The Atlanta Falcons are coming off their best season in recent memory, one that should have ended with a Super Bowl title. That’s been a discussion for about a month now, so it’s time for the team to turn its attention to 2017 – namely free agency.
With the new league year just a week away, the Falcons look stacked across the board once again. The main pieces of their offense will remain intact, and the defense has a boatload of young talent. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, though, as there are still a couple of holes that need to be filled.
Here are five players who can help fill them when free agency begins next week.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY SportsDenny Medley
FB Patrick DiMarco (Falcons)
It’s not often a fullback is a team’s priority in free agency, but DiMarco isn’t your typical player at that position. He’s a big part of the offense, having made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons. Because fullbacks are devalued in today’s NFL, he won’t cost the Falcons much to re-sign, but his impact on the offense is apparent. Ryan loves hitting him in the passing game, while he’s also a good lead blocker for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons have to bring him back.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
TE Jared Cook (Packers)
Austin Hooper played extremely well as a rookie, looking like he could be the future at tight end for the Falcons. However, to bridge the gap and give Atlanta another option at that spot, signing Cook should be in the fold. He missed a significant amount of time due to injury, but once he returned, we all saw the impact he had on Green Bay’s offense. He opens up opportunities for other receivers by commanding attention from safeties due to his speed, which would only help guys like Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Cook would be an affordable addition and another weapon for Ryan.
USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
DE Jabaal Sheard (Patriots)
The Falcons have one dominant pass rusher in Vic Beasley, but the opposite side is a bit weak. Sheard is good against both the run and the pass, and while his production was limited in 2016, he was outstanding for the Patriots two years ago. ideally, the Falcons would have added a guy like Chandler Jones or Jason Pierre-Paul, but that’s no longer possible due to the franchise tag. Sheard would be a cheaper option while still having the potential to put up eight-plus sacks in 2017.
Isaiah J. DowningIsaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
DT Dontari Poe (Chiefs)
Grady Jarrett looks like a stud at one defensive tackle position, but the Falcons need help at the other. Poe is your prototypical nose tackle in a 3-4, but there’s no doubt he’d be able to step in right away at 1-technique and improve Atlanta’s run defense. He’s a much bigger body than Jarrett, but he can also get after the quarterback from his spot on the inside. Considering most of Atlanta’s sacks come from Beasley on the edge, that would be a huge boost to the defense.
Troy TaorminaUSA TODAY Sports
G T.J. Lang (Packers)
Chris Chester was the weakest link on Atlanta’s offensive line last season, and he’s due to be replaced. If he walks in free agency, the Falcons can upgrade at that spot with Lang, who’s still recovering from a significant injury at the end of last season. He may not get on-field work until training camp, but that could drive his price down a bit. He’d be a good upgrade to Atlanta’s offensive line, which is already fairly strong across the board.