Look, I know, I know, these types of Atlanta Falcons articles are always shameless click pieces to get you to read along with things that probably won’t happen.
It’s a shameful exercise in…ok, I’ll get off my high horse, it’s kind of fun and interesting to speculate, no?
The Falcons under Dan Quinn have never shied away from adding talent off the street when they deem it necessary – just look at how they got Taylor Gabriel, or just last week, Austin Pasztor. They signed Philip Wheeler midway through 2015, too. O’Brein Schofield even came back for like a week last year (a sadly brief glimpse). So, y’know, it happens!
Speculation is a wonderful way to pass the time over a lunch break, or on a bus or subway ride home, so far be it from me to keep it from you.
Here are five NFL veterans who the Falcons could hypothetically sign before the regular season. DE Dwight Freeney is not listed, due to the impressive depth at defensive end. Freeney, we hardly knew ye…
TE Gary Barnidge
The Falcons current predicament at tight end is a bit up in the air for the third spot – TE Austin Hooper looks poised to bust out a name-making season, and TE Levine Toilolo adjusted admirably to his role as the second fiddle last season when Jacob Tamme went down. Those guys should do fine, but it’s the third and potentially fourth roster spots that give you pause.
TE Joshua Perkins is still someone that could impress – he’s looked better at his blocking in preseason, and has caught a pass here and there. But, one wonders if he’s fully ready to take on that third job. TE Eric Saubert, the fifth rounder out of Drake, has been as raw as a slab of uncooked ground round, penalty prone and a liability in blocking better NFL pass rushers. Though, his adjustment period was always going to take a while. TE Darion Griswold got a name-check from Dan Quinn, and had a decent-enough game against the Steelers (some noting he looked like a young Alge Crumpler on the field – or actually Alge himself, now bored on Saturdays and subbing in for random preseason plays).
Regardless, the tight end position is young right now, with Toilolo the seasoned veteran on the roster. Does it make sense to bring in a veteran to compete? Maybe.
Gary Barnidge will be on a roster at some point before the season – he made a name for himself in Cleveland, which really, should tell you all you need to know about his ability. He’s coming off a season of 612 yards in the air with two touchdowns – that’s coming from whomever the Browns played at quarterback last season. That’s not half bad. Imagine what he could do with Ryan.
Signing Barnidge would be going against the “youth movement” idea, but it would give the Falcons a true embarrassment of riches in the passing arsenal. It’s a “win now” move, but Barnidge could also help shepherd younger guys on the roster, particularly Saubert, who could glean from Barnidge’s knowledge as he tries to acclimate to NFL life.
This probably won’t happen, but it would be an all-around firecracker of a signing if it did. Barnidge still has it. At 31, he would give Matt Ryan yet another target on the field. It’s hard not to drool a little at this idea.
CB Tharold Simon
After the Jalen Collins suspension, we really don’t know how the depth at cornerback is going to shake out after Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Brian Poole.
The team figures to keep five-to-six cornerbacks, with the other spots being filled with names from this group: C.J. Goodwin, Deji Olatoye, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Akeem King, Jarnor Jones.
Or, maybe there is another?
Tharold Simon was a former Seahawk in Dan Quinn’s Legion of Boom and was with the team with they won their 2013 Super Bowl. He’s got the range and athleticism that was needed to cut it in Seattle, though he was waived toward the start of the 2016 season and was with the Cardinals and Washington up to this point for brief stints.
He’d definitely be a reserve corner and a special teamer if signed, but his experience in Quinn’s system and championship experience makes him an intriguing name still on the market.
Simon’s signing would add a little more security to the bottom of the cornerback roster, though guys like Wreh-Wilson, King and Jones have flashed impressive signs in preseason. It’s more likely the coaching staff goes with one of those guys if the team keeps six corners. But, Simon is at least on the same level as those guys, and might bring more immediate upside.
C Nick Mangold
We begin to stretch even further and further out into the void with this prediction, with a guy like Nick Mangold far-less discussed as a right guard possibility with Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland both putting good reps on film in preseason.
But, with the reserve offensive lineman looking less-than-spectacular, perhaps it’s time we discuss the idea of Mangold coming in to play the “Jake Long” role.
Mangold was a Pro Bowl center with the Jets, and got a little playoff experience with them earlier in his career. But, he’s been in the pit of sorrows that is Jets post-2011 for so long, you wonder that, if he doesn’t retire, he’d just want to be on a winning team.
Mangold would add pristine depth along the offensive line. The idea of his signing takes pressure off Garland to be the main backup at three offensive line spots if Schweitzer does indeed win the RG job, and it gives the Falcons a bit of a sigh of relief if a major injury does indeed hit.
Mangold may want to bide his time until someone gets hurt, and he’s guaranteed a starting job. He would not have such in Atlanta barring injury. But, if he’s cool with hanging around as depth on a Super Bowl-contending team, you’d imagine the Falcons would be happy to have him.
ILB Akeem Dent
It’s time to bring him home, TD.
Indeed, Akeem, Dent, the former Falcons inside linebacker, landed in the Lone Star State when Atlanta traded him to the Houston Texans for QB T.J. Yates in “The Most Boring Trade in NFL History.”
Bringing in Dent may seem kind of moot with similar/younger player LaRoy Reynolds on the roster, but if there are any concerns at all about special teams play, having Dent around once again might not be the worst idea.
Dent started in three games for the Texans last season, notching 11 tackles. He was active all season, and been remarkably durable throughout his career, only missing five regular season games since entering the league in 2011. The former Georgia Bulldog and Atlanta native could have a fan in Keith Armstrong, who coached him on special teams while he was with the Falcons.
Look, this is highly unlikely, but remember, special teams were a bit of a bugaboo last season. Dent can do the job and do it well – you have to think with his ties to the organization and the area he’d be someone they might call if they want another body to help on kickoff and punt coverages.
DT Jared Odrick
The ultimate reach, but there’s a really solid rotational defensive lineman on the market named Jared Odrick, and he hasn’t signed with a team yet.
If the Falcons are at all worried about Derrick Shebly’s health, and there is nothing to speculate there is any cause to, Odrick would be a great guy to bring in as depth. He’s “good” at pretty much what you’d need on the interior of the defensive line, if not spectacular. He can also get on the edge and do his thing, if necessary.
You might say “well, Freeney,” but I’d put my money on Odrick as the best guy out there right now as a rotational defensive lineman. Playing the inside and outside seems to be more and more important these days with guys like Odrick, and he can do both. This is purely spit-balling here, but it’s hard to argue that if the team just wants an extra body on the defensive line for the sake of it, Odrick is a good guy. But, again, nothing indicates this, so this is just more of a “well, in the event of…” blurb.
So, that’s that. Anyone I forgot? Sound off below into the comment section.
Barnidge photo from SportsTalk360, Simon photo from ChatSports, Mangold photo from Alchetron, Dent photo from MSN, Odrick photo from NESN