Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Potential 2014 Free Agents:
Lamarr Houston (Raiders), Jared Allen (Vikings), Michael Johnson (Bengals), Greg Hardy (Panthers), Justin Tuck (Giants), Michael Bennett (Seahawks)
Notable 2014 Eligible Draft Prospects:
Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), OLB/DE Anthony Barr (UCLA), OLB/DE Khalil Mack (Buffalo), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Michael Sam (Missouri), Kony Ealy (Missouri), Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech), Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)
If Atlanta wants to compete for championship again in 2014, it must finally find a realistic solution to its pass-rush woes along the defensive front four. It's looking like the team made a mistake when it chose to release John Abraham after last season, but Abraham still needed more help generating pressure when he was in Atlanta.
Jadeveon Clowney is an elite-level prospect and could impact Atlanta's defense the same way Julio Jones
has impacted the offense. Clowney alone wouldn't be enough, though. In order to generate consistent pressure, the Falcons need a legitimate four-man rotation at defensive end and defensive tackle. Moreover, the team may still play itself out of position to draft Clowney over these last three weeks.
If Atlanta chooses to address its pass rush with one of its first two picks of the draft, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack and both Missouri defensive ends represent viable draft alternatives if Clowney is off the board.
Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy would merit a generous offer from the Falcons if Carolina allowed him to hit the market, but if that doesn't happen keep an eye on versatile Raiders defensive lineman Lamarr Houston.