There is little doubt that Atlanta has improved in all three phases of the game this offseason. On offense, Atlanta improved an already explosive (when healthy) attack by shoring up the offense line with the signings of projected backup Gabe Carimi and Right Guard Jon Asamoah. In defense, easily the Falcons’ weakness, an entirely revamped defensive line which now features former Kansas City Chief run stuffer Tyson Jackson and the massive 340 pound Paul Soliai. Even in special teams, Atlanta brought in Devin Hester who should prove to be a huge upgrade, even if he is removed from his prime. Nonetheless, Atlanta was at point poised to fill all their dire needs early in the draft, has made a few intriguing free agency moves, non-moves, which greatly affect the way the Falcons have to approach the draft. Having not signed a safety, and releasing Chase Coffman change the entire outlook of the early rounds of the draft.
It seemed almost certain going into free agency that the early stages of the draft were going to be focused on finding a franchise Left Tackle, a Defensive end and, an Outside Linebacker. It seemed perfect, the Falcons were going to shore up all their dire needs. To do this, all Atlanta had to do was sign a replacement for DeCoud and not make any great changes at our skill positions.
Not signing a solid FS has left the early rounds wide open for Atlanta, perhaps to their detriment. Of course, not signing Jairus Byrd was probably a wise decision, while he would have been an great fit for the team and would have shored up what would have become the scariest secondary in the NFC South, the cap hit would have too great. Atlana did miss out on the second-tier of safeties. Louis Delmas, Chris Clemons and maybe even Antoine Bethea. Each one of these players, along with a few others, would have anchored the secondary. Of course, Atlanta is after New Orleans Saints Rafael Bush who has currently signed a 2 year 4.5 million dollar offer sheet with the team, and is hoping the Saints’ don’t match. The signing is strange, Rafael Bush isn’t an upgrade over DeCoud, but is being offered a contract worth more than Chris Clemons (2 year/2.7 million). Rafael Bush hasn’t seen much starting time, only starting six games last year. Bush’s price point makes it difficult to project what type of role he’ll play in defense, but not having not signed a legitimate and proven starter indicates that Atlanta will take a safety high in the draft. Prospects like USC’s Dion Bailey, NIU’s Jimmie Ward and FSU’s Terrrence Brooks prove to be interesting mid-second rounders who could prove to be long-term impact players for the Falcons’ for quite some time. However, using a second round pick of a safety eliminates the possibility taking a starting edge-rusher or tackle such as Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt or Virginia’s Morgan Moses.
More intriguing though is the release of Chase Coffman, who seems set to duke it out with Levine Toilolo in training camp and pre-season for the starting position. Regardless of who won the position battle, Atlanta’s depth at the Tight End position was set. However, with Coffman gone, it seems likely that Atlanta will address the position in the draft. The question is, whether Dimitroff, Pioli and Smith will seek a starter in the early rounds, or a back up in the mid rounds. A lot of Falcons fans, including myself, are high on Toilolo, but I can’t help shake the feeling that Atlanta is looking for someone who can provide shades of the recently retired Tony Gonzalez. The loss of Gonzalez could impact the entire dynamic of the Falcon’s offense.In light of this, Atlanta could be eying up Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro or Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz, both of whom they’ve brought in for private workouts. Reaching for a boom or bust tight end in the early rounds would uproot Atlanta’s draft early plans and once again leave us without one of our more immediate needs which I have listed earlier.
Maybe it’s just over-optimism, but Atlanta seemed on a very bright path the off-season, and looked like they were poised for to fix both their offensive line and their multiplicity of defensive woes. Atlanta has regardless had a solid off-season, and the draft can only improve the team, but is important to remember that in at least some ways Atlanta has made some moves that shake up the entirety of Atlanta’s draft plans and create intrigue moving into the future.