Falcons not enamored with free agent class, will focus on few needs, draft 

Falcons fans waiting for a big splash in free agency can go ahead and fill out their March Madness brackets.

Sit back and enjoy NCAA tournament basketball while the rest of the NFL is throwing cash at players. 

The Falcons, who are happy with their roster and will focus on getting better through the draft, have reviewed the free agency class. They have elected not to clear more salary cap space to overpay for available free agents.

The league’s legal-tampering period started at noon on Monday as teams are allowed to deal with prospective players before the start of the official league year at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

The Falcons are hoping to sign quarterback Matt Ryan to a contract extension that will likely be six years and in the $180-190 million range. 

“Matt Ryan’s situation has some role in dictating where we are and how creative we are and how we can re-sign some of our other players in free agency,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “Anytime that you’re signing a top-tier quarterback, you’re going to be face with complications. That’s just the way it is.”

The Falcons re-signed cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson to a contract extension on Saturday and placed $2.9 million second-round tenders on restricted free agents free safety Ricardo Allen and offensive guard Ben Garland on Monday. 

The Falcons have $11.5 million under their $178.3 million. When you consider that they must have $5.6 million for the rookie draft pool and they likely will leave about $2 million for in-season emergencies, the Falcons’ real cap number is just under $4 million. The team picks up another $3.5 million after tight end Levine Toilolo’s post-June 1 designation is applied.

So, basically, there’s room for a low budget fullback and a tight end.

If the Falcons were pressed to sign any of the big-name free agents, they could clear space by moving Ryan’s deal along. Ryan’s cap number could be lowered from $21.6 million to between $9 million and $12 million depending on the structure of the deal. 

Last season, Allen had 54 tackles (38 solo) with one interception, one tackle for loss, and one pass defense while starting 15 games at safety. Allen along with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, are candidates for long-term extensions that are normally done in-season in October or November under Dimitroff. Allen has played in 47 games with 46 starts. He’s emerged as a leader of the defense.

Garland, who also has played some defensive tackle, has seen action in 32 games with the Falcons since being signed by the team in 2015. Last season, he started in three games at guard, making his first career start in a Week 14 win over New Orleans. 

Here’s a look at the Falcons’ free agents: 


— Matt Bryant re-signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal. The Falcons have options to pick up the contract in 2019 and 2020. 

— Defensive end Adrian Clayborn led the team in sacks with 10.5 (including the playoffs). He played 576 snaps, the third-highest total along the defensive line.

— Fullback Derrick Coleman played 268 snaps on special teams and led the team in special teams tackles with 15.

— Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel didn’t provide the same explosive plays and will not be re-signed. 

— Linebacker/safety Kemal Ishmael played 336 snaps on special teams and has value a reserve. He will test the market to see if someone thinks he’s more than a reserve.

— Cornerback Leon McFadden was a late-season add to provide depth. He was signed to a one-year contract extension.

— Offensive tackle Austin Pasztor was the backup swing tackle who was active for eight games. He was signed to a one year extension. 

— Defensive tackle Dontari Poe is headed for free agency where he’s expected to land a “lucrative deal,” according to Dimitroff. He played 868 defensive snaps, the second highest on the team behind Jarrett’s 870. He also played eight snaps on offense. 

— Returner Andre Roberts was plagued by poor blocking. He’s expecting to become a free agent.

— Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin provided quality depth as a run-stuffer. 

— Linebacker Jordan Tripp considered a solid special-teamer when healthy.

— Defensive tackle Courtney Upshaw plays the run well for a former linebacker.

— Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon was insurance last season for the young and inexperienced unit. He wants to continue playing.

— Wide receiver Nick Williams will likely end up in San Francisco. Quinn mention Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis as potential replacement for the Gabriel and Williams.

— Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has re-signed with the team.


— Allen received a second-round tender that is worth $2.9 million.

— Garland received a second-round tender that is worth $2.9 million. Team can keep him and continue to look to upgrade the guard position.

— Running back Terron Ward is a valuable reserve that the team has confidence in. 

— Running back Terrence Magee provided additional insurance as the backs got injured over the course of the season. Zeke Sandhu, his agent, told the AJC he’s returning.


— Safety Sharrod Neasman played 184 special teams snaps as a valuable reserve.

— Offensive lineman Jamil Douglas has potential at the interior positions. 

Subscribe to “The Bow Tie Chronicles” podcast with the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter on iTunes or on the new AJC sports podcasts page.  



Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Atlanta Falcons

With draft a month away, Falcons to use secret weapon 
With draft a month away, Falcons to use secret weapon 

As they prepare for the NFL draft, the Falcons have a secret weapon.  Thanks to owner Arthur Blank’s private airplane, team officials can zip around the country, checking out prospects, interviewing them and holding team-specific private workouts. On March 14, general manager Thomas Dimitroff, head coach Dan Quinn and defensive coordinator...
Falcons sign tight end Logan Paulsen to one-year deal 
Falcons sign tight end Logan Paulsen to one-year deal 

The Falcons signed tight end Logan Paulsen to a one-year contract on Wednesday.  Paulsen, 31, will be expected to fill a role as a blocking tight end, replacing Levine Toilolo, who was released in March. Paulsen, who’s 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds, has played in 105 games and made 55 starts. He has caught just 82 passes for 816 yards and six...
Late-bloomer Wims turns in strong Pro Day 
Late-bloomer Wims turns in strong Pro Day 

Former Georgia wide receiver Javon Mims, a classic later-bloomer, had a strong showing at the school’s Pro Day on Wednesday. Before his fine senior season, Wims was not on the NFL’s draft radar.  “I came out here and showed pretty much my whole skill set,” said Wims, who worked out in front of all 32 teams and four NFL...
Watch: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff at UGA Pro Day
Watch: Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff at UGA Pro Day

The Falcons were well-represented at Georgia’s Pro Day on Wednesday with the entire coaching and scouting staffs in attendance. General manager Thomas Dimitroff spoke after the session. He addressed a number number of topics including how Georgia’s Roquan Smith stood out and the team-building philosophy in free agency and the draft. Here&rsquo...
Dimitroff on Ryan’s contract extension: ‘I don’t know how close we are’
Dimitroff on Ryan’s contract extension: ‘I don’t know how close we are’

The Falcons appear to have hit a snag while hashing out a lucrative contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan.  “I couldn’t even put a (timetable on it). I don’t know how close we are,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on Wednesday. “I can’t. We talk about it and it seems like things are right...
More Stories