By Matt Karoly
With a little over a week to go until the NFL Draft, it’s safe to say the Atlanta Falcons will not be adding any more bodies to their roster ahead of draft day. According to the NFLPA’s salary cap report, the Falcons have a little over $1.4 million left in cap space.
Only the Los Angeles Rams, who were very active this offseason, have less than the Falcons at the present moment.
Rams fans should be willing to accept that fact though since they made noticeable improvements to their football team. Falcons fans on the other hand? Maybe not so much.
Atlanta’s biggest signing in free agency was off the radar right guard Brandon Fusco to a 3 year, $12.75M contract. However, with right guard being one of the few positions on the Falcons roster that could stand an upgrade, the Fusco addition should not be looked at negatively.
The former Minnesota Viking and San Francisco 49er immediately injects a veteran presence with familiarity in Atlanta’s scheme to the right guard spot and didn’t break the bank to do so. This signing was easily Thomas Dimitroff’s best work of the 2018 offseason.
It was also the only “splash” move the Falcons would end up making. But the reality is, this team is not lacking in star power like the more active teams in free agency.
Just a quick run down Atlanta’s roster will showcase a team that has stars or future stars at QB, WR, RB, C, DE (Vic & Takk), DT (Grady), LB (Debo), CB, and S (Keanu). The names that are highlighted on that list are also the players that are due for contract extensions in the near future.
With that in mind, it was not fiscally responsible to throw money around just for the sake of doing so. The Falcons are now at the point in the process where they have to take care of their own to keep this machine rolling that Dan Quinn has built.
Beasley, McKinley, Jarrett, D. Jones, and Neal have as much to do with the Falcons’ resurgence as any member currently on the team. They represent the very image of what this team is all about; that being a fast and physical ball club.
And that’s not the only trait those five players have in common. They also represent draft picks of the Dan Quinn Era.
That is how this team came to be––through the draft.
Yes, the front office has added timely free agents to supplement the roster. Think Alex Mack, Mohamed Sanu, and most recently Brandon Fusco. But the majority of this roster has been built on the backbone of the draft.
And it hasn’t just been the five aforementioned defensive players. The team’s RB2, TE1, WR3, CB3, WLB, and SLB have all been acquired through the draft or undrafted free agent pool under the current regime.
It is precisely those talent evaluation skills that should have Dirty Bird Nation feeling confident heading into next week. The time for the Falcons to make some noise this offseason is now.
Outside of acquiring a premier talent at DT to pair with Grady Jarrett, Atlanta may be in legit BPA mode for the first time in recent memory. It is also why the team has been rumored for another one of Dimitroff’s classic trade day move-ups.
Adding a super athlete like Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne to the middle of the Falcons defense could put the unit over the top. The only negative of that scenario is the price tag associated with such a move.
Based on the needs of the other teams picking ahead of Atlanta, Dimitroff would likely have to leap Dallas (19) and Detroit (20) to secure Vea or Payne. Seattle (18) presents a familiar trade partner with Atlanta as they’re the team the Falcons swapped firsts with last year in order to obtain Takk McKinley.
Update: Seattle may be less inclined to facilitate a trade with Atlanta now given the recent Malik McDowell news.
However, if Atlanta is to pull off a similar move for the second consecutive year, it will likely mean parting with their third, fourth, and perhaps even their sixth round pick according to the trade value chart. Hopefully, Dimitroff has some sense to realize that even that is too rich for his tastes.
In the event, though, that it is not too pricey, just remember the Julio Jones, Desmond Trufant, and Takk McKinley selections. Very rarily, if at all, have the Falcons swung and missed on a player they’ve traded up for under Dimitroff.
To steal a line from another sports franchise currently on the rise, trust the process. Because if the last three years have been any indication, this team works best in late April.
Photo from Atlanta Falcons Twitter account