Entering the 2014 National Football League season, the Falcons are clearly looking for upgrades at key positions. With seven picks in this May’s draft, the team hopes to have made a sizable dent in shoring up their most pressing needs. Whether or not Thomas Dmitroff orchestrates a trade to land athletic freak Jadaveon Clowney likely will set the table for the team’s second through fourth round selections. However it plays out, the Dirty Birds are very likely to draft defensive end, offensive tackle, and linebacker with three of their first four selections.
Dmitroff has hinted that he is not likely to make a big free agent splash by bringing in a Pro Bowl caliber left tackle or eight figure cap number pass rusher. So although the team’s free agent signing period may not be as sexy as others, it will no doubt be equally as important. Here’s a look at the positions the Falcons may have most on their radar for free agency:
- Tight End: No one with a sound mind expects the Falcons to be able to adequately replace Tony Gonzalez. Not on the field, not in the locker room, not in the community. And although Falcon brass appears to be happy with the progression of 6’8” Levine Toilolo, he won’t be able to pick up the slack incurred by the loss of Gonzalez on his own. (especially with legitimate concerns about his blocking ability) I find it hard to believe the New Orleans Saints don’t work out a long term deal for Jimmy Graham so I believe it would be ridiculous for Falcons fans to put any merit into that possibility. Would the team consider a one year deal for a player like Dallas Clark? Or gamble on the health and reemergence of Jermichael Finley? Offer an incentive-laden deal to Kellen Winslow? All are possibilities at this point.
- Offensive Guard: I would be surprised if the Falcons don’t sign a proven veteran to hold down one of the guard positions. An offensive line that gave up 2.75 sacks per game won’t be “fixed” simply by drafting a guy like Jake Matthews. Expect 3 new faces to see major minutes on the Dirty Bird’s O-Line. How many of those faces come from the draft and how may come from free agency is yet to be seen.
- Defensive Line: With Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry, and Corey Peters all free agents, the team would likely consider the addition of a new player within the decision to resign the aforementioned players. It is believed that Babineaux and Jerry stand a good chance to return but only if the team does not see an obvious upgrade available.
- Linebacker: Even with a healthy Sean Weatherspoon, expect the team to at least kick the tires on available linebackers. The current free agent list of linebackers is extensive so the team will have plenty of available options that won’t break the bank.