looks very, very far from flawless. There are still some players out there who could contribute to the team if the Falcons do free up enough money to sign their draft class and sniff around free agency. These could come after the team gets a better look at their camp battles, or they could fill one of the handful of vacant roster spots the team has...well, anytime between now and later this summer, assuming they make a move to add more cap space. We’ll talk more about some of their potential options in the days ahead, but suffice to say the 90 man roster sits at 86 men, and you can make compelling cases to add talent to a half dozen positions.
Here are a few free agents still without a home who might help out the Falcons come fall, assuming they can free up that money.
C Austin Reiter
The Falcons have 2020 draft pick Matt Hennessy and 2021 draft pick Drew Dalman set to duke it out for the center spot this fall. That may be more than enough talent to solve the loss of Alex Mack and get Matt Ryan the center he deserves. Though, if neither guy seems ready, it might not hurt to have Reiter’s number in your rolodex.
Reiter had a 70.9 Pro Football Focus score and anchored the line for Patrick Mahomes last year in Kansas City, starting 12 regular season games. He would be a steady veteran for Ryan to lean on, at least on a one-year deal, if Hennessy and Dalman aren’t quite ready for prime time heading into the fall. Atlanta’s proven veteran options on the interior of the offensive line are limited, to say the least.
RB Todd Gurley
Yes, yes, I know. Gurley, the ballyhooed free agent acquisition of 2020, disappointed in his first year in Atlanta. He still had 678 yards and nine touchdowns and has a familiarity in the building and with the locker room. There is a legitimate concern about the depth at running back behind Mike Davis; they’re a (knocks on wood) injury away there to having a serious issue today.
Gurley is not a bellcow at this point in his career—we saw that last year—but he could be an excellent third-down and red zone option for Arthur Smith, one who would get fewer but more productive reps, which might be a good way to rehabilitate his value in free agency given his knee issues. It would be a much more beneficial setup than he enjoyed in 2020, at the very least, and would give the Falcons a nice complement to their existing backfield. I’m all for re-signing Gurley at this stage if the price is right, if only to solidify the depth.
DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan
If Kerrigan wants to go to a contender or the money is off, forget this one. But he’s connected to Kyle Smith in the team’s front offices from their days in Washington, his very best years are behind him, and he may not find a huge market for his services as a result.
He’s only had 5.5 sacks in the last two seasons, but for a team like the Falcons, he’d add experience and enough acumen to be interesting for a pass rush-starved roster. He’s got the 3-4/4-3 experience that Dean Pees could maximize. It’d be nice to have another rusher around who has proven success, even if the floor is higher than the ceiling here.
CB Steven Nelson
Again, the money might make this harder if no cap space arrives anytime soon, and the team might like the group it has and wants to run with it at cornerback, particularly after drafting two corners this past weekend. The lack of proven, high-end experience does have to make Dean Pees and company a bit nervous.
Nelson has the outside starting experience you want, and if a CB2 fails to materialize out of the group of Isaiah Oliver, Fabian Moreau, Kendall Sheffield and Darren Hall, the former Chiefs and Steelers player could fill in for a year opposite A.J. Terrell. He’s coming off a season where he started 15 games and played pretty well, and he’d be an obvious and immediate upgrade for this Atlanta team.
He would need to continue to find a cool market, however, as he asked for his release from Pittsburgh in a season where he was slated to make good money. File this one under longshot, but one we’d really like to see if the money worked.