Tuesday has been rough. The Falcons made it clear it could not afford to be a heavy player early in free agency. Even Steve Wyche said the Falcons can’t afford Chandler Jones. Twice. However, the hits have still come with multiple free agents leaving for richer destinations.
First it was Foye Oluokun. Today it was Russell Gage heading to a division rival. Losing two young players is particularly tough, especially in the case of Gage who leaves an absolutely brutal wide receiver depth chart. The Falcons have Olamide Zaccheaus and Frank Darby seemingly the team’s current starters.
All is not lost, however. While we have been stuck watching other teams sign new players, plenty of talented (and increasingly cap-friendly) players remain available. While the Falcons may have lost Gage, it still has opportunity to find better scheme fits for the 2022 team.
I found 10 available free agents which could contribute and likely push for starting jobs. The longer these guys are available, the cheaper their price should become. Terry Fontenot can start working some magic (and based on this roster, he better be a wizard) after the first wave of free agency.
- RB/WR/KR/PR/OW Cordarrelle Patterson. I was down on Patterson returning in light of his re-signing meaning the team would not be able to keep Gage. From a depth and age perspective, assuming the players had a similar cost, I say you keep Gage. Gage, instead, was worth a whole lot more than Patterson is expected to command. Patterson now tops my list to give Matt Ryan the slightest bit of continuity on offense.
- WR Allen Robinson. This is probably the most unrealistic on the list but Robinson would immediately fill in at WR1. There is a connection with Ryan Pace, as well, but whether short or long term deal, Robinson will still cost some money. His salary will be tough to pin down after some bad seasons in Chicago.
- WR Juju Smith-Schuster. The Falcons need starters at wide receiver and our assumption is Arthur Smith wants to recreate the size advantage he had in Tennessee. Juju, along with Robinson, has the size to make contested catches and block in the run game. Like Robinson, Juju was hamstrung by terrible quarterback play in his last stop.
- WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Another wide receiver with a good size and speed combo, Marquez still needs to do some developing to show he can be a consistent pass catcher. That won’t happen buried on Green Bay’s packed depth chart. He could be the team’s WR2 and try to earn a big deal in 2023.
- G Andrew Norwell. Just a few years back my offseason pipe dream was for the Falcons to land Norwell, one of the league’s top young guards. Things did not work out for that pipe dream or Norwell, who three years ago signed a deal to become the league’s highest-paid guard. Only 30, Norwell can prevent us from continuing the Jalen Mayfield experiment.
- EDGE Za’Darius Smith. Just barely on the right side of 30, Smith had back-to-back double-digit sack seasons before a back injury derailed his 2021. He would immediately start on the edge.
- RB Marlon Mack. We are getting down into the deep value part of the list. Fontenot has said he envisions more cheap signings for guys to rehab their value. Mack, once of the league’s most electric weapons, could be a great addition to Atlanta at only 26.
- WR Jarvis Landry. Not an explosive athlete, Landy would provide a consistent and steady-handed option at WR2. He would be an interesting addition after leaving the Cleveland Browns.
- CB Donte Jackson. The Falcons have an open spot across from AJ Terrell. Jackson would provide some great flexibility for defensive coordinator Dean Pees who must be desperate for talent at any position.
- EDGE Charles Harris. An unexpected reunion? The Falcons added Harris in 2020 and he was probably one of the team’s best pass rushers — a very, very low bar. Harris could provide great depth in the defensive rotation.
The Falcons can’t afford everyone or fix all of its problems in free agency. However, a handful of these guys could provide some excitement and fill those awful roster holes.