Setting Odds for the Atlanta Falcons Signing Their Top 10 Free-Agent Targets
What are the odds that a top free-agent target signs with the Atlanta Falcons?
It all depends on who the player is. Atlanta has quite a few players who would fit in well with its current scheme or who could fit its new schemes who are currently free agents. On top of that, there are a few guys who fit Atlanta's needs and schemes from other teams.
With each player on the list, we'll take a look at the odds of him signing with the Falcons. Atlanta should be focusing primarily on linemen on both sides of the ball this entire offseason. So, it would be shocking if that's not where the focus of free agency is.
DT Jonathan Babineaux
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it seems like the second-longest tenured Atlanta Falcon behind Roddy White wants to stick around. The Falcons should definitely entertain the idea of bringing back one of their defensive captains in Jonathan Babineaux.
The 2005 second-round selection has been playing out of position the past two seasons. Because the Ray Edwards signing completely busted, he's been forced to play a 5-technique or 6-technique defensive end role. This isn't Babineaux's strong suit, as he's a prototypical 3-technique defensive tackle.
Atlanta needs to focus on a way to get Babineaux back inside. However, bringing Babineaux back shouldn't even be an option if the 32-year-old wants more than $15 million over three years. Ideally, the Falcons re-sign him for a three year, $7.5 million deal so that Babineaux can retire a Falcon.
OG Jon Asamoah
With Scott Pioli now in town as assistant general manager, the Falcons would have an inside track on any free agent from the Chiefs. Jon Asamoah was drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft and has played in all but three games for Kansas City.
Atlanta would love to have a technician like Asamoah at right guard because he could be an instant upgrade over what Peter Konz has provided the past two seasons there. Asamoah upgrading right guard would give Matt Ryan the interior protection he needs.
The icing on the cake is that he's just 25 years old and could be a valuable asset even after he would sign a four- or five-year deal. The Falcons could probably procure his services for a deal that averages between $4 to 4.5 million each year.
DE Michael Johnson
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller broke news at the Senior Bowl that the Falcons will be looking to try and bring Michael Johnson from the Cincinnati Bengals back to Atlanta. On the surface, this doesn't look like the move that would give Atlanta a premier pass-rusher.
Johnson had just 3.5 sacks in 2013 after posting up 11.5 in 2012. What's not said is that he's a top-tier edge-setter in the running game and would be able to get after the quarterback in a more effective manner in Mike Nolan's scheme.
It's a scheme that would take advantage of his top-level athleticism by using him in multiple different roles—3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 defensive end and even at 3-4 defensive end. He'd also be used on both sides of the formation instead of almost every snap on the right side.
Miller also mentions a bit of a hometown discount that the Falcons would try to get Johnson to take, as he's from Selma, Ala., and went to college at Georgia Tech. If the "discounted" deal is six years for $65 million, the Falcons should stand a very good chance of landing the hometown defensive end.
OG Geoff Schwartz
Geoff Schwartz is the best right guard on the free-agent market. Atlanta's biggest offensive-line hole is at right guard. This could be a match made in heaven because Schwartz needs to be in a scheme where he's asked to maul a defender in the run game.
Atlanta would enjoy a combination of the 6'6", 340-pound Schwartz next to the 6'6", 335-pound Lamar Holmes. In the run game, they'd have a pair of powerful road-graders who should be able to steamroll the competition. In the passing game, they'd have a pair of guys who could handle any bull rush.
Schwartz's question of compensation is interesting since he wasn't the full-time starter all season. Ideally, he'd take a "prove-it" deal where it's one or two years for a minimal salary. If he fails, no big deal. If he pans out, then the Falcons should sign him long-term.
S Jairus Byrd
In what is a bit of a long shot, the Falcons will go after Jairus Byrd this offseason. At least, that's what Len Pasquarelli and Clark Judge of Pick the Draft have reported. Byrd would be the Falcons' biggest name this offseason and would be a tremendous upgrade at free safety over Thomas DeCoud.
While this may seem like unnecessary spending, Atlanta could structure the deal to fit into the cap space that Stephen Nicholas helped free up and that a DeCoud release could expand upon. The combined savings from DeCoud and Nicholas would be $5.0 million in 2014, $9.5 million in 2015 and $4.2 million in 2016.
The Falcons could probably give Byrd a five-year, $45 million deal that would make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. Don't be afraid of that sticker shock either. Atlanta's upgraded secondary could compete with Seattle's for the best in the NFL with an addition of Byrd.
OT Eugene Monroe
One spot that the Falcons could look to upgrade is left tackle. The best left tackle out there is Eugene Monroe. Monroe was traded in 2013 from the Jaguars to the Ravens in a move that looked like it was a player trying to find a better situation.
Atlanta would be the ideal win-win situation for Monroe. With Monroe, the Falcons offensive line would be much better, as it would have at least three proven, competent starters in Monroe, Sam Baker and Justin Blalock. Because of that, the Falcons would be able to sustain drives better and win more games.
Unfortunately, franchise-level left tackles make around $11 million per year on average. With Baker's contract in an immovable state, the Falcons would have to try to fit both Monroe and Baker under the cap. If Monroe would take a back-loaded deal just to come to Atlanta, the odds of him signing would increase tremendously.
DT Corey Peters
Corey Peters had the best year of his career in 2013. He had five sacks and was an asset against the run due to his ability to eat double-teams. He did this while playing out of position at the 1-technique when he is a better fit for a 3-technique in the Falcons defense.
The talented defensive tackle went down with an Achilles injury in the San Francisco game on December 23. Because of that, he'll have to spend the entire offseason recovering and may not be ready in time for training camp. That shouldn't matter, though.
The Falcons and Peters are a great fit, and he shouldn't demand a ridiculous contract because of his limited notoriety. Atlanta should be able to get him for four years, $16 to 18 million. Even if a small rift forms in negotiations early, the Falcons and Peters should come to an accord eventually.
C Alex Mack
Alex Mack would be a tremendous upgrade for the Falcons center spot. He is one of the top-three centers in the NFL today, and it's not like the Cleveland Browns are going to be great anytime soon. However, Mack has said that he wants to stay in Cleveland per Chris Wesseling of the NFL's official website.
The Browns have a ton of cap space in 2014 and could front-load a deal for the talented center. According to Spotrac, they currently have $21 million in space in 2014 and a projected $25 million worth of carry-over cash from 2013.
With $46 million in cap space and just one other free agent who needs to be accounted for in strong safety T.J. Ward, the Browns should be able to easily retain both players. On the off chance that Mack even gets to test free agency, expect the Falcons to be in the mix for his services, as he'd be an upgrade at center.
DT B.J. Raji
B.J. Raji hasn't been very spectacular the past two seasons. However, the Falcons would love to bring in someone of his girth to play the 1-technique defensive tackle role in base sets. He's been playing out of position for the Packers as a 5-technique in their 3-4 looks.
Atlanta could really use the massive force in the middle to eat double-teams so that a hopefully re-signed and healed up Corey Peters can have another career year. On top of that, the combination of Raji and Peters could make it to where Paul Worrilow doesn't get swallowed up by offensive linemen in the run game.
The biggest hangup for Raji would come down to the money. Atlanta will have to make sure it doesn't pay him more than $26 million over a four-year contract. It needs to stay competitive, and in order to do that, it shouldn't break the bank for someone who would play under 60 percent of the snaps.
C Joe Hawley
While no information has come out about whether the Falcons want to bring back Joe Hawley or not, the UNLV graduate wants to come back according to ESPN's Vaughn McClure. He is the ideal Mike Tice center. He's underrated by most right now, but he has all the raw tools that Tice looks for in his center.
In comparing Hawley to Tice's old centers, Matt Birk and Jeff Christy, he has a similar size and build to the pair of Pro Bowlers. Hawley is 6'3", 300 pounds. Christy was 6'2", 285 pounds, and Birk was 6'4", 310 pounds. All three guys are super-intelligent as well.
On top of all of that, Hawley has a mean streak that was missing when Peter Konz replaced a retired Todd McClure for the 2013 season. The Falcons should also be able to easily afford Hawley, as his projected contract shouldn't be much more than a two-year, $2.5 million deal.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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