MOBILE, Ala. – Few people are as plugged in to the inner workings of the NFL than Ian Rapoport. The NFL Network insider has his finger on the pulse of trade talks, pending deals and organizational decision making across the league.
Rapoport was among those in attendance at the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl, and he took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' upcoming offseason, which he believes could be busy
"They definitely addressed the offensive line in the draft," Rapoport said. "Can you go spend a little, probably a little more than you'd like to spend, in free agency to get some edge help and probably a corner, I think you could. They don't need a ton, it's more just plugging a couple of holes. I would think the offseason would be pretty active."
Atlanta has a few notable players set to hit free agency, including tight end Austin Hooper, defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff offered an update on Hooper at the Senior Bowl, essentially saying there was no update and the two sides would pick up talks after the Super Bowl.
Hooper, who was named to his second Pro Bowl this season as an alternate, is coming off of a career year and has emerged as one of the most reliable young tight ends in the league. If he does hit free agency, Hooper is expected to be highly sought after. Dimitroff did not rule out using the franchise tag to keep Hooper in the fold for next season, although that salary number would be high as well.
"They definitely have a decision to make with Hooper," Rapoport said. "Do you franchise him? It's possible. It's a big number, but he's a very good player. Do you try to sign him? Once a guy becomes a free agent, he can obviously go anywhere; it's harder to re-sign those guys at this point."
Whatever they decide to do with Hooper, the Falcons are expected to make a few moves on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. Whether that is in the draft or free agency remains to be seen but adding firepower to their pass rush is a primary concern, and Dimitroff believes the team can also bolster its secondary in this year's draft.
"We feel good where we are with our interior [defensive line] moving around, and we need to continue to bolster that outside rush," Dimitroff said. "… After Super Bowl Sunday we'll start really looking at where we're going in that direction. Yes, there are some people that are going to be coming available, and we'll have to make some tough decisions on that."
Atlanta showed marked improvement during the second half of the season after Raheem Morris and Jeff Ulbrich began to split defensive play-calling duties. Morris is now the full-time defensive coordinator, and Rapoport believes he was great after moving to the defensive side of the ball during the team's bye week.
Despite some of the notable positions that need to be addressed this offseason, Rapoport credits the shifts on the coaching staff for the team's turnaround, and it's why he thinks the second-half success could carry over. If the Falcons have indeed found the right coaching formula, he thinks only some slight personnel adjustments are required.
So, while an active offseason might be in store for Atlanta, it might be more akin to preciseness of a surgery than the wide-spread destruction of a wrecking ball.
"It's much more of a situation where you probably need to tinker rather than something that needs a full overhaul," Rapoport said. "Had they moved on from Dan Quinn, it would have been a big overhaul, rather than where they're at now."