The upcoming free agency period will be interesting, if only because the Falcons will be involved. With two prior seasons requiring Terry Fontenot to restructure deals just to keep the lights on, he enters free agency with the second-most cap space in the NFL. That means Atlanta can be in on any and many players.
The problem is that looking at the top available players, like Lamar Jackson and Daron Payne—as well as Kaleb McGary—is that those players have a strong likelihood of getting franchise and sticking with their current team. Others look much more likely to become available and subject to Atlanta’s potential spending spree.
One of the top available free safeties has already been linked to Atlanta after grabbing food with a couple of top Falcons players. Also importantly, and likely the reason of such meal, is that Jessie Bates shares an agent with a couple of top Falcons players. Most importantly is that Bates is “as good as gone” from the Bengals after five seasons, per The Athletic’s Jay Morrison.
That should put the Falcons in the driver’s seat for Bates if Fontenot is hoping to drastically improve the secondary — the team has the need and the money. Bates’ spot for top free agents varies, as high as 4 with Pro Football Focus, but is clearly the top young safety available. With a mere $14 million per year, which is where Spotrac pegs his annual average for his next deal, the Falcons could drop him in at free safety to give A.J. Terrell and Richie Grant a little assistance deep. It would be a big upgrade for a defense desperate for improvements.