Falcon fans, we are forced to watch our bitter rivals play their way into the NFC Championship this week. Let’s focus on how Atlanta can build their team up via Free Agency. Hopefully, this team is a few acquisitions from returning to the post-season. Atlanta has cap space, around $17.0 million as of today. This is without any re-signings, so I would expect this number to decrease a bit.
The first question I tackle is who is out? Names like Nicholas, Samuel, Umenyiora, and perhaps Baker come to mind. However, I believe Sam Baker’s contract is still too much for the Falcons to afford to let him go. So I would expect the first cut would be Stephen Nicholas, he has never performed up to his contract extension, and although he is a great member of the special teams, he brings little to Atlanta’s defensive production. The other names are surely on the chopping block, it is more of a question of when then if.
So here is my first of my five free agent options:
Eugene Monroe of the Jaguars. He will be the top left tackle on the market, and is clearly a major upgrade of Sam Baker. Monroe would bring security to Matt Ryan as well as some nastiness to the run game. This would allow Holmes to move back to right tackle, where he belongs.
Second, is the big man from the Giants, Linval Joseph. Joseph would allow a much needed improvement in the depth of the Falcons. Assuming Babineaux does not return, Atlanta would match these two next to each other, allowing Peters to play the three-technique. I also believe this is the most likely free agent signing. Instant pass rush ability, a one-technique guy that draws double teams, and he really loves the game.
Third on the list, Lamarr Houston. He is a man that will be the fit for Babineaux’s role. He can play all defensive line techniques and that allows Mike Nolan to utilize Houston in multiple fronts. At 6’3 300lbs. Houston is a bull rusher that accounted for 41 quarterback hurries this past season and 6 sacks. Atlanta should go after Houston first if available before signing any other defensive interior linemen.
My fourth man would be the “Kraken” Greg Hardy, this Panther was a terror to Atlanta this year, and if you cannot beat em’, get him to join. He has the makings of a great premier pass rusher, and we all know Atlanta sorely needs one. Hardy is coming off a 15 sack season, so I would expect is salary to be very expensive. Atlanta has the money to flirt with this defensive end, the question is how seriously are they committed to building a defense from free agency?
Finally, the fifth man in my top free agents is no other than Michael Johnson of the Bengals. He is the epitome of a speed rusher, he may not have the numbers to back it up, which may help Atlanta sign him under budget. However, Johnson is a multiple front guy that could wreak havoc in Nolan’s scheme. Will this Yellow Jacket return to the ATL?
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