FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the approach Atlanta should now take with free agency slowing down as well as some of the good and bad contracts signed in the past week.
FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
ESPN: As free agency slows, Falcons need to think winning draft
Prior to the start of free agency, there were a few indicators that the Falcons wouldn't be among the teams making several splashy moves. The quality of young players on their roster who will need to be paid in the future as well as a limited amount of cap space this year being among the most notable indicators.
Thus far, the Falcons have brought in former 49ers guard Brandon Fusco to give them another veteran option with quality starting experience at an area of need along the offensive line. With the free agency market beginning to thin and the initial wave of pre-draft options becoming more scarce, ESPN's Vaughn McClure says the team should turn their attention toward winning the draft in April.
"The Falcons could add a player or two at a bargain price this week, but they'll certainly count more on hitting big in the draft, like they've done in recent years," McClure writes. "Four players from the 2016 draft class were regular starters last season: strong safety Keanu Neal, linebacker Deion Jones, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, and guard Wes Schweitzer. Another member, tight end Austin Hooper, started half the games. Schweitzer might be out of the starting lineup moving forward, with Fusco's arrival, while the coaches expressed confidence in Hooper as the primary tight end after a shaky '16 campaign."
This year's draft class is considered to be among the deeper ones in recent years, and there is an array of talent available at some positions of need for the Falcons, who hold the No. 26 pick.
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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL
NFL.com: The best and worst deals from free agency
Many of the notable deals from this year's free agency have already been signed, giving us a clearer picture of the NFL landscape heading into the draft. Now that some of the dust has settled, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal provided his thoughts on what were the best and worst deals from this free agency period.
Topping his list of the best deals so far this offseason were the rival Saints, who reached a relatively team-friendly deal with quarterback Drew Brees for two years and $50 million, $27 million of which is guaranteed. Michael Crabtree's deal with the Ravens also caught Rosenthal's eye. The former Raider signed a three-year, $21 million contract with $11 million guaranteed, much less than some unproven receivers on the market. To see which other deals Rosenthal liked, click here.
As for the deals he wasn't a fan of, Rosenthal again has a quarterback atop the list. The Broncos' deal with Case Keenum for two years at $36 million with $25 million guaranteed earned the first mention due to Denver having guaranteed money on the books for both years and for buying "exceedingly high" on the former Vikings quarterback.
Jordy Nelson and Jimmy Graham are the next two players mentioned. Both are former star pass-catchers who many considered on the downturn of their careers. Nelson signed a two-year $15 million deal with the Raiders, and $13 million of the contract is guaranteed. After losing Nelson, the Packers signed Graham to a reported three-year, $30 million contract with plenty of money guaranteed, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
To see the rest of the contracts Rosenthal didn't like, click here.
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