Well, it is official.
The Atlanta Falcons have parted ways with their all-time leading receiver. It was announced on Wednesday that the team had released 11-year veteran Roddy White. The 34-year-old White had played every season with the Falcons, and will now be looking for work. Now that the team has officially parted ways with him, it could open the door for the team to take a first-round wideout in the 2016 NFL Draft.
THIS JUST IN: Falcons release all-time leading receiver Roddy White. In 11 seasons, he had 808 Rec, 10,863 Rec yds. pic.twitter.com/5kkyoKnVA2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 2, 2016
The Falcons had a relatively weak group of receivers last season. Aside from Julio Jones, they really lacked a consistent No. 2 option and that was part of the reason why their offense sputtered. For a while, it looked like Leonard Hankerson could be that guy, but the team surprisingly released him midway through the season. Frankly, if the Falcons do not add receiver help in this offseason, they will not be able to improve on the solid foundation that was set up by rookie head coach Dan Quinn.
With all of that said, it may be a good idea for the Falcons to look at taking a receiver in the first round. While this is one of the weaker receiver classes in recent memory, the team will still be in position to add an impact player with the 17th pick. Top receiver prospect Laquon Treadwell may be on the board there, and the Alshon Jeffery-like playmaker would be an excellent counterpart for Jones. The team could also opt to go with a more athletic option like Will Fuller or Josh Doctson with the pick.
Of course, the Falcons will not reach for a receiver if a better prospect is available at another position of need. They definitely need another pass rusher and some offensive line help, so they may address those positions early. That decision could hinge upon what they think of Justin Hardy. The fourth-round rookie had a decent first season, but is probably best suited as a slot option for the team. However, if they think he can play across from Jones, then maybe they will wait and take a mid-round receiver.
The Falcons absolutely have to take a receiver at some point in the draft, but releasing White makes it seem like they will take one sooner rather than later. Atlanta will have some good options in the mid-first and it needs to make sure it takes advantage of the opportunity by selecting an impact player.