This upcoming Free Agency period is shaping up to be an incredibly interesting one. The Falcons will have a handful of contract decisions to make to potentially free up even more cap space, or acquire more draft capital heading into a very deep draft. I will try to be rather in depth and I will start with those players slated to potentially hit the market.
The Falcons have a rather deep list of players whose contracts are set to expire this off season. Many of those contracts, however, are belonging to depth players and potential stop gap players as well. The Falcons' free agents for now, are as follows:
Lorenzo Carter OLB, Kaleb McGary T, Olamide Zaccheaus WR, Isaiah Oliver CB, Rashaan Evans LB, Damien Williams HB, Bradley Pinion P, Keith Smith FB, Anthony Rush DT, Erik Harris S, Elijah Wilkinson G, Damiere Byrd WR, Germain Ifedi RT, Dean Marlowe SS, Michael Ford CB, Anthony Firkser TE, Vincent Taylor DT, Beau Brinkley LS, Khadarel Hodge WR, Nick Kwiatoski ILB, Colby Gosett G, Matt Dickerson DE, Chuma Edoga T, Abdullah Anderson DE, and Liam McCullough LS.
That's a pretty deep list of guys. How many of those guys do we really expect to return though? I would say that the most likely returnees are going to be Carter, McGary, Zaccheaus, Oliver, Evans, Pinion, Smith, Rush, Wilkinson, Ifedi, Edoga, and McCullough. Many of these are depth returns just incase the starters in their given positions go down (Ifedi, Edoga) and the rest are starters at this given moment. I don't expect any of these players to demand a large contract for the work they've been doing but many of them are giving the teams very valuable snaps. Does this mean that the Falcons won't look to upgrade these positions? No. If the right player hits the market then I can see any one of these players getting replaced or at the very least having to earn their starting jobs come next season.
The 2023 Free Agency Class
Here's where this can get fun and I can elaborate more on potentially new starters. The Falcons are currently slated to be third in cap space entering the off season with $47,598,265 and with a very strong list of possible FA's, there's a lot of room for improvement. Some of the top guys who are, as of right now, without extensions are: Lamar Jackson QB, Tom Brady QB, Orlando Brown Jr T, Roquan Smith LB, Elgton Jenkins OL, Bradley Chubb EDGE, Daron Payne DT, Jessie Bates S, Jimmy Garoppolo QB, Saquon Barkley HB, Jordan Poyer S, Baker Mayfield QB, Josh Jacobs HB, Mike Gesicki TE, Jack Conklin T, Marcus Peters CB, Isaiah Wynn T, JJ Watt EDGE, Jakobi Meyers WR, Miles Sanders HB, Kareem Hunt HB, Juju Smith-Schuster WR, and Marcus Daventport EDGE just to name a handful. This list extends much longer than I think anyone would be willing to read but the potential for a lot of good additions is very high this offseason. Even if the Falcons end up with a top three draft pick, it is very clear that the team is trending up and looks to be heading in the right direction.
Edge and Offensive Line are the directions I expect the Falcons to focus on the most during FA. Do I expect them to make a splash with a big name guy? I wouldn't say I'd expect it given past seasons, but you never know with this regime. There are certainly some intriguing names on this list.
These are the players that I can realistically see Terry Fontenot and the Falcons showing interest in:
This is an obvious choice. Roquan Smith has been a stellar linebacker since entering the league in 2018, where he posted 121 tackles, five sacks, and five passes defended. He picked up his play again in 2020 and has been playing at a high level since, earning All-Pro honors in two consecutive seasons. Smith wants out, this is apparent and the entire league knows it. Although Dean Pees has shown that he trusts Walker to be the signal caller on defense, this team is so starved for linebacker talent that I don't see a scenario that the team doesn't pursue Smith.
Chubb similarly had a massive rookie season, where he posted 12 sacks. Injuries have sadly derailed his production. The upside to this is that Denver is more and more likely not to retain him and he may not warrant an enormous contract in the offseason. Chubb is an incredibly talented player and if it's for the right price then I believe that the Falcons should and will JUMP on the opportunity to add him.
Although over the course of his career, he has performed at a tremendously high level. I'm not sold on the Commanders bringing back Payne. The Commanders have a lot of work to do to improve their team and that may require them to let Payne's combined 35 quarterback hits and 14.5 sacks hit the open market. The reason I think that Payne could be in the cards for the Falcons is Grady's optimism on becoming more of an edge player, which he has expressed a multitude of times. If Grady moves outside full-time, then the addition of a fantastic interior player in Payne makes an enormous amount of sense.
Josh Jacobs / Miles Sanders / Kareem Hunt
Patterson has been a phenomenal player since joining the Falcons. He also had an extremely impressive week one and an expectedly down week two playing the Rams. However good Patterson has been, he's a 31 year old halfback. An addition of any of these players shouldn't break the bank and could allow Patterson to fill more of his swiss army knife roll and allow him to extend his career with the team as a receiver, halfback, and returner. The more playmakers the Falcons can have on the field at the same time, the better.
Jessie Bates? / Jordan Poyer?
This coaching staff seems very high on their two young safeties. I think the pursuit of a safety in FA is purely dependent on their performance during the season. Both have shown bright spots, but given that safety talent is something that the Falcons have been starved of for a long time and if their play doesn't improve then I could see the team potentially pursuing one of the top safeties. Do I think it likely? Probably not. Impossible? Not at all
Now just because I haven't mentioned a certain player doesn't mean that I think it's impossible for the Falcons to pursue them. I think this upcoming offseason has the potential to be a big one. After this draft and FA, the Falcons have the potential to look like a completely different team. Hopefully that difference is for the better and the Falcons are down to make a splash or are finally able to fill some serious needs. The money is there, all that's left is to do something with it when the time comes.