FLOWERY BRANCH -- The official start of free agency is just hours away.
NFL teams, at 12 noon today, are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents upon the expiration of their 2016 contracts at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
There will be several big names hitting the market like Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, while the Tony Romo drama is unfolding in in Dallas. There’s also a batch of veteran wide receivers in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Alshon Jeffery.
The Falcons are looking at the mid- to lower-level defensive tackle market. They were set to meet with Earl Mitchell before he signed with San Francisco and have been linked to Terrell McClain, a journeyman tackle.
But for the Falcons, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, has said the team plans to sign cornerback Desmond Trufant to a contract extension and try to resign their own players.
The team is not planning to sign re-sign longtime defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and former starting tight end Jacob Tamme, Dimitroff noted. Also, Paul Worrilow is set to hit the open market and has at least four teams interested.
The Falcons tendered restricted free agent wide receiver Taylor Gabriel at the second round level and offensive guard/defensive tackle Ben Garland, likely at the third or fourth round level.
Here are all of the updates from Dimitroff:
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DT Jonathan Babineaux wanted to return, but team is allowing him to reach free agency after 12 years of service. Since being drafted in the second round back 2005 out of Iowa, Babineaux has played in 185 games and made 133 starts for the Falcons. “Babs has done a great job for us over the years," Dimitroff said. "He’s been such a great leader for us.”
--RG Chris Chester the team would like for the veteran to return. He’s contemplating retirement.
--OT Tom Compton is headed for free agency as the team will look to upgrade the depth at the tackle position.
--FB Patrick DiMarco is a dependable fullback a year removed from going to the Pro Bowl. His lead blocking is vital to the rushing attack and the team wants to re-sign him. The Falcons are in negotiations to secure his return
--DE Dwight Freeney said he wants to keep playing, but the team will revisit the veteran later in free agency.
--SS Dashon Goldson was safety insurance and not expected to be re-signed.
--SS/LB Kemal Ishmael is a valuable hybrid safety and weakside linebacker, who the team wants to re-sign. The team is in negotiations to re-sign him.
--LB LaRoy Reynolds is a speedy special teams player, who could also return.
--WR Aldrick Robinson is speedy deep threat and key special teams performer.
--QB Matt Schaub is reportedly headed to San Francisco to re-unite with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan.
--TE Jacob Tamme said he wants to return, but the team will allow him to hit the open market. The development of Austin Hooper has been key.
--TE Levine Toilolo is a blocking tight end and the team likes the work he’s done in the rushing attack. They are hoping to re-sign him.
--DT Courtney Upshaw was a versatile reserve who made the conversion from linebacker to defensive tackle and end. The Falcons are hoping to re-sign Upshaw.
--LB Sean Weatherspoon wants to return, but the team make look elsewhere for depth behind the talented linebacker corps.
--WR Eric Weems the former Pro Bowler is a valued special teams player, but may not be re-signed.
--LB Philip Wheeler a key veteran backup, who can start in a pinch. The Columbus, Ga. native wants to return.
--LB Paul Worrilow he’s headed to the open market after leading the team in tackles from 2013-2015.
--CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson was signed as the injuries mounted in the secondary. He won’t be initially re-signed.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Tyler Starr is not expected to get tendered.
--OG Ben Garland will receive a tender from the team.
--WR Taylor Gabriel (made just $510,000 last season) and has received a second-round tender from the team.
--DB Akeem King may receive a modest tender from the team.
EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--FS Ricardo Allen is the starter and one of the leaders of the young group.
--CB Deji Olatoye played some snaps as injuries mounted.
--LB Josh Keyes the team likes his speed.
--TE D.J. Tialavea provided some depth.
--WR Nick Williams he was a favorite of the former offensive coordinator.
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