Just because the Atlanta Falcons marched through the NFC on their way to the Super Bowl, it does not mean there are still holes this franchise needs to fill. Losing 34-28 in overtime to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 exposed this team – where depth and the ability to close out a hard-fought game were prevalent.
The Falcons go into free agency looking to still help the defensive side of the ball and help strengthen its offensive line. There is the speed at wide receiver, a solid offensive attack, and speed and youth at linebacker and in the secondary. Still, it would be a wise decision by management to shore up its pass rush and add a few bodies on the offensive line.
The Atlanta Falcons may not sign many high-profile free agents, but they should be in the running to land a few to better the team’s chances of a repeat trip to Super Bowl 52.
Here is a look at six free agents who should be on the team’s radar.
Eric Berry, Safety – What a great story this would be. Berry, who is from the Atlanta area, spent time in his hometown while fighting cancer and is back in the NFL as one of the best defensive backs in the game. Wouldn’t he be the cherry on top of a developing defensive backfield for the Falcons? Berry has publicly stated he will not work with the franchise tag in Kansas City, who may want to spend their money on keeping Dontari Poe and other defensive linemen. This makes perfect sense.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End – When all is said and done, JPP will be the most prized defensive free agent out there. More than a dozen teams could use his skills as a pass rusher and he will field many offers. The Falcons would fall all over themselves if they could secure his services. Every team in the NFC East will be after him, as will the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. JPP could be this year’s Malik Jackson in terms of value for the high price of signing him to a long-term deal.
Melvin Ingram, Outside Linebacker – His free agency potential has been compared to Olivier Vernon, who signed with the Giants last year. While he collects sacks, Ingram is an outside linebacker who has become a disruptive force in the NFL. The Falcons defense is getting better, but it still needs better pass rushers and help against the run. He should be one of the most sought after free agents this season and the Atlanta Falcons might wind up in a bidding war for his services.
DeMarcus Ware, Pass Rusher – Taking a page from their success with Dwight Freeney. An aging veteran moves from Denver to Atlanta and shows there is still something left in the tank. This also worked well with John Abraham in years past. Ware could be a situational pass rusher and fill the role of Freeney on the field and in the locker room. He would not have to play every down and could gain more playing time as he shows he can still make an impact on the field.
Luke Joeckel, Offensive Lineman – This might be the perfect fit for Joeckel, who would be reunited with his former college teammate at Texas A&M, Jake Matthews. Joeckel has been anything other than a huge disappointment in Jacksonville. If he does not re-sign with the Jaguars, he hits the open market and could be a real bargain player who can play inside at guard or outside at either tackle position. He would serve as a solid depth player, the kind this team could use.
Richie Incognito, Guard – Incognito is still a solid guard who does his job well. He offers a bit of nasty to the offensive line. While he was criticized in Miami and was out of the league before signing with Buffalo before his 2013 suspension, he picked up right where he left off on the field. The Atlanta Falcons have a nice mix of veterans and young players. This might be the best place for him if he does not re-sign with the Bills. He is 33 years old but does offer quality depth.