(AP photo by Ric Tapia)
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – With the first wave of the 2018 free agency period in the books, the Falcons' roster for the upcoming season is taking shape.
With not many holes to fill, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn set a plan for how they would approach free agency and the draft.
The NFL Draft typically guides what the Falcons do in free agency. Meaning, if Dimitroff views a specific position in the draft as a strength, they likely won't target that position in free agency and vice versa.
"We are about juxtaposing," Dimitroff said in an interview before the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "Where do we want to spend our money? Well if we feel in the draft, position A, B, and C is very strong, usually it's not of really good value to spend money in positions A, B and C in free agency. We take a lot of time to discuss where we are in the pro [personnel] as it compares to college."
Although the Falcons' primary focus of the offseason is getting a new deal done for quarterback Matt Ryan and re-signing their own players to keep the core intact.
With that being said, Quinn and Dimitroff are never done looking for ways to make their team better. One of the biggest needs for the Falcons before free agency was at the guard position. Quinn said at the combine that it was "no secret" the team was looking at guards.
And that was the Falcons' first outside acquisition – when they signed former 49ers guard Brandon Fusco to a three-year deal. Now that the Falcons have addressed their need at guard, let's take a look at what some of the other positional needs are for this team, in no specific order:
With defensive tackle Dontari Poe (Panthers) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (Patriots) both going to the market and signing with other teams, the Falcons now have a few spots to fill along their defensive line – a position Quinn is always looking to bolster.
The Falcons are set with their starting defensive ends with their two former first-round picks returning in Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett returns and has become one of the Falcons' best players on defense, but now with Poe's departure, who will play alongside Jarrett remains the biggest question on this side of the ball.
Defensive lineman Jack Crawford, a versatile player who suffered a season-ending triceps injury will also be back for the start of training camp and is expected to have a big role in 2018.
The Falcons have one of the league's best No. 1 and 2 duos at receiver with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The depth at receiver is where Atlanta could add too given how many guys they like to feature in their offensive scheme.
With Taylor Gabriel signing with the Chicago Bears, the Falcons have a spot to fill at their No. 3 receiver spot. Justin Hardy has proved to be reliable option for the Falcons in his three seasons with the club.
The unit also has Marvin Hall and Reggie Davis, two players Quinn believes will step up in the upcoming year. Although it's too early to project how the Falcons' depth chart will play out, we do know that if the team does add a receiver, he'll have speed.
Prior the start of free agency, the Falcons released Levine Toilolo with a post-June 1 designation. That leaves the Falcons in need of another tight end, especially one who excels as a blocker. Austin Hooper will be entering his third season and has progressed every year he's been in the league and Eric Saubert will be returning for his second year after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Atlanta has spent the past two drafts re-vamping its linebackers, bringing in Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley – all players the Falcons will continue to heavily rely on. The need here is depth behind those three players. Kemal Ishmael and LaRoy Reynolds filled in when needed at linebacker, but both became unrestricted free agents when the new league year began on March 14.