Julio Jones is gone. Many of us may still be moving through the acceptance and/or denial phases of the stages of grief despite weeks of rumors to slowly prepare our fragile mental states. We just stacked the Julio trade on top of a worldwide pandemic, three losing seasons, and that Super Bowl thing we don’t like to talk about.
Luckily, we can just push those feelings deep down into a bottle then putting a cork in that bottle by quickly transitioning to looking at top free agent wide receivers. “Free agents, this late into the offseason?” you ask, while dangerously loosing that aforementioned cork.
The new depth chart doesn’t provide a lot of depth. Calvin Ridley is your unquestioned starter. Russell Gage should be the WR2. After that, things get murkier. Olamide Zaccheaus probably has the best shot behind Gage. Behind him, you may have Tajae Sharpe, ace punt returner and maybe running back Cordarrelle Patterson, rookie Frank Darby and even UDFA Austin Trammell pushing for something between WR4 to WR6.
This is far from a disaster, with Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, and Mike Davis likely to be well-involved in the passing game as well. However, a single injury creates a major problem. Arthur Smith will have his work cut out for him if Ridley goes down for even a few games. If they don’t love their current options, they probably will take a look outside the organization.
The Falcons should get busy spending some of that new and exciting cap space as soon as they officially have it. A veteran player that could start should top the list. The options aren’t great, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Kenny Stills, 29
The veteran pass catcher, who feels like he has been in the league for no less than 25 years, is actually only 29. Stills and the Texans mutually parted ways last season. Before that, Stills averaged nearly 700 receiving yards per season, averaging above 14 yards per catch as a stout outside receiver with good speed.
Stills could be the best possible addition of the group. His performance, age, and health would make him a solid WR3/WR4 who could start when needed.
Golden Tate, 33
The former Seahawks and Lions pass catcher turns 33 in August. He hasn’t been healthy in years, meaning no team wants to rely on Tate as a starter. Tate still has some juice left and can compete in the slot. He would be a decent one-year band aid if his medical checks out.
Dede Westbrook, 27
Westbrook followed up his 717 and 660 yard seasons averaging 4 touchdowns a piece with the Jaguars by tearing his ACL ahead of a new coaching staff landing in Jacksonville. He’s on track to be ready to practice by August. That probably makes him unlikely to make an impact in September. However, he could provide cheap help down the stretch.
Isaiah Ford, 25
The young but still unproven pass catcher may be best known for being traded from the Dolphins to the Patriots... only to get cut and later land back with Miami. Ford has nice size at 6-foot-2, 194-pounds, meaning he could fill in on the outside as at least a reserve. He’s young enough to have his best days ahead of him.
Seth Roberts, 30
Does Roberts sound somewhat familiar? Like maybe a player you flexed during a bye week when half your team was out? That’s him! Roberts flirted with but never landed 500 receiving yards with the Oakland Raiders. His performance has fallen off with limited play time for the Baltimore Ravens before being cut by the Carolina Panthers in October. He has quality size, plenty of experience, and pretty sure hands, so he could contend for a short-term starting job if the Falcons find their current options lacking.
Who would you sign?