What's Next for the Atlanta Falcons After Initial Wave of Free-Agent Signings

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What's Next for the Atlanta Falcons After Initial Wave of Free-Agent Signings
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After signing a bunch of nasty offensive and defensive linemen, Devin Hester and Javier Arenas, the Falcons also brought back their three key defensive tackle free agents and both of their offensive line free agents.

Where will the Falcons go from here? Do they go after any more free agents? How about their draft plans? Would they be comfortable with their current roster leading into the draft? What are their biggest needs at this point?

 

What does the current roster look like?

After all of the big signings that Atlanta made, they have to re-assess their roster and see where the real needs are. They will have to see how both their starters and depth look compared to most of the league. To do this, here’s a quick unit-by-unit breakdown:

 

Quarterbacks: Matt Ryan, Dominique Davis, Sean Renfree 

Ryan has shown to be an excellent starter, but the backups could both be improved upon. Atlanta could go out and sign a veteran. However, drafting a backup in the fourth round or later makes a lot more sense.

 

Running Backs/Fullbacks: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Josh Vaughan, Patrick DiMarco

With Jackson and Rodgers being the starting combination at running back and Antone Smith showing some talent as a change-of-pace guy, the Falcons just need depth here. Spending a couple of late-round picks to compete with DiMarco and Vaughan for roster spots would be wise.

 

Wide Receivers: Julio JonesRoddy WhiteDarius Johnson, Harry Douglas, Devin Hester, Drew Davis, Dominique Croom

The top four wide receiver spots look to be set. However, there’s still a fifth spot and special teams role that could be filled. Atlanta should look for a wide receiver late in the draft for depth and potential game-breaking ability.

 

Tight Ends: Levine Toilolo, Adam Nissley, Mickey Shuler, Andrew Szczerba

Toilolo looks like he should keep a roster spot, but after that, the Falcons' tight end position is a collection of fringe NFL talent and camp bodies. Atlanta needs to take at least one tight end in the draft. One in free agency wouldn't hurt either.

 

Offensive Linemen: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Jon Asamoah, Peter Konz, Joe Hawley, Lamar Holmes, Mike Johnson, Terren Jones, Ryan Schraeder, Gabe Carimi, Harland Gunn

The tackle situation seems to have Baker and Carimi as starters with Johnson and Holmes as backups. This isn’t ideal, but it still gives Atlanta some solid depth. Guard is similar with Asamoah, Blalock, Gunn and Carimi.

Center is where things get tricky. Both Konz and Hawley have reasons why they should start. However, they should be in a legitimate battle. At this point, the offensive line adding two to three guys in the draft for depth wouldn't be a horrible move.

 

Defensive Linemen: Paul Soliai, Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, Adam Replogle, Travian Robertson, Malliciah Goodman, Tyson Jackson

Atlanta has gotten a lot bigger at defensive tackle and base defensive end. They also have what looks like a solid rotation of at least five guys. Goodman and Jackson can both hold down the fort at strong-side end in both schemes.

Soliai, Peters, Babineaux and Jerry give the Falcons have a good group for a 4-3 defensive tackle rotation with some 3-4 looks. Atlanta could also add another player who can play defensive tackle in the 4-3 or defensive end in the 3-4 or even another nose tackle-type, but it’s not an immediate need.

 

Edge Players: Jonathan Massaquoi, Kroy Biermann, Osi Umenyiora, Stansly Maponga, Cliff Matthews

Atlanta has a ton of guys who would make great depth as edge players. All five of these guys can play outside linebacker in the 3-4 or defensive end in the 4-3. However, there’s no dynamic pass-rusher in the bunch. So Atlanta needs to make sure they add one in the draft.

 

Linebackers: Sean Weatherspoon, Paul Worrilow, Joplo Bartu, Akeem Dent

At linebacker, the Falcons have not just the four listed, but they could also add Kroy Biermann into the equation here. It’s a deep group that could use another talent for depth. However, they have good starters for the 3-4 and 4-3 and solid depth without even adding a guy.

 

Cornerbacks: Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Robert McClain, Javier Arenas, Saeed Lee, Jordan Mabin

Atlanta has a very good group of corners that they seem to be confident in. They wouldn’t have released Asante Samuel if they didn’t think Alford could hold down the fort. Arenas was brought in for depth at returner and as competition for McClain. Another corner for competition wouldn’t hurt.

 

Safeties: William Moore, Kemal Ishmael, Zeke Motta, Sean Baker

Moore has the strong safety role locked down. Ishmael and Motta both provide solid depth at both safety spots. However, Atlanta needs a legitimate free safety starter. They will have to draft one in the third round or higher. Otherwise, signing a stopgap is the best option.

 

Specialists: Matt Bryant, Matt Bosher, Josh Harris

This is the position of least worry for the Falcons. Bryant is a great kicker nearing the end of his run. Bosher is a top-five punter in the league, and Josh Harris is a solid, reliable long snapper. There’s no need here.

 

Who else is on the free-agent radar?

At this time, the Falcons haven’t been linked to anyone else in free agency. Honestly, they shouldn’t even consider signing anyone unless they can either start at free safety or start at tight end and allow Toilolo to be the backup there.

Two options that could be intriguing for the Falcons are former Miami Dolphins safety Chris Clemons and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Atlanta could easily sign both to incentive-laden deals and upgrade their starting positions.

However, they likely won’t go after anyone because their cap situation is about what it was in 2013 heading into the draft. If the Falcons do decide to bring anyone in, it will be on a minimal deal for a year or two.

 

What are the draft needs at this point?

Draft needs are a bit of a finicky thing. The top four draft needs for the Falcons would be starting tight end, starting free safety, a premier pass-rusher and depth at left tackle. After that, the Falcons just need to take guys who will be depth all over the field.

Running back, fullback, wide receiver, quarterback, another tight end, another offensive lineman, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback or even safety could be added late. With seven picks on Day 3, it wouldn't be shocking to see them all spent on depth.

The first three rounds should be some combination of landing an elite pass-rusher, bringing in a safety and adding a pass-catcher at tight end. Despite the thought that tackle could be the first-round pick, it would make much more sense for the Falcons to go this route in the draft.

 

Who deserves to restructure?

The final question that most have about the Falcons is when they will restructure and extend Roddy White, Julio Jones and Sean Weatherspoon. Their contracts all expire after this season, and the Falcons look to have quite a bit of cap available for the 2015 season.

If Atlanta structures the deals correctly, they could go ahead and give White another three seasons, Jones a deal like Calvin Johnson’s and Weatherspoon a deal less than what he projects on the open market.

It may seem a bit early to extend these guys, but the best teams in the league keep their core locked in for as long as they possibly can. And Atlanta is one of those teams that believes in building and keeping a strong core.

 

All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.

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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