Predicting The Atlanta Falcons’ 5 Biggest Free Agency Moves
Predicting The Atlanta Falcons' 5 Biggest Free Agency Moves
The Atlanta Falcons are set up to be active bidders in the 2014 NFL free agency period. And in response to a disappointing 2013 season where they won just four games -- after winning 14 the season before -- they should be. Last week, the Falcons freed up another $5.5 million in salary cap space by releasing Asante Samuel and Stephen Nicholas. With an estimated $22 million in cap room, the Falcons can use free agency as a way to fill their major needs and offer them more flexibility in the draft.
Keep in mind that while they do have a solid amount of salary cap space there are 14 teams that currently have more. It is unrealistic to go into this free agency with expectations to get one of the top two players at multiple positions. When predicting the free agency haul for the Falcons, expecting one big splash accompanied by several mid-tier signings is the smart move.
Any time a team wins just four games there will be plenty of roster holes that they need to remedy. For the Falcons, injuries to some of their impact players, including Julio Jones, can certainly share some of the blame. The failures in 2013 cannot be solely attributed to the injuries and instead it is important to fairly evaluate their roster.
Before the season, the Falcons parted ways with longtime right tackle Tyson Clabo who signed with the Miami Dolphins and looked like a shell of his former self all season. You can still chalk this in the loss column for the Falcons, however, because they were left to enter the season with an aging Sam Baker and an unproven player in Lamar Holmes. Baker was injured on and off the entire season, and when he played he was terrible. Holmes was even worse, and he finished the season as the second-worst tackle in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus
The offensive line issues were not limited solely to tackle. Center Peter Konz finished as the second-worst at his position according to Pro Football Focus. The sad thing is that he only played 591 snaps at the position and still managed such a poor grade. Overall, the Falcons had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and that is the most important need to address.
Moving on, the Falcons owned one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL in 2013. Osi Umenyiora led the team with 7.5 sacks, but production was pretty dry elsewhere. Although they go hand in hand, the Falcons also endured a season-long stretch of poor play in their secondary. More specifically, the struggles can be pinned to the play of their safeties. The bloodletting has already begun as they have released Samuel and might consider moving on from safety Thomas Decoud.
With Tony Gonzalez having retired, tight end is another position the Falcons could look to upgrade in free agency. It seems like that might be pushed to the back-burner, however, as they first look to address the offensive line, defensive line and secondary.
Here is my best guess at the five biggest free agent moves the Falcons will make based on their team needs and how I believe the free agent market will play out.
5. Will Smith
Will Smith is certainly no longer the flashy player who could consistently produce double-digit sack seasons, but he is a strong addition for any team that runs a 4-3 defense. Familiarity with the division can only help a smooth transition. The outcome the Falcons can strive for in signing Smith is twofold. First of all, he will provide great depth at the defensive end position. Secondly, he will serve as an insurance solution to start at defensive end until Kroy Bierman is fully healthy and then work as a rotational end. Smith is only 32 and a move back into a 4-3 defense can render him valuable once again.
4. Brandon Myers
The Falcons need a pass-catching tight end to replace Tony Gonzalez and work alongside blocking tight end Levine Toilolo. Brandon Myers had a down season with the Giants in 2013, but a lot of the blame can be pinned to the fact that he had to stay in and block frequently. Myers is best when used as a receiving threat, and once the Falcons shore up their offensive protection issues on the line, he will succeed in that capacity.
3. Corey Peters
Re-signing defensive tackle Corey Peters is just as important as singing players from other teams. Still just 25, Peters came on to have a very solid season in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury. Even while playing limited snaps due to that injury, Peters graded out as a Top 30 defensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus.
2. Chris D. Clemons
With room to spend on one big splash free agent, the Falcons will be looking for values at all other positions. Chris D. Clemons is one of the best values that the 2014 free agency has to offer. Clemons had an extremely strong 2013 season as the free safety for the Miami Dolphins. He graded out as the ninth-best safety in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Adding Clemons would go a long way towards improving the pass defense and limiting big plays.
1. Eugene Monroe
The Falcons have just enough cap room to spend big on one player, and I believe that player will be left tackle Eugene Monroe. After being traded midseason to the Baltimore Ravens, Monroe was an immediate upgrade for their struggling offensive line. First and foremost the Falcons need to provide Matt Ryan with better protection and more time to scan the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe has graded out no lower than the top 15 overall at tackle for the past three seasons.