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Falcons announce 13 reserve/future signings

The signings are heavy on offensive line depth.

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Jaguars at Falcons Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The season’s over, which means the work of the offseason must begin in earnest. The Atlanta Falcons have made it clear that their 2023 performance was not acceptable by firing Arthur Smith and vowing to do better, but we’ve heard those vows before. Getting there means hiring the right coach and stocking the roster with the right players.

Even though there is no head coach in the building, the team is still making roster moves. Earlier this week, they signed former CFL standout and wide receiver Austin Mack. Yesterday, amidst the end of season press conference and the fallout of the Smith firing, they also signed 13 players to reserve/future contracts, and the hope will be that they provide at least quality competition for the summer, if not critical depth via the roster or practice squad.

As a reminder, futures contracts like these do not kick in until the new league year, and will in almost all cases be cheap deals. In the interim, the Falcons have team control over these players, but they don’t count against the roster or the cap until March and the roster expansion that comes along with that. This gives teams a head start on stocking depth and potential practice squad candidates for the upcoming league year.

Atlanta’s group is a mix of familiar faces and new names. Let’s quickly run down the list.

RB Carlos Washington

You may remember Washington as a roster hopeful from the summer. With Caleb Huntley hurt and ultimately released and Avery Williams on the shelf, Washington had a clear road to the fourth running back role until the team brought on the impressive Godwin Igwebuike, who wound up taking on that role.

Washington would end up back on the practice squad for Atlanta and offers young, affordable depth and a physical running style. Whether that remains a fit with what the Falcons will look for under a new head coach remains to be seen, but right now, Washington should head into next year in a strong position to grab a practice squad spot.

WR Chris Blair

Atlanta’s shaky wide receiver depth gets a small boost from the additions of Mack and Blair. The 6’2” former XFLer had a fine year in that league, which earned him a look from the Falcons and an extended stint on the practice squad. He’ll hope to compete with Mack and Josh Ali, who is on the roster today, for a deep reserve role on what’s likely to be a completely re-tooled receiver group behind Drake London.

G Justin Shaffer

This will be year three for Shaffer, a 2022 sixth round pick who has spent most of his Falcons career on the practice squad. A mauling run blocker at Georgia who needed time to work on his pass protection, Shaffer will have to hope the new staff appreciates that combination and gives him a shot at earning a reserve role on the 53 man roster.

T Tyler Vrabel

It’s quite possible Vrabel, the son of Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and a player Arthur Smith clearly likes, will follow either Smith or his dad to one of their respective next stops. He did better than I would’ve expected as an injury fill-in for Jake Matthews and will compete for the swing tackle role if he is here over the summer.

T Ryan Swoboda

Listed at 6’9” and 315 pounds, Swoboda is an imposing tackle prospect who has bounced around to a few teams looking for offensive line depth. He’ll compete with Vrabel, John Leglue, and whoever else the team brings aboard at tackle.

T John Leglue

Another injury fill-in, Leglue fared pretty well in his limited work at tackle and figures to be in the mix in the months to come. Atlanta’s decision to sign four players who have some experience at tackle tells you they want to give the next coaching staff plenty of potential depth options at that critical position, especially with Kaleb McGary’s injury history and Jake Matthews getting older.

T Barry Wesley

A player who has at least a little experience playing most spots on the line, Wesley is an interesting veteran addition hailing from the XFL who spent most of the last year with the Falcons. His ideal role would be as a versatile super reserve on this line, should he manage to carve out that kind of role.

DE Demone Harris

He had a few big moments this summer competing for a role in Atlanta and stuck on the practice squad as a result. He’s likely vying for a practice squad spot again with the Falcons likely to make significant additions at defensive end/EDGE.

DT Willington Previlon

One of the new names on this list, Previlon was released from the Cowboys practice squad a few days ago. The Falcons never seem quite content with their depth along the interior of the defensive line, and Previlon offers another possibility for Atlanta in the summer.

LB Milo Eifler

Signed to the practice squad during the season, Eifler appeared in two games for the Falcons and played about three dozen special teams snaps. He’ll compete for a role behind Kaden Elliss, Troy Andersen, and Nate Landman.

LB Donavan Mutin

A tackling machine in college, Mutin is another competitor for a reserve role at linebacker and gives Atlanta another option this summer, should he stick around.

DB Natrone Brooks

A physical defensive back who had some nice moments this summer in preseason and training camp, Brooks is an intriguing and aggressive player who should have a legitimate shot at carving out a deep reserve role in this secondary with the right coaching staff in-house. He’s one of the better bets on this list to actually have a 2024 role.

S Lukas Denis

A ballhawking defensive back in college who played well in the XFL and ended up with the Falcons as a result, Denis has some promise and will be competing in a safety group that really only has one locked-in player in Jessie Bates, though I’d think Richie Grant and DeMarcco Hellams will at least be around. Without major additions, he could catch on as the team’s fourth or fifth safety.