For this edition of the Free Agency Preview I have included a few links at the bottom of the post. One will take you over to the Falcon's SB Nation blog and the others are columns by an Atlanta beat writer. I'll be including links for the remaining previews as a way of giving you guys some more background information. As always, if you have a link or anything else to add to the discussion please post in the comments section below.
The team in question today is the Atlanta Falcons. They were the darlings of the NFL in 2008, but fell back to Earth this past year. Matt Ryan struggled like a real human, and the pass defense was shredded resulting in an 9-7 record and no playoffs. While the Falcons failed to reach the post-season
for a second consecutive year last season, they were hardly terrible and they do not have any big name unrestricted free agents.
A smart off-season could go a long way towards getting back into the playoffs.
Let's take a look at Atlanta's free agents after the jump...
T Tyson Clabo (RFA) - He has been the incumbent right tackle for the past two seasons. Last season he was given a second-round tender.
G Harvey Dahl (RFA) - Dahl has proven himself to be a capable run blocker during his time in Atlanta. I expect he will again team up with Clabo on the right side of the Falcons offensive line.
S Jamaal Fudge (RFA) - Fudge has primarily been a special-teams player. He only appeared in two games this season.
CB Brent Grimes (RFA) - Grimes was in and out of the starting lineup for the Falcons. Atlanta is expected to look for an upgrade at the cornerback position, but Grimes will most likely be brought back to provide depth.
DB Antoine Harris (RFA) - Harris played on special-teams before tearing his PCL and being placed on IR.
P Michael Koenen (RFA)
RB Jerious Norwood (RFA) - Norwood was slowed down by injury in 2009, but he has proven himself to be a capable big play threat throughout his career. He's the kind of player who could garner interest from other teams.
T Quinn Ojinnaka (RFA)
DB Charlie Peprah (RFA) - Peprah was brought in to help on special teams.
RB Jason Snelling (ERFA) - Snelling is a power back who finished the season with a strong 147 yard performance against Tampa Bay. He is not explosive enough for the starting role, but he could become the primary third down back if Norwood departs.
Cornerback - The Falcons need a pair of starting cornerbacks. They have some solid dime and nickel backs, but they desperately need to upgrade the position. It would make sense for them to focus on acquiring some solid veterans in free agency, so that their younger players can learn in reduced roles.
Outside Linebacker - Atlanta has a solid middle linebacker in Curtis Lofton, but they could use a more athletic player to put alongside him. Look for them to target an aggressive playmaker that can play in space against the pass.
Wide Receiver/Tight End - Quarterback Matt Ryan faltered somewhat in his sophomore season, but the addition of another receiving threat to complement Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White could help get him back on track. By adding another playmaker on that side of the ball Atlanta could open up their offense more, giving Ryan more options.
Offensive Line - Atlanta's right guard (Harvey Dahl) and right tackle (Tyson Clabo) have played well on that side of the offensive line, but they are both restricted free agents. The Falcons should look to at least add depth along their line, and they may also be in the market for a new starter.
Defensive Tackle - The best remedy for a porous pass defense is to get more pressure on the quarterback. The Falcons have two solid defensive ends, but they could use some added depth on the interior of their line. If they can find a way to get more production out of their defensive tackles their defense should see an immediate improvement in 2010.
After a surprising playoff run in 2008, Atlanta regressed a bit in 2009. Still, there are plenty of things to be excited about if you're a Falcons fan.
The main area of concern heading into the offseason is upgrading the pass defense. Upgrades along the defensive line and at the cornerback position are needed. I expect that they'll want to pick up at least one veteran cornerback to help in the secondary. Come draft day I think we could see them targeting linemen.
Aside from that, the Falcons will want to make sure they retain the services of Harvey Dahl and Tyson Clabo. The two have played well together, and they could draw interest from other teams.
Whether or not Dahl and Clabo leave Atlanta, it is imperative that the Falcons add another playmaker on offense. Matt Ryan regressed in his second year in the league, and they need to protect their investment in him by upgrading at the receiver position.