Bair Mail: On efficient use of free agency, where to address receiver issues, Calvin Ridley, Marlon Davidson

Trading down in 2022 NFL Draft also discussed in Friday's mailbag

Most of the questions I get during the offseason pertain to the NFL Draft and what the Falcons will do with the No. 8 overall.

There were a few regarding free agency this time around, with a focus on needs that can be realistically filled with veteran additions.

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We address that, the team's issues at receiver, the prospects of trading down in the NFL Draft and a lot more in Friday's edition of Bair Mail.

Let's dive right into it:

Chris Atlas from Marietta, Ga.

Hey Bair, I think I enjoy the offseason mailing more than the season one. Anyway according to what college experts are saying, Karlaftis has potential to be great. Though he doesn't have the wingspan or speed to be a consistent disrupter. Ojabo and Hutchinson are products of each other and a dominant defense. Thibodeaux seems like the only edge rusher without major question marks. So should Atlanta use some of the limited cap space to target cheap free agent edge rushers or take a chance on another potential Beasley or Jamaal Anderson?

Bair: Good question, Chris. Appreciate it. I'm of the belief that, if you're a team with cap troubles and a bunch of needs, you should draft the expensive positions and fill gaps with better players at spots that don't make as much.

So, to use your edge rusher example, that's a draft play for me. Though I'd add a secondary piece in free agency as well. I would go offensive tackle and cornerback in the draft as well, while looking for long term solutions.

In free agency, I'd add a starter-caliber offensive guard and space eating nose tackle and a slot cornerback if Isaiah Oliver isn't coming back. And a secondary option at receiver. And another established, yet cheaper edge rusher nearing the end of his career. Gotta be smart with how you spend those dollars, especially if there's a concerted effort to re-sign Foye Oluokun and Russell Gage. The imports won't have much left, and you don't want to hamstring yourself by kicking cap numbers down the line.

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Christopher Duke from Oceanside, Calif.

I've seen a few mock drafts in which we end up selecting a WR at No. 8 overall. I have a hard time believing that with so many pressing needs and a relatively high draft pick, that we need to go in the direction of offensive AGAIN with our first pick. Please help me understand why we would go offense with our #8 pick, when it is clear that we need help at all 3 levels on our defense?

Do you have any insight on the situation with Ridley? Is this situation fixable? It appears that the organization supported Ridley once he decided to step away from football, and now there are rumblings about both sides potentially wanting a fresh start. A little bit of a head-scratcher to me.

Bair: I'll say that I'm also a bit surprised analysts are going with receiver at No. 8 overall. While the position must obviously be addressed, there are other premium positions of major import at this stage. That includes edge rusher, offensive tackle and cornerback, in my opinion. There are other ways to handle the receiver spot, possibly with an older veteran and a middle-round pick.

Regarding Ridley, both Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith haven't detailed much about Ridley other than to say the team continues to support him. Reports of his possibly being traded haven't been backed by the Falcons or Ridley's camp, so it's all speculation at this point. We do know Ridley is contracted to play next season on his fifth-year option.

I can combo this answer and address Nathan Billings' question about compensation for Ridley as well. If he is moved, I would demand a second-round pick at minimum when constructing a deal.

Mike S from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Greetings Scott! Got to say, when we first drafted Marlon Davidson a lot of fans were really excited but, honestly, he's been pretty disappointing since... do you see him or anyone else already on the Falcons making "the" leap? Would help out our cap issues if guys on those rookie deals started outplaying their contracts.

Bair: I was with you, Mike, in thinking that Marlon Davidson would make a big leap in his second season. Whether that was scheme fit, health or general underperformance, Davidson hasn't been the backfield disruptor he was in college. To this point, anyway. Second round picks are super valuable and hit rates on good teams are generally high.

I don't think it's out of line to say more is expected from Davidson. It's also fair to say that it's early in his career, but next season will be a massive one for the interior pass rusher. He needs to be a heavy producer and steady part of the defensive line's rotation.

With Josh Harris and Kyle Pitts headed to the 2022 Pro Bowl, we take a look back at their top snaps from the 2021 season.

Peter Suresky from Tucker, Ga.

The Falcons hold 4 draft picks in the top 75 (numbers 8, 43, 64, and 74)… not bad considering the number of their positional needs. If the Falcons could draft to their top 4 needs (not considering order or specific draftee players), what 4 positions would you draft with those picks based on their need?

Bair: I have been screaming about the need for pass rushers to anyone who will listen, so that's one. I would also include cornerback, offensive tackle and receiver. Running back has to be in there, somewhere, right? Maybe use a later pick on one of those.

Benjamine Sturgill from Welch, W.V.

Hello, this is my first time asking any questions and I want to thank you for your work. My question is with the Falcons needing help pretty much everywhere, do you think it would be better if they trade down in the draft if the right trade come or stay at 8th pick?

Bair: It takes two to tango, so you need a partner with something substantial to offer. The Falcons best hope is that no quarterbacks are taken in the top 7 and a team gets antsy and makes an aggressive play to get the top passer in the draft. That Falcons would benefit greatly from a move like that, but team can't trade just to make one. They'll plan every scenario prior to draft day, and I'm of the belief that they should hold out for an extremely favorable package or just make the pick at 8.

Call for questions

Let's fill the mailbag back up. Submit your questions right here for inclusion in Monday's Bair Mail.

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Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast

Break down the hottest topics surrounding the Atlanta Falcons and how they can impact the team's success with Atlanta Falcons Insiders Scott Bair, Tori McElhaney and Kris Rhim. Like and subscribe to join us for the lively debate on Falcons Final Whistle.

Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.

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