What you need to know
The 2017 version of the Atlanta Falcons should look very similar to the 2016 version. There aren’t many players on the roster slated to hit the open market, and even if they lose them all they won’t be much worse. They also lack cap space so they also can’t make too many improvements.
Salary cap room
$17,870,046 (25th in NFL; as of 3/1/2017)
- Interior defender
- Edge defender
- Tight end
Notable free agents
- Patrick DiMarco, FB, 83.8 overall grade in 2016
- Jacob Tamme, TE, 77.6
- Dwight Freeney, Edge, 78.3
- Levine Toilolo, TE, 68.1
- Chris Chester, G, 62.5
- Jonathan Babineaux, DI, 46.3
Dwight Freeney, Edge, 78.3 overall grade in 2016
Freeney’s best days are behind him and at this point he is just a situational pass-rusher, but there are some left tackles he can still get the best of. Over the Conference Championship game and Super Bowl, he had 14 pressures. Atlanta might opt to find a longer-term solution, but if they can’t, Freeney should be their guy.
T.J. Lang, G, Green Bay Packers, 87.0
If the Falcons make a splash, chances are it’s on defense. However, they had the best offense in 2016, and if they can turn their biggest weakness into a strength than the offense could be historically great. Atlanta’s right guard Chris Chester allowed 20 combined sacks and hits, while Lang allowed just 10 pressures.
Top 2017 free agency prospects
DeMarcus Ware, Edge, Denver Broncos, 77.4
If the Falcons elect to go replace Freeney with another talented veteran rusher with Super Bowl experience, then Ware is their best fit. He would have the same role in Atlanta as he did in Denver as a situational rusher on passing downs from the defences right side. Despite only rushing the passer only 213 times last year, he had 26 pressures.
Brandon Williams, DI, Baltimore Ravens, 75.9
The Falcons are okay at interior pass-rusher, but they could have a stronger run-stopping presence in the middle of the field. Over the last three seasons he has 99 run stops, which is the second-most for defensive tackles behind Damon Harrison.
Alan Branch, DI, New England Patriots, 80.4
While Williams is the star free agent defensive tackle on the market, someone who is a little bit older but is coming off of an excellent season against the run is Branch. His 11.75-percent run-stop percentage was third-best for defensive tackles with 200 or more run snaps when you include his playoff performances.