5 Players the Atlanta Falcons Could Sign to Improve Depth
The Atlanta Falcons played poorly in 2013 in large part due to a lack of depth along their team. They have the cap room to add some more talent to the second tier of the team and could even bring in legitimate competition for a couple of starting jobs.
According to the calculations at Draft Falcons, Atlanta is around $11.8 million under the salary cap. The only signing that isn't reflected in that is the Dezmen Southward signing that is yet to happen. Atlanta could use this money to sign any of the following gentlemen to add depth to the team.
QB Josh Freeman
Career Stats: 63 games played, 1,164-of-2,020 (57.6 percent), 13,724 yards, 80 touchdowns, 67 interceptions, 197 carries, 922 yards, 4 touchdowns, 38 fumbles, 6 tackles
So what if he didn't live up to expectations in Minnesota. So what if he was cut by the New York Giants in OTAs. Josh Freeman showed during his second, third and fourth seasons in Tampa Bay that he more than deserves to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
The Falcons currently have zero guys who have shown that they deserve to be a starting quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Ryan. Freeman would be an instant upgrade over the likes of Sean Renfree, Dominique Davis and Jeff Mathews and their combined seven passing attempts in the NFL.
Freeman's biggest issue came from butting heads with Greg Schiano. In a situation where he's got a vertical-based offense and doesn't have to start, Freeman would be ideal as a backup. Atlanta should go after him and make him Ryan's primary backup.
WR Danario Alexander
Career Stats: 28 games played, 83 catches, 1,395 yards, 10 touchdowns
Danario Alexander is one of the best receivers left in free agency. The Falcons are missing a truly competent red-zone threat at wide receiver when Julio Jones and Roddy White are out of action. To prepare for that, they need to bring in a big, quick receiver who can fight for the ball.
Coming out of college, Alexander measured in at 6'4" at the combine. He plays to his size and showed his receiving prowess in San Diego before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2013 season.
As an unrestricted free agent, it's shocking that he hasn't had more interest than he has. He's shown to be a good possession receiver and has the speed to burn a defense. He also doesn't drop a lot of passes and uses his body to make catches in the red zone. The Falcons need someone like him for their receiver depth.
CB/S Terrell Thomas
Career Stats: 60 games played, 248 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 6 QB hits, 10 QB hurries, 12 interceptions, 7 fumbles forced, 1 fumble recovered, 45 pass deflections, 2 blocked kicks, 1 defensive touchdown
As good as Dwight Lowery is looking in OTAs, the Falcons could always try to improve upon him or at worst build depth behind him this year while they develop Dezmen Southward. Terrell Thomas is a cornerback by trade but has always been a solid tackler.
He's shown that he can play in both the slot and outside at cornerback. As a cornerback, he'd be more valuable than either Javier Arenas or Josh Wilson. As a safety, he could compete with Lowery for playing time because he's a legitimate playmaker on the field.
The biggest question comes from his injury history. However, if the Falcons aren't afraid of bringing back Corey Peters or Kroy Biermann, they shouldn't be afraid of Thomas—especially if Thomas shows that he's 100 percent healthy in the second year after his second ACL injury.
FB Le'Ron McClain
Career Stats: 111 games played, 354 carries, 1,310 yards, 13 touchdowns, 94 catches, 557 yards, 3 touchdowns, 5 fumbles, 1 kick return, 17 yards, 7 tackles
Dirk Koetter doesn't use a fullback often, so this isn't the biggest need for the Falcons. However, if he had a true power fullback, it would allow the Falcons to run more of the I-form sets that gave them a great running game back in 2008-2010.
Le'Ron McClain is the best fullback available on the market and one of the best fullbacks in the NFL today. Despite playing just 134 offensive snaps in 2013, the former Charger showed a lot of value as a special teams player as well.
He's not someone who would be a Pro Bowl player in Atlanta's offense, but he does provide more than what Patrick DiMarco, Roosevelt Nix or even Maurice Hagens do for the Falcons. The best way to improve depth would be to bring in a starter, and McClain is just that.
TE Jermichael Finley
Career Stats: 70 games played, 223 catches, 2,785 yards, 20 touchdowns, 2 fumbles, 4 tackles
Neck injuries are tough, because there is no such thing as a minor spinal injury of any sort. Jermichael Finley suffered a nasty one when he played in Green Bay last season and will need to show that he's fully recovered from it before anyone signs him.
However, last year was his best on the field as a true joker-style tight end lining up all over the formation to create mismatches with linebackers and safeties. In just six games, he had 25 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns, creating 238 of it after the catch.
His pace would have given him 66 catches for 800 yards and eight touchdowns. The Falcons need someone with his receiving abilities to replace Tony Gonzalez. And while he may not be able to do it alone, the combination of an improved Levine Toilolo to go along with Finley could accomplish that task.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN.com, CFBStats or NFL.com. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com. 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, the NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.