The Atlanta Falcons entered free agency needing massive improvements on defense, and they have taken a big step in that direction by signing defensive tackle Paul Soliai to a five-year contract.
NFL Network's Albert Breer reported the news on Tuesday, indicating that the deal was worth a total of $33 million, including $14 million in guaranteed money:
Paul Soliai has agreed to terms with the Atlanta Falcons on a five-year, $33 million deal. $14 million guaranteed. $11 million in 2014.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 11, 2014
With an $11 million salary in 2014 alone, the front-loaded contract should help alleviate cap space in the event that Soliai doesn't work out as well as expected. However, Soliai was a fixture in the trenches for the Miami Dolphins, developing into a reliable starter over the past four seasons with an exceptional motor for a 6'4", 345-pound player.
This isn't the best of news for the Dolphins, who have work to do in rebuilding both the offensive and defensive lines and also have defensive tackle Randy Starks potentially departing as a free agent.
Atlanta ranked 31st versus the run in 2013 and needed a lane-clogging presence in the mold of Soliai to improve in that regard. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network felt the Falcons were undergoing an attitudinal paradigm shift with their actions on the open market:
Falcons working hard to shed "soft" label. Got a lot bigger/tougher in the last hour.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 11, 2014
In addition to acquiring Soliai, the Falcons managed to land defensive end Tyson Jackson and offensive guard Jon Asamoah, per the team's official Twitter account:
That caters to the notion Jeremiah preached, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff felt the front office accomplished what it wanted to, as reported by AtlantaFalcons.com's Jay Adams:
Dimitroff: "We were focused on adding pieces along our offensive and defensive lines and I feel we were able to accomplish that today."— Jay Adams (@FalconsJAdams) March 11, 2014
How do you feel about Paul Soliai's contract?
The cost to land Soliai was steep, but he is an underrated player who can blow up running plays in the backfield and has the length to distract quarterbacks when they seek windows to throw through. Soliai batted down five passes last season and should complement Jackson well in coordinator Mike Nolan's defense.
With a bunch of talented players in place, a few strong additions headlined by Soliai on Tuesday and the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming draft, a big turnaround is conceivable for the Falcons in 2014.