NFL free agency: The Atlanta Falcons’ most pressing needs

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Free agency is set to begin Wednesday, which will provide the Falcons with their first major chance of reshaping their roster.

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Given current salary cap numbers, it’s not clear just how active the Falcons will be – or can be – in free agency, but there will likely be some creative moves Atlanta could make to address certain positions. But some positions need more attention than others.

Here are some of the Falcons’ most pressing needs.

Offensive line: This is no great secret. After the season, coach Dan Quinn explained he was “comfortable” with two positions on the offensive line: left tackle and center. Those are two good places to feel comfortable, but the Falcons could improve at either guard spot and possibly at right tackle. The team signed tackle Ty Sambrailo to a three-year extension this offseason, and both Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff praised him during the combine, yet it remains to be seen if he can be a reliable starter.

Brandon Fusco will return from injury in 2019 and Wes Schweitzer will be back as well, but Andy Levitre, Ben Garland and Zane Beadles are all set to hit free agency. The Falcons could opt to draft a lineman – or multiple linemen – in April. Still, adding another veteran in the mix would be beneficial.

Defensive line: As with the offensive line, I’m choosing to lump each position on the defensive line together because they could add someone at any of them. Barring any last-minute extensions, Vic Beasley, Takk McKinley and Steven Means will be the only defensive ends on the roster once free agency starts. Given how often Quinn likes to rotate his linemen, that’s less than ideal. With Beasley and McKinley returning, Atlanta may focus on adding depth behind them and acquiring ends for their base package.

Grady Jarrett, who just received the team’s franchise tag, is obviously a premier defensive tackle in this league, but Jack Crawford and Deadrin Senat are the only other tackles returning who played a significant amount of snaps in 2018. Crawford tied Jarrett with six sacks last year and was a bright spot on the team, while the growth of Senat in Year 2 should be watched closely. Either end or defensive tackle could be in play for the Falcons with the No. 14 pick in the draft.

Cornerback: This is not a full-blown need like the offensive line, defensive end and defensive tackle spots, but it’s right up there. The Falcons parted ways with starter Robert Alford this offseason and will reportedly let starting nickel back Brian Poole hit free agency. There have been reports that Atlanta could be interested in bringing Poole back at the right price.

The natural assumption is that second-year cornerback Isaiah Oliver would slide into Alford’s starting role while the versatile Damontae Kazee would handle the nickel responsibilities. There’s not much behind the starters in the Falcons secondary, however. Last season showed how valuable depth in the secondary can be, so it might be wise for Atlanta to add some.

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