For Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff, this NFL free agency period couldn't be more of a pivotal point in the 2011 offseason.
Dimitroff took multiple calculated risks in this year's NFL Draft, trading away multiple picks for a wide receiver (an area many weren't considering as a need for the Falcons), using his second pick for a player who plays the same position as Curtis Lofton (a potential Pro-Bowler) and waiting until the seventh and final rounds to draft the team's biggest need (defensive line).
Free agency will be a huge opportunity for Dimitroff to take a stab at one or two marquee athletes who will not only be great additions, but with success, could make Dimitroff look like a genius in later months.
Here's five players who could really spice up the Falcons' prospects of being a serious Super Bowl contender.
Charles Johnson is a low-risk, high-reward player who could be a humongous steal in the NFL free agency period.
At just 25 years old, he's a rather under-the-radar player, but he quietly recorded 12 sacks last year for the worst team in the National Football League.
Atlanta desperately needs depth at defensive line, no matter the specific position. Current defensive ends Kroy Biermann and John Abraham are solid, but they don't combine for solid three-down production, so strength in the rotation is key to Atlanta's up-front dominance.
Johnson would definitely be a great addition. He's a fresh player who could potentially outperform Biermann or be a long-term solution opposite of Biermann if/when Abraham retires or slumps.
Carolina will try to do everything within their powers to keep Johnson in a black and blue uniform in 2011, but Atlanta should definitely keep their radar on this kid.
Best case scenario, Atlanta lands a dominating defensive tackle.
The Falcons have been slightly undersized and under-talented at tackle for a while now, especially since the loss of Grady Jackson, who held the line very well in 2008.
Current Falcons tackle Jonathan Babineaux is developing into a star, not to mention a potential Pro Bowl candidate, but he can't hold the line on his own.
Strength is needed at the other tackle position, which was manned by rookie Corey Peters in 2010. Peters had a ton of playing time, but his production was average and nonexistent on statistical rundowns.
Patterson would be a nice fit here. He's an underrated and cheaper option to some of the bigger names on the free agency wire right now, but he's a fantastic run-stopper and plays great in a 4-3 scheme, which would bode well for Atlanta.
Heading into 2010, most Falcons fans felt cornerback was the team's biggest need.
Coming out of 2010, with Atlanta's great cornerback tandem of Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, cornerback might have been a strength.
Grimes was a lock-down, play-making defender all season, and Robinson was productive when on the field.
Atlanta likely won't toy with their starting spots on the perimeter before the year begins, but if anything was evident from the NFC Divisional game, it was the fact that Atlanta desperately needs depth at defensive back.
Brian Williams is aging and average, and youngster Chris Owens became Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 victim during the 48-21 loss.
Defense obviously is a huge area of concern when teams spread Atlanta out. They need third and fourth cornerbacks who are just as talented and tenured as the starters.
Ike Taylor is an experienced and successful veteran who has fallen off the map just a tad in Pittsburgh. He will be free for the taking at a later date, and Atlanta should jump all over him or someone with a similar resume at cornerback.
This might be a risk, but it also could end up looking like a genius move.
Gallery was a first-round selection and apparent prodigy coming out of college, but now at the age of 31, we still feel like he's a work in progress.
Gallery has been constantly injured, which has taken away from the fact he's still a great player when healthy. His value has dropped drastically, which sounds terrible, but to Atlanta, that just means he's potentially a financial steal.
The Falcons have two free agents to sign back in 2011 with Harvey Dahl and Justin Blalock. Most believe Blalock will get the axe, especially if Atlanta can find a formidable option to replace him.
Could Gallery be the guy?
As potentially cheap and ultra-talented, he could be.
And if anyone would take a risk like this, it would be Thomas Dimitroff.
For the marquee, star-studded selection of this otherwise modest bunch, Ray Edwards falls as the last free agent in this list the Falcons should go after.
He's definitely the best defensive end left on the free agent market now that Tamba Hali is locked back up (no pun intended) with the Chiefs.
Edwards would be a more expensive option at defensive end compared to Johnson, but he's been a consistent performer for the Vikings and is just as youthful as Johnson.
He had just eight sacks last year, but is a great force against the run.
Unlike Abraham, who's mainly a pass-rusher, Atlanta needs a defensive end that can make run-stopping the feature of their game.
Edwards would be perfect for that and still has the ability to antagonize quarterbacks.