The Atlanta Falcons had one of the best teams in 2016, so there isn’t a ton of pressing needs. In just two years, head coach Dan Quinn has lifted the Falcons out of a deep, depressing cellar and has risen them all the way to the top of the NFC. Quinn has finally reached the point of having a roster that he himself has built. And in the 2017 offseason, only more solid pieces will come.
Let’s take a look at the Atlanta Falcons 2017 off-season top three needs with free agency and the NFL draft looming in the very near future.
Atlanta Falcons 2017 Off-Season Top Three Needs
1. Add depth at defensive tackle
The defensive line will be one of the main focuses for the Falcons. Jonathan Babineaux, the Falcons’ longest-tenured player on the roster, has likely played his last down of football with the team. Babineaux will turn 36 next October and doesn’t stand a good chance to get re-signed. He will be missed, but the team has started to plan for the future.
Terrell McClain, a 28-year-old defensive tackle who has spent the last three seasons as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, has been rumored to be someone that the Falcons are going after in free agency. McClain is not a high-prize player, but for the money he will garner, it makes a lot of sense. Players such as Calais Campbell will be someone that everyone and their cousin will take a stab at in free agency, but the odds of landing a player of that caliber with not a ton of cap space isn’t likely.
Regardless if McClain turns out to be the player the Falcons decide to bring in, look for the Falcons to use one of their draft picks on a defensive tackle to help fill out the rotation.
2. Plan for the future at offensive guard
The Atlanta Falcons have gotten a lot out of 34-year-old right guard Chris Chester in the last two seasons. Many didn’t expect the veteran to start all 32 regular season games in that time span, but he did. Now the Falcons are waiting to hear back on whether or not he wants to continue playing football.
If he does, which many expect him to do, the Falcons will look to retain him. There is no reason to think that Chester would rather sign with a different team seeing as how good Atlanta’s offensive unit has been recently. He is definitely not the long-term plan at right guard, though. That job will likely go to Wes Schweitzer, who is coming off of his rookie campaign. But until the Falcons hear word on what Chester is going to do, the immediate future at the position is up in the air.
3. Add a strong side linebacker
After watching second-year pass rusher Vic Beasley win the NFL’s most improved award after jumping from 4.0 sacks to a league-leading 15.5, it’s pretty fair to say that he won’t be moving to a full-time starter at strong side linebacker.
Beasley lined up at the LEO defensive end spot more than 90 percent of the time in 2016 and did a great job. Because of that, the Falcons will look to fill their somewhat sizable hole at strong side linebacker this offseason. Atlanta hit drafted their future middle linebacker and weakside linebacker in the 2016 NFL draft. Deion Jones did things as a rookie that nobody saw coming, and Devondre Campbell appears to be well on his way to a good career at the weakside spot.
There’s still a hole at strong side linebacker, but the possibilities are endless. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the Falcons are going to address this position, but one certainty is that it won’t come internally. Philip Wheeler spent time at this position in 2016, along with several other players, but none are in the future plans. Look for the Falcons to address this spot either in free agency or in the draft.