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State of Falcons defensive unit after first wave of free agency

Atlanta brought in a lot of defensive weapons in the 2023 free agency, but have taken the opposite approach in 2024.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The fact the Atlanta Falcons have barely touched their defense since the 2024 free agency market opened last Wednesday speaks volumes, and it's screaming confidence in the depth built through multiple additions a year ago.

To this point, the Falcons haven't added any outside talent to that side of the ball. All five newcomers – four straight signings, one trade acquisition – have been offensive weapons. How those players benefit the roster was dissected Thursday. Now, despite the lack of action, it's time to address the state of the Falcons defense after the first wave of free agency, which included just two re-signings.

Atlanta Falcons inside linebacker Nate Landman #53 reacts during the fourth quarter of the Week 15 Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday, December 17, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

Key free agency moves

Editor's note: Contract details have been compiled from

ILB Nate Landman, re-signing: One-year, $985,000 contract

DE Kentavius Street, re-signing: One-year, $1.38. million contract with $300,000 fully guaranteed

Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Kentavius Street #75 signing day at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. On Monday, March 18, 2024. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta Falcons)

Positions of need

Edge: The Falcons two main pass rushers from 2023 may not be back in 2024. TBD, since Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree became and remain free agents last Wednesday. That duo combined for 13 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits last season. Otherwise, Lorenzo Carter, Zach Harrison and Arnold Ebiketie are the Falcons' existing options in the locker room. That trio pulled together 12 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 26 quarterback hits. But the real standouts may need to be replaced.

Viable options on Day 1 of 2024 NFL Draft at EDGE position: Dallas Turner (Alabama), Jared Verse (Florida State), Laiatu Latu (UCLA), Chris Braswell (Alabama), Chop Robinson (Penn State), Darius Robinson (Missouri), Adisa Isaac (Penn State) 

Cornerback: A.J. Terrell is a guaranteed starter but needs a consistent partner in the secondary for 2024. That was not the case in 2023, with Jeff Okudah maintaining the role early last season but Clark Phillips III finishing out the schedule. Well, Okudah is no longer in Atlanta, having signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent. Phillips is back but may not have the starting role locked in. Dee Alford may throw his name in the mix, too, as a returning option. But it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Falcons to bring in a top rookie to learn and grow alongside Terrell.

Viable options on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft at CB position: Cooper DeJean (Iowa), Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo), Nate Wiggins (Clemson), Terrion Arnold (Alabama), Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama), T.J. Tampa (Iowa State)

Biggest question remaining

Will the Falcons use their No. 8 overall pick on a defensive player in the 2024 NFL Draft?

The Falcons haven't used a first-round pick on a defensive player since selecting Terrell in 2020 with No. 16 overall. A top 10 hasn't happened since outside linebacker Vic Beasley in 2015 with No. 8 overall. This year's draft will mark a decade since that moment. So, if recent history dictates near future, then the Falcons aren't bound to pull from the defensive pool. Since the offense has received majority of the free agency attention, though, perhaps it is indeed the defense's turn to bring in a highly touted rookie.

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