NFL Atlanta Falcons

5 Atlanta Falcons Storylines to Follow Leading Up to Free Agency

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Atlanta Falcons To Keep An Eye On Going Into Free Agency

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Every team has needs they have to address and the increased salary cap should help, even if it isn’t necessarily fair.

After going 13-3 in 2012 and making it to the NFC Championship game, the Atlanta Falcons somehow went into a tailspin and finished with a 4-12 record in 2013. Atlanta had gone to the playoffs three straight seasons, and QB Matt Ryan had finally got the monkey off his back by winning his first career playoff game in 2012. With Ryan throwing to weapons like Julio Jones and Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzalez delaying his retirement to play one more season and the addition of RB Steven Jackson, the Falcons seem poised to make some serious noise in 2013.

As Lee Corso from College Gameday would say—“not so fast my friend.”

The Falcons had such a horrible 2013 season they now have the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft. That’s a long fall from 13-3 and the NFC Championship game the year before. Yes, some of that can be attributed to injuries they sustained, but there is no way anyone had the Falcons finishing 4-12. Plenty of other teams were dealt injuries last season and not all succumbed to them. The New England Patriots suffered a litany of injuries last season and made it to the AFC Championship game.

Here are five storylines to keep an eye on as the Falcons try to position themselves to overtake the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in the NFC South, get back to the playoffs and make a deep run in 2014.

Justin Patrick is a New England Patriots writer for Follow him on Twitter @calling_allfans, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. How Will Assistant GM Scott Pioli Do in His First Season With the Falcons?

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Pioli was extremely successful when he was New England’s GM from 2000-2008, but he was not quite as successful as the GM for Kansas City Chiefs. He did a fine job of acquiring defensive talent, but the offense struggled when Pioli was in the front office. I know he isn’t the GM in Atlanta, but it will be interesting to see how the Falcons’ first offseason and draft go with him in the front office.

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4. Who Will the Falcons Spend Money on This Offseason?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons have $19,688,149 (according to in cap space they can use for 2014. Atlanta needs to be smart with how they spend that money, but they clearly have enough cap space to address their needs.

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3. Can the Falcons Re-sign Joe Hawley, Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters?

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It look a while for the Falcons to begin negotiations with their impending free agents, but now the team is in the thick of it even though they elected to not use their franchise tag. The Falcons have started talking to Hawley (center/guard) and defensive tackles Babineaux and Peters, and it appears all three are likely to be re-signed by the Falcons. Most Falcons fans seem to want that to happen, and I happen to agree. Re-signing all three would give the Falcons a good start heading into free agency.

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2. Who Will Be the Falcons’ Edge Rusher?

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I have seen a couple of names floated as players the Falcons may be interested in acquiring through free agency. Those two names are Cincinnati Bengals DE Michael Johnson and Brian Orakpo, an edge rusher for the Washington Redskins. Johnson, who is 6-foot-7 and 270-pounds, has averaged 5.3 sacks per season despite his size and athleticism. Johnson had 11.5 sacks in 2012, but he had only 3.5 in 2013. Orakpo is 6-foot-4 and 257-pounds, and he could be a very good fit for the Falcons. The Redskins will work to get a deal done with Orakpo, but ultimately he’ll be on the open market since the Redskins won’t be able to pay what it will take to keep him.

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1. What Are the Falcons’ Plans For Their Secondary?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Free safety is the position the Falcons have to address in their defensive backfield. Thomas DeCoud started in 2013 and was just awful. It has been reported in the media that it is expected DeCoud will be released. If that is indeed the case, the Falcons need to work on filling that hole. Maybe the Falcons will draft a safety. It’s also possible they sign a safety through free agency. Either way, it appears the team will in the market for a new free safety.