Early Bird Report 3/29: Falcons among top teams in post-free agency power rankings

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons place in ESPN's new post-free agency power rankings as well as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's explanation of the new helmet-to-helmet rule.

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FALCONS HEADLINES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

ESPN: NFL power rankings: Risers, fallers after free agency

With the majority of the initial 2018 free agency period completed, teams have a much clearer picture of their needs heading into the NFL Draft. Some clubs, like the Rams, have made significant moves and re-shaped their rosters. Other teams went a different route, choosing to add a few select players in key areas and maintaining stability.

Now that the flurry of free agency is, for the most part, behind us, ESPN has released a new round of power rankings to indicate which teams have risen and fallen due to their moves since the start of the new league year.

The Falcons stayed even in these power rankings, keeping their spot at No. 7 on the list. Atlanta is the fifth NFC team in ESPN's power rankings, landing one spot below the Rams and three spots below the rival Saints. Here is what ESPN had to say about the Falcons' placement in their power rankings.

"The Falcons filled a big need by signing guard Brandon Fusco to bulk up the interior of the offensive line. The defensive line has taken a hit, though, with Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn both signing elsewhere. The duo played the second- and third-most snaps along Atlanta's defensive line last season."

Here are more articles for Falcons fans:

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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL

NFL.com: Goodell: Helmet should be for protection, not a weapon

On Tuesday, the NFL decided to broaden the helmet-to-helmet rule in an effort to curtail some of the game's most dangerous hits. A player who leads with his helmet at any point in the game may receive a 15-yard penalty and could be disqualified for the remainder of the contest depending on the severity of the hit.

Following that decision on Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the change at the conclusion of the NFL owners meetings and further expanded on why it was made.

"Our focus is how to take the head out of the game and make sure that we're using the helmet as protection, and it's not being used as a weapon, and that's the core of what we're focused on, and I think we made a tremendous amount of progress in that this week," Goodell said Wednesday, according to NFL.com's Kevin Patra.

Patra noted that many current and former players raised concerns about the new rule following the announcement, worried about it changing the game of football. Goodell explained in his speech that the next step in the process for the NFL was to educate the players on what will be considered a penalty moving forward – which they have not fully decided – and how to safely avoid such penalties.

Goodell also stated that the NFL would use replay to determine whether or not a player should be ejected from the game after such a hit, and he explained it will be the first time the league has used replay in regard to determining a foul or for player safety.

"I think it was [Patriots] Coach [Bill] Belichick who first raised it, but if we're able to have replay to confirm when there's one of these fouls that we think should be removed from the game and that also confirms whether someone should be ejected, I think there's a great deal of more confidence among the coaches that it'll be done consistently and fairly," Goodell said. "And I think it also gives the officials more confidence to be able to make those judgments because they know there will be some type of video input in that.

"I actually think that the coaches and the clubs and our officials all collectively feel that that is an appropriate thing to do. And it is the first time we've used replay for safety and I think that's a positive thing. As [Competition Committee Chairman] Rich [McKay] said, it's the first time we've used replay in respect to any kind of a foul, but we think that's warranted for safety-related issues."

Here are some more articles from around the league:

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