NFL Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons: 5 Free Agents To Target This Offseason

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5 Free Agents To Target This Offseason

Toby Gerhart
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Eek. Where to start? The Atlanta Falcons made a steady descent from possible Super Bowl contenders to the basement of the NFL over the course of just one season. While the loss of Julio Jones early in the season certainly didn't help, it shouldn't have rendered the Falcons completely unable to function.

The Falcons' defense was horrible at times, seeming totally inept against the run, no matter how mundane the rushing attack. Though Mike Smith seems to have kept his job for the time being, his seat is surely one of the hottest heading into 2014.

Smith and the Atlanta front office must make some moves in free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft if they expect to return to relevance next season. But seeing as how Atlanta is in dire need of immediate help, they should be looking more to free agency for established vets who would offer instantaneous assistance.

The Falcons finished the year at 4-12, good enough to match the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for last in the NFC South. At no point during the season did Atlanta look like the threat that analysts predicted them to be and ended up being one of the NFL's major disappointments in 2013. This coming only one year after Atlanta came one half of football away from representing the NFC against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

So, exactly what went wrong for the Falcs? Likely a lethal concoction of a faulty run defense and a league-worst rushing attack. So, from Atlanta's backfield to their run stop, here's five moves they can look to make in free agency to make the team serious competitors once again in 2014.

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5. Major Wright--SS

major wright
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, Atlanta ranked fifth in the league with 20 interceptions, but in 2013, they dropped to 31st with only 10. The Falcons lack a playmaking catalyst in the secondary and free agent safety Major Wright could be their answer. Wright finished sixth among strong safeties with 100 tackles and provides the defensive spark that the Falcons were missing all season. Wright is always a candidate for a game-changing play and is constantly on the minds of the opposing offenses.

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4. Brandon Myers--TE

brandon myers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta will certainly need a replacement for retiring Tony Gonazalz, and I don't believe the answer is on their current roster. Brandon Myers could be an affordable replacement for a Falcons offense that looks to return to their 2012 form. Myers has the ability to be a top six or seven end, and Atlanta possesses the type of offense that could maximize his potential. This would be a beneficial relationship for both parties.

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3. Linval Joseph--DT

linval joseph
Geoff Burke--USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons had the second-worst defense against the run in 2013, finishing better than only the historically awful Chicago Bears. Changes must be made after Atlanta allowed an average of just over 135 yards a game on 4.8 YPC to opposing rushers. Linval Joseph was one of the better run-stopping tackles in the league this season and would provide immediate assistance in Atlanta. The 6-foot-4, 323-pound second-year man could be the foundation in fixing a sad Falcons' rush defense.

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2. Toby Gerhart--RB

toby gerhart
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

While Steven Jackson did a decent job on the ground when healthy, Jacquizz Rodgers proved that he's not a dependable option as a legitimate backup running back. His pass-catching ability out of the backfield is undeniable, but his shoddy 3.5 YPC wasn't doing Atlanta's offense any favors.

Toby Gerhart is a more-than-capable back whom Atlanta can snag for less-than-market value. Gerhart has never got a true chance to show how he performs as a starter, and with Jackson's oft-questionble health, his ridiculous 7.9 YPC in 2013 may give the Falcons a much needed boost in their league-worst ground game.

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1. Karlos Dansby--LB

karlos dansby
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Karlos Dansby was the key factor in the Arizona Cardinals' success stopping the run in 2013. Arizona was the best in the league against the run and, for his part, Dansby recorded 122 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Dansby may be the best run-stopping outside linebacker in free agency and would provide more immediate benefit to a struggling Falcons' defense than any other player in the free agent pool. Dansby is the way to go if Atlanta expects to improve against the run in 2014.