The two-day negotiating period for unrestricted free agents is underway and with the new league year beginning on March 9, here's a look at where the Falcons stand heading into the free agency period. Head Coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have been open in saying with no 'glaring' holes on their roster, the emphasis is on re-signing their players with expiring contracts.
Here's a look at who will become an unrestricted free agent on Thursday at 4 p.m. unless re-signing with the Falcons prior to that date, with analysis from Falcons radio analyst, Dave Archer:
Unrestricted Free Agents
Atlanta originally signed Chris Chester in May of 2015 and he re-signed with the team last April. Chester was a key piece of an offensive line that blocked for the fifth ranked rushing attack and first in points scored.
Archer's Take: "Chris Chester is a veteran guy. He's got six consecutive seasons where he's started all 16 games of the regular season. He's incredibly consistent, you can count on him being ready to play. He only had five penalties last year, only two of those were holding calls. He played at a pretty high level for the age that he's at."
Patrick DiMarco joined the Falcons in 2013, and in 2015 played in his first Pro Bowl. DiMarco has been an integral part of Atlanta's offense, especially in the run game and has become a valuable asset in the passing attack. The fullback caught seven passes for 52 yards and one touchdown in the 2016 season.
Archer's Take: "DiMarco is an outstanding blocker in the run game and he's really good – almost quarterback level – when it comes to identifying his protections. That's his No. 1 job, to block in the run game and protection in the pass game. He's an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. We don't ask him to carry the ball very much, he's a very consistent guy catching the ball. He's a core special teamer, I think he plays on virtually every one of the special teams."
Position: Tight end
Jacob Tamme signed with the Falcons in March of 2015 and quickly became one of Matt Ryan's favorite targets. The veteran tight end played in 15 games in his first season and eight before injuring his shoulder and being placed on IR. In two seasons, he caught 81 passes for 867 yards and four touchdowns.
Archer's Take: "He's an adequate blocker in the run game. He has an excellent feel for passing lanes. He and Matt Ryan have had some good success over the past couple of years they've played together."
Matt Schaub returned to Atlanta for the 2016 season, playing in five games.
Archer's Take: "I think there is a value to Schaub because he's played so much and has been a Pro Bowl player. I think it's a nice blend between he and Matt Ryan in that Ryan can come off the field and it's like he's talking to another starter standing on the sidelines because he's played so much. I think there's a lot of value to that."
Position: Defensive line
The 12-year veteran has played with Atlanta his entire career. He's started 133 games for the Falcons, recording 456 tackles and 27 sacks.
Archer's Take: "Babineaux is one of those glue guys. He's one of those guys that's fought all the battles, but continues to line up and play. He has a tremendous work ethic, he's a guy that practices hard and understands the importance of putting in extra time."
Tom Compton signed with the Falcons in March of 2016, playing in all 16 regular season games. Compton took over for an injured Jake Matthews against Kansas City, playing 41 of 74 offensive snaps.
Archer's Take: "Tom Compton played sparingly, he only had one penalty when he did play. He's only got 11 career starts, he's still a young player learning how to play."
Kemal Ishmael started four games for Atlanta this season when first-round draft pick Keanu Neal was injured. The hard-hitting safety tallied 49 tackles prior to getting injured and winding up on IR for the remainder of the season. In four seasons with the Falcons, Ishmael has totaled 194 tackles, five interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 11 passes defensed.
Archer's Take: "Kemal was great when he wasn't hurt. He's only 25 years old and even with the injury, he was still sixth on the team in tackles. He has a knack for getting to the ball, he has five career interceptions and one forced fumble. That's something Coach Quinn values, and Kemal has the ability to get to the ball. He's versatile in the fact that Kemal can play safety in the back end, but he also steps up and plays nickel linebacker for you which in this game, 60 to 63 percent of the time you're in a nickel set and you need a bigger body guy who can run, and Kemal fits that build."
Position: Tight end
Levine Toilolo emerged as a key piece to Atlanta's passing attack in 2016, catching 13 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He's also commended for his blocking ability in the run game. Toilolo has started in 45 games for the Falcons in four seasons.
Archer's Take: "I think his versatility [is his biggest asset] from a pass game standpoint because he emerged as a reliable guy to throw the ball too. He had one reception in eight of the last nine games, and seven of those nine reception were for first downs."
Position: Defensive line
Courtney Upshaw signed with Atlanta as an outside linebacker, but was switched to defensive line, showing his versatility. Upshaw played in 13 games for the Falcons, becoming a dominant force along the interior line towards the end of the season. Upshaw posted 23 tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pass defense in the 2016 season.
Archer's Take: "Really versatile guy. Started as an outside linebacker when he first came into the league but Coach Quinn wanted to use him on the edge as an edge defender and then slid him to the inside and he became a guy who was hard to handle on the inside. He had a sack in the regular season and one sack in the postseason. His versatility helps Atlanta a lot."
Position: Defensive end
Dwight Freeney signed with the Falcons in early August, and his presence was felt immediately. Freeney helped mentor Vic Beasley Jr., the NFL's sack leader in 2016. He added three sacks during the regular season and one in the postseason.
Archer's Take: "The impact he had obviously was being a pro. Dwight's impact was probably as much or if not more off the field than on the field."
Position: Wide receiver
Aldrick Robinson's elusive speed was on display from the minute he took the fields in Flowery Branch at XFINITY Training Camp in July. Robinson was a valuable depth player for Atlanta, catching 20 passes for 323 yards, adding two touchdowns.
Archer's Take: "He had 13 catches in his last five games, he came on at the end of the year. I thought a big moment for him was when Julio Jones was down with an injury against San Francisco, he had over 100 receiving yards. He stepped up when he was supposed to. He had a really good preseason to make the team and then late in the year when the Falcons were a little banged up, Aldrick made plays."
In his second season with the Falcons, Philip Wheeler continued to contribute. The veteran linebacker played in all 16 games, recording 27 tackles.
Archer's Take: "Philip's versatility is No. 1 for him. He played inside and outside linebacker and he even played some edge rush. He's a really good teammate, he's a professional. Even at 32, he still runs well."
Position: Defensive back
Dashon Goldson signed with the Falcons in late August, playing in just four games for Atlanta.
Archer's Take: "He's a veteran player who understands how to played the game. He has the size to play both safety positions."
Paul Worrilow has played in 59 games for Atlanta, recording 242 tackles and four sacks. The undrafted free agent out of Delaware has started 44 games for the Falcons.
Archer's Take: "Core special teams guy. He led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons, 13-15, he's just one of those guys who loves to play, and you can't get enough of those guys."
LaRoy Reynolds has not only emerged as one of the Falcons' best special teams players, he's also become a vocal leader for the team, who saw more playing time at linebacker this year.
Archer's Take: "LaRoy is another top special teamer. They used him against the run, he's a guy who in college played defensive end and outside linebacker, and played inside linebacker for us. He made the transition and he pours himself out on special teams. I thought he did a nice job defending the run game."
Position: Wide receiver
Eric Weems has been Atlanta's best special teams player for several years, playing in every game for the past three seasons.
Archer's Take: "He's the No. 1 special teams guy. If you look at the numbers punt return wise, he averaged 11.4 yards per return, sixth in the NFL. He had five returns with 15 yards or more. There's an attitude Weems brings to the table. Teams have to have a certain edge and swagger to them– Weems brings that, and it's important to have."
Sean Weatherspoon returned to the Falcons in 2016, and prior to injuring his achilles, he was contributing at a high level. Weatherspoon played in four games, starting three.
Archer's Take: "He's a great teammate. He was playing well before his Achilles injury this year; in fact, he was the biggest surprise for me. He's got an Achilles tear in 2013 and last year, that's the concern about him. He was heart and soul into the team concept, I thought he was a valuable piece prior to his injury."
Restricted Free Agents
Taylor Gabriel -Falcons placed second-round tender on Gabriel * *
Position: Wide receiver
In his first season with the Falcons, Taylor Gabriel made quite the splash. The speedy wideout played in 13 games, catching 35 passes for 579 yards and six touchdowns.
Archer's Take: "In 14 games he had 35 receptions for almost 600 yards. He was tied with Julio Jones for [most] touchdowns on the year. He made a lot of contested catches – for his size, he has a unique knack for being able to make the catch with a guy draped all over him. He's got great speed and his versatility allows him to play multiple positions, play outside, in the slot, you can line him up in the back field. He's a hungry player and he loves his teammates. "
Blidi Wreh-Wilson played in one game for the Falcons, after three seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Archer's Take: A former third-round pick, still young. He's played 35 games in his career, he's versatile, he can play both sides.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents
Ricardo AllenFalcons placed tender on Allen
Position: Free safety
Ricardo Allen has emerged into one of Atlanta's most vocal leaders on defense. In 31 games, Allen has five career regular-season interceptions and has become a valuable asset in Atlanta's young, talented secondary.
Archer's Take: "He's extremely well prepared. He's a really smart player who really studies the game. He was a huge asset to Coach Quinn with all of the rookies on the field. Ricardo was the coach on the field, he was directing traffic, getting people lined up. He was third on the team in tackles, he has five interceptions in the regular season in two seasons, and two in the postseason. He's been a valuable piece."
Ben Garland - Falcons placed tender on Garland
Position: Offensive line
Ben Garland came to Atlanta as a defensive lineman, but this year switched to offensive line. Garland saw action in 16 games for the Falcons. Head Coach Dan Quinn has been open in saying that he sees Garland having the potential to become a starting guard in the NFL.
Archer's Take: "His potential is off the charts. He can play both center and guard. He's a tremendous drive blocking guy. I think he could be a really good offensive guard, he's a big tough guy that plays really hard."
Akeem King -Falcons placed tender on King
After playing in five games in 2015, Akeem King spent the 2016 season on IR for Atlanta.
Archer's Take: "He had a great camp. Has great size and speed, has what Coach Quinn is looking for at cornerback. He's got good hands, he was recruited to go to San Jose State as a wide receiver and they moved him to DB. He's one of those guys who can catch the football, he just needs some more playing time."
Tyler Starr was Atlanta's seventh round draft pick in 2014, and has only played in one game for Atlanta. Starr spent the 2016 season on IR.
Archer's Take: "He's only played in one game. He has incredible size, he's the definition of what you would like on the edge, but he's still a project."