The Atlanta Falcons off-season up until Mar. 15 had been discouraging. Things got off to a frustrating start after All-Pro fullback Patrick DiMarco decided to leave Atlanta for chilly Buffalo at the start of free agency. DiMarco quietly put together back-to-back monster seasons and was a big part of the Falcons’ running success. Losing a fullback wasn’t going to make or break the Falcons off-season, but it certainly didn’t help.
Signing Dontari Poe Saved the Atlanta Falcons 2017 Off-season
The Falcons only signed players that were not contributors to their Super Bowl LI run a season ago. Jack Crawford, previously a member of the Dallas Cowboys, was signed to rotate in and out between defensive tackle and defensive end. It was a solid acquisition, but nothing flashy.
The Falcons then re-signed several players including backup quarterback Matt Schaub, tight end Levine Toilolo and safety Kemal Ishmael. They then followed that up with signing 29-year-old wide receiver Andre Roberts to a one-year deal worth $1.8 million.
Schaub is an adequate backup quarterback, and Toilolo and Ishmael are solid rotational players. But none of these three moves impact the Falcons all that much. It’s nice to have them back on the roster, but their significance is minimal in the grand scheme of things.
Roberts was signed to replace Eric Weems as the Falcons primary kick and punt returner. Weems signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans when free agency opened, and Roberts was prime for the taking. A wide receiver that caught just 25 passes over the past two seasons was arguably the most headlining signing the Falcons had made up until two days ago. But a man named Dontari Poe changed all of that.
Atlanta released Tyson Jackson less than a month ago, putting them in need of an interior defensive lineman. Poe, a 6-foot-3, 346-pound brute, quickly became Atlanta’s go-to option and got the news they were hoping for on Mar. 16. After visiting with several other teams, Poe decided to take less money to play for the Falcons on a one-year deal with $8 million.
A Welcomed Surprise
This move alone saved the Atlanta Falcons 2017 offseason for several reasons. With the acquisition of Poe, the Falcons now have a formidable defensive line for the fist time in years. Poe will be lined up inside along with breakout star Grady Jarrett, a second-year starter that sacked Tom Brady three times in the Super Bowl. Jarrett, a three-technique defensive tackle, will be able to work freely with a massive human being taking on offensive linemen beside him. These two players should feed off of one another and form what could be one of the best interior duos in all of football.
With the interior all but locked down, the Falcons will now get to rotate a combination of Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn, Derrick Shelby, Courtney Upshaw, Jack Crawford and likely one more player soon to be a part of the 2017 draft class in to rush the passer.
Everyone knew Falcons head coach Dan Quinn wanted to reshape the defense, but to actually see it happen is eye-opening. Quinn has completely reshaped the defense in just over two years, and the result is night and day. The only two players that remain on the team in the pre-Quinn era are cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. The defense features nine starters brought in by Quinn and zero backups.
The Falcons’ roster is far from perfect, and a lot more work needs to be put in before next season. But at least for now, the Falcons appear to have their swagger back with the signing of Poe. That move alone puts the rest of the NFL on notice. The Falcons aren’t going anywhere. The NFC’s path to the Super Bowl will run through Atlanta once again.