NFL Atlanta Falcons

5 Underrated Free Agents Atlanta Falcons Should Target This Offseason

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5 Underrated Free Agents the Atlanta Falcons Should Target This Offseason

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After having double-digit winning seasons from 2010-12, a 4-12 record in 2013 was totally unexpected for the Atlanta Falcons organization and all of its fans. Many thought that the addition of running back Steven Jackson was going to get the team over the hump. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury sidelined Jackson for a quarter of the season and seemed to slow him down. In addition, wide receiver Julio Jones missed virtually the entire year due to a foot injury.

Hopefully, this upcoming offseason will help the Falcons turn things around. Although we won’t know what the NFL’s salary cap will be for 2014, looking at the team’s financial status, everything could fall in their favor. The actual salary cap number should be determined close to the official start of the 2014 offseason, which is March 11. It is expected that the number will be around $127.5 million.

There are many unrestricted free agents that are floating out there that will greatly help the Falcons. A couple that come to mind are Baltimore Ravens right tackle Michael Oher, and Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields.

It is tempting to set sights on Oher, but seeing that Atlanta has the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, it would be smarter to use that selection on an offensive tackle for a much cheaper price. The same can be said for the cornerback position.

The team recently severed ties with Asante Samuel, and could address the void during the second day of the draft. Though Oher and Shields may be considered long shots for the Falcons during the offseason, here are my top five unrestricted free agents that could actually end up in Atlanta for 2014.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.

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5. Blake Costanzo, Chicago Bears

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Atlanta has everything set up to have a solid corps of starting linebackers, but depth at the position is an issue. Chicago Bears linebacker Blake Costanzo can add depth and valuable experience to the special teams unit.

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4. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams

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Quarterback Matt Ryan is considered one of the top 10 passers in the NFL. Unfortunately, there is no one behind him on Atlanta’s depth chart that has any valuable experience. There isn’t a lot of eye candy as far as quarterbacks go in free agency, but St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens could be a solid safety net in case Ryan goes down.

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3. Clinton McDonald, Seattle Seahawks

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Assuming that the Falcons don’t re-sign defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters, Clinton McDonald of the Seattle Seahawks could become an attractive target. McDonald only started one game for the reigning Super Bowl champions, but he did manage to tally 5.5 sacks on the year.

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2. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills

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The Falcons have no safeties who are free agents. However, keeping one on their radar would be a smart move. If current Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud doesn’t agree to take a pay cut, he could be released, freeing up room to go after Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.

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1. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez has left the biggest hole on the Falcons’ roster. Though there isn't any substitution for a future Hall of Famer available in free agency, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta could suffice. The addition of Wade Harman, the Falcons’ new assistant offensive line coach, could lead to Pitta moving to Atlanta. Wade worked with Pitta in Baltimore as the Ravens’ tight ends coach.