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Question of the Week: Who is the top free agent about to hit the market?

The 2024 free agency period officially opens next Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

DISCLAIMER: The statements and opinions regarding players and/or potential future players in the article below are those of the editorial staff and are not of the Atlanta Falcons' football personnel unless noted in a direct quote.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons editorial staff is going to do some hypothetical shopping for the latest Question of the Week, asking and answering the following: Who is the top free agent about to hit the market?

The 2024 free agency period officially opens in a week, next Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. There are a few positions of need in which the Falcons could pursue as the new league year begins.

Below is where Tori McElhaney, Terrin Waack and Amna Subhan would prioritize their fake money.


McELHANEY: It's me. Back again with another quarterback conversation for you.

I'm so sorry, but I cannot talk about the top free agents set to (potentially) hit the market in the coming week and not bring up the big, purple elephant in the room.

Yep, Kirk Cousins. And before anyone gets all bent out of shape, hear me out.

Cousins will be 36 years old when the 2024 season starts, yes, and he'll be coming off a season-ending Achilles injury, also yes. But think about the options on the free agency market as it currently stands. Russell Wilson? Baker Mayfield? Jacoby Brissett? Ryan Tannehill?

The argument is strong that Cousins is the best bet in this quarterback class. And no, I will not bring up Justin Fields in this scenario. That would involve a different market discussion, one we are not having now.

I wrote about this in my column earlier in the week, but it bears repeating: There was a consensus among national media we spoke to at the NFL Combine about what direction they believe the Falcons should go at the quarterback position. If you cannot get to the "big three" of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and/or Jayden Daniels in the draft, the route to hypothetical success is through that of a veteran. If there was a leader in the clubhouse as to who that veteran should be? National media and draft analysts tended to go back to Cousins, almost every time.

Let's be frank, too. Even if the Falcons were to grab Cousins in free agency, that doesn't at all mean they are not in the market to draft a quarterback this year or next year. Both of these things can be true simultaneously.


WAACK: Really wanted to go with Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, but Evans and the Buccaneers agreed to a new two-year deal just this past Tuesday, so that takes him out of the running.

Still choosing a wide receiver, though, in Marquise "Hollywood" Brown.

The Falcons need to build depth in this position room. Only Drake London is set to return in 2024, signed through 2025 on his rookie contract, with a fifth-year option available in 2026. Everyone else — such as Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Scotty Miller and Van Jefferson — are bound for free agency themselves. Whoever the Falcons' new quarterback is will need more than London to target.

Brown was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 with a first-round pick. The Ravens traded him during the 2022 draft to the Arizona Cardinals, though, in exchange for first- and second-round picks. The Cardinals picked up Brown's fifth-year option in the process, too.

Last season, Brown caught 51 of his 101 targets for 574 yards and four touchdowns. He was the Cardinals' second-leading receiver, behind Trey McBride. The Cardinals, however, ranked No. 26 in passing.

Brown's best season thus far came in 2021 when he caught 91 of his 146 targets for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. The Ravens ranked No. 13 in passing that year.

That proves with the right offense, which could be the Falcons, Brown can produce.

SUBHAN: I'm gonna bend the rules slightly by going with Baker Mayfield. I wouldn't say Mayfield is my top free agent about to hit the market, but I find his possible fit in Atlanta really intriguing.

Few foresaw what Mayfield was able to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Falcons even caught an up-close glimpse in a late-season loss at home that tipped the NFC South title scale toward the Bucs. Mayfield recorded a career year in yards (4,044), touchdowns (28) and completion percentage (64.3%), along with a Pro Bowl selection and a Bucs playoff win.

As the Falcons look to answer the question at quarterback, I think Mayfield could be the answer if Atlanta looks to double-dip (as Tori detailed in her national media column) by picking up a QB in free agency while also drafting one of the second-tier prospects — think J.J. McCarthy and others — at No. 8 overall.

Mostly, I find Mayfield intriguing because he'll find some familiarity in first-time Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson.

Jourdan Rodrigue, the Rams reporter for The Athletic, explained at the NFL Combine that Mayfield and Robinson worked closely together in Los Angeles in 2022. Robinson was the quarterbacks coach, operating under an offensive-minded head coach in Sean McVay, so Robinson spent time more so with the backup quarterbacks. When injuries hit the Rams and Los Angeles acquired Mayfield, Robinson quickly coached him up to speed. Mayfield led the Rams to a win just two days after signing with the team. He ultimately started four games and played in five total for Los Angeles.

Mayfield-Robinson could be an interesting pair even for Robinson as he puts on the headset for the first time as a play-caller. The familiarity might help them both flourish in 2024.

As long as the open market dictates a short-term, relatively cheap deal for Mayfield, I'd look at that option more so than a Kirk Cousins type who's coming off an Achilles injury at 35 years old.

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