FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' reaction to their free agency approach as well as insights into Julio Jones' contract negotiations.
Atlanta had a plan heading into free agency. Without much money to throw around, the Falcons had to take a smart approach and methodically target specific areas of need. They had to make their money count.
The team made five signings, all on the offensive side of the ball. Atlanta signed guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown, tight ends Logan Paulsen and Luke Stocker, and running back Kenjon Barner.
"We were very diligent about how we approached free agency, and we think that we've created some positives on our team," general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Wednesday. "We have a whole draft with nine picks to go and continue to build in the areas that we know we need to continue to build on."
Dimitroff spoke at length about the excitement the team has about bringing in Carpenter and Brown to "anchor" in pass protection and add some power to the run game.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote in greater detail about Dimitroff's thoughts on free agency, which you can read here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
ESPN: Can the Falcons afford to keep up with the Joneses
Thomas Dimitroff explained Wednesday at Georgia's pro day that the Falcons continue to have "good conversations" with receiver Julio Jones regarding a contract extension, but the market for elite receivers has risen this offseason. How will that factor into the Falcons' negotiations with Jones?
ESPN's Vaughn McClure got some interesting insight into Jones' possible mindset in all of this by speaking with former NFL receiver Roy Green, who is close to the Falcons receiver.
"I do know that his priority is for all of his players to get taken care of," Green told McClure. "He doesn't want to break up the team because you have to pay him a certain amount of money. There are ways for him to get his money. His biggest talks are all about his teammates. His attitude is amazing. He's all about his teammates."
To read the rest of McClure's piece on Jones' contract talks, click here.
ESPN: Re-grading the 2018 draft class
The Falcons had a pretty solid 2018 draft class, which turned out to be a very good thing as they were relied upon to step up in the face of injuries.
Immediately following the draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper gave the Falcons a "B" grade. Upon revisiting his 2018 draft grades, Kiper reappraised that grade and looked more generously upon the Falcons' draft haul, giving the 2018 class a "B+".
"I didn't realize the breadth of the contributions of this entire class until I started to go through them one by one," Kiper writes. "You know by now about Calvin Ridley, my top-ranked receiver who finished the season with 64 receptions, 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's already one of the best No. 2 wideouts in the league. Isaiah Oliver wasn't rushed as a rookie, and he is likely going to start opposite Desmond Trufant in Year 2. Defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (30 tackles) and linebacker Foye Oluokun (91 tackles) took on big roles. And running back Ito Smith made an impact in the running and receiving game, with 467 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. He could be the natural replacement for Tevin Coleman as the No. 2 back."
To read all of Kiper's updated 2018 draft grades, click here.
CBS Sports: NFL Power Rankings
Free agency has changed the landscape of the NFL in some pretty major ways. Elite receivers like Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are now with different teams, and those kinds of shakeups are obviously going to affect the hierarchy of the league. CBS Sports' Pete Prisco released a new power ranking to reflect how he views these changes. The Falcons actually benefitted in Prisco's new rankings, rising up four spots from his final 2018 power rankings to claim the No. 13 spot.
"Landing two guards in free agency to shore up the line was important for Matt Ryan," Prisco writes. "The defense should be improved with guys returning to the field."
To read the rest of Prisco's power rankings, click here.
ESPN: Identifying biggest remaining need for NFL teams
The Falcons have lasered in on the offense thus far in free agency, but there are certainly some areas to address with the defense as well. It's no surprise then that ESPN's Vaugh McClure ranked defensive tackle as the biggest remaining need for the Falcons.
"The Falcons need to attain a big, physical body to pair with Grady Jarrett on the interior," McClure writes. "They need a defensive tackle with pass-rush ability who can stop the run as well, something they didn't have consistent combination of last season -- although Jack Crawford had flashes. There are a variety of defensive tackles in the draft, so expect the Falcons to look there."
To see the biggest remaining need for other NFL teams, click here.