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: 

Unrestricted:

— 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.

Restricted:

— 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.

Exclusive-rights:

— 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.  

 

 


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