Atlanta Falcons' Most Under and Overrated Offseason Additions
The Atlanta Falcons have undergone a retooling this offseason, and some of the moves have been overrated or underrated by both fans and the media. Big signings such as Tyson Jackson and the re-signing of Jonathan Babineaux may have been overstated.
In the same breath, re-signings of Corey Peters and Joe Hawley may have been understated. So was drafting Devonta Freeman and Ra’Shede Hageman. The Falcons have done surprisingly well at upgrading competition across the board this offseason, but they have made some questionable moves as well.
Overrated: Signing Jonathan Babineaux to His 3-Year, $9 Million Deal
Babineaux has started for the Falcons at either defensive end or defensive tackle every season since 2008, depending on his role in the defense and the coordinator. The problem with that is that he's also seen over 70 percent of the snaps every season.
That overall snap volume has shown up in his wear and tear. The Falcons couldn't have re-signed Babineaux expecting to get the same kind of snap count out of him this season. It would make no sense to do so, and it wouldn't give them the same effectiveness he's shown.
Babineaux's best role and fit right now is as a rotational defensive end and defensive tackle in the multiple-front scheme. Ideally, Peters or Hageman make Babineaux expendable after showing a ton of promise and disruption inside this year.
Underrated: Drafting Ra'shede Hageman in the 2nd Round
Ra'Shede Hageman doesn't look like an instant day-one starter for the Falcons' defensive line. However, he's going to provide some pass-rushing talent during his rookie season as a rotational nickel defender in the 2-4-5 and 3-3-5 sets that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan loves.
Despite his short-term prospects having him as more of a pass-rushing specialist, the long-term prospects for Hageman are what make him underrated. He's got the potential to become the next Richard Seymour in Nolan's defense. He can play almost any spot on the defensive line.
His ability to play 1-technique through 6-technique would allow the Falcons to use him as anything from a strong-side defensive end in the 4-3 to a nose tackle in an unbalanced 3-4. His versatility and overall talent makes him a great fit for the key component of the Falcons' interior pass rush long term.
Overrated: Re-Signing Peria Jerry to His 1-Year Deal
Peria Jerry signed a deal that will pay him a maximum of $890,000 if the Falcons keep him on the roster all 16 games. Expecting Jerry to do that is still overrating his abilities. That's how far he's fallen from being selected in the first round of the 2009 draft.
He's not even guaranteed a roster spot because he's a weak fit for the multiple-front defense and hasn't shown any talent as a run defender. As a pass-rusher, he has some solid skills, but he hasn't shown the ability to consistently collapse the pocket.
The Falcons shouldn't keep him on the roster, unless Peters isn't 100 percent by the time the season starts. Peters going to the physically unable to perform (PUP) list would be the only saving grace for Jerry's roster spot this coming season.
Underrated: Re-Signing Joe Hawley to a 2 -Year, $6 Million Deal
Re-signing a starting center doesn't sound like it's an important thing on any roster. Centers are the forgotten men, unless they are Pro Bowl-caliber players. In the case of Joe Hawley, he's probably never going to end up in a Pro Bowl or on an All-Pro team.
Hawley was also just one of two offensive linemen last season who looked who showed any sort of competence outside of Justin Blalock on a consistent basis. Despite struggles against Marcell Dareus and Star Lotulelei during the 2013 season, the Falcons' likely starter showed good footwork, a solid base and intelligent line calls.
Those are three things Peter Konz never showed as a starter. With an offeseason working as Matt Ryan's starting center, he should be even more on the same page. Add in the better talent around him this year in Jake Matthews, Sam Baker and Jon Asamoah and Hawley should look like Todd McClure did from 2008-2012.
Overrated: Signing Tyson Jackson to a 5-Year, $25 Million Deal
Yes, Tyson Jackson is going to allow the Falcons to use a lot more 3-4 and unbalanced 4-3 sets in the defense. Yes, he can eat double-teams and looks like a solid run defender. But no, he isn't going to be this amazing pass-rusher whom the money he got suggests he should be.
Jackson isn't going to be able to play more than 60 percent of Atlanta's defensive snaps because he's not much more than a space-eating body. In passing downs, he's likely going to play aligned in gaps so that he can open up lanes for the linebackers behind him.
The Falcons have a very one-dimensional player in Jackson but could use what he does well to allow the defense to manufacture pass rush with blitz schemes. With Jackson eating double-teams, he's got value, but five years, $25 million worth of value isn't there.
Underrated: Drafting Devonta Freeman in the Fourth Round
Devonta Freeman could wind up being the Falcons' starting running back in 2014, if Steven Jackson goes down with injury again this year. The Florida State product is the most likely to make an impact out of this year's rookies not named Jake Matthews.
He's underrated because some have considered him just a third running back for this year and the long-term change-of-pace back. He might just be the guy who's in Jason Snelling's role for 2014 after Snelling retired, but after that, it wouldn't be shocking to see him as the long-term starter at running back.
He's a zone-style back who can one-cut and move like the best of them. He's a three-down back with great receiving ability. He also has solid pass-blocking ability and should be able to create a lot of yardage, even if he doesn't see more than 200 carries in a season, because of his versatility.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN.com, CFBStats.com or NFL.com. All combine and pro day info is courtesy of NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com). All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
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