PFF predicts Falcons to land three top-50 free agents
After making the decision to cut Marcus Mariota, the Falcons have positioned themselves to go after basically any player they want in free agency.With $66.7 million available, Atlanta trails only the Chicago Bears in total cap space going into the new league year.
So, what will the Falcons do with their newfound wealth?
Pro Football Focus released a feature predicting where the top 50 players will sign in free agency. PFF’s Brad Spielberger predicts the Falcons to land three of their top-50 free agents.
RT: Kaleb McGary (No. 38)
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McGary has spent his whole career thus far with the Falcons after the team traded back into the first round to draft him in 2018. This was the same year Atlanta drafted Pro Bowl guard Chris Lindstrom. The Falcons declined McGary’s fifth-year option last offseason, but Spielberger thinks they should look to re-sign the 28-year-old right tackle.
“McGary’s career arc is similar to Jack Conklin, as he was a first-round pick whose fifth-year option was declined by the team that drafted him, before posting the best season of his career in his contract year. McGary recorded a 91.6 run-blocking grade (second) and an 86.6 overall PFF grade (fourth-best). Due to Atlanta not having a veteran quarterback on the books, they should give their young quarterback a reliable tackle. McGary and Chris Lindstrom together could be the best run-blocking guard-tackle duo in the league.“
If the Falcons wish to franchise tag McGary, it would cost the team $18.24 million. A long-term deal would create a more manageable cap hit in 2023 and beyond.
EDGE: Jadeveon Clowney (No. 31)
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The second player Spielberger projects to Atlanta is former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. The Falcons’ struggles in the pass-rush department have been well documented, so this isn’t a total surprise.
“The Falcons were a bottom-two team in sacks in 2022. They really need to acquire some pass rushers, and adding a reliable stop-gap option in Clowney would bring some juice to that group while also allowing them to develop younger players behind him. Clowney is coming off a down year in the pass-rushing department, only totaling 29 pressures and two sacks, but a change of scenery could allow him to thrive again, similar to what happened in his first year in Cleveland. He could also be a good veteran presence to some of the Falcons’ younger defenders.“
Clowney has never been a player to get you double digit sacks in a season — although he did manage 11 in 2021 with the Browns — he is someone who gets consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Clowney has finished with 30 or more quarterback hurries in five of his NFL seasons. While raw sack numbers aren’t his game, he would undoubtedly elevate the Falcons’ pass rush in 2023.
Safety: Jessie Bates III (No. 4)
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Jessie Bates III could very well be the Falcons’ splash signing this offseason. Adding the veteran safety would likely mean the end of Jaylinn Hawkins’ time as a starter, but Bates is an undeniable upgrade. And since we don’t yet know what kind of looks defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen will prefer, there’s a chance Hawkins could still have a role alongside Bates and Richie Grant.
“The Falcons have a need at safety, and Bates could be a good fit, especially since they hired Ryan Nielsen, the New Orleans Saints‘ co-defensive coordinator in 2022. Richie Grant is a solid safety for Atlanta, and the Falcons move him all around the field, but they could upgrade Jaylinn Hawkins‘ spot, as he has never graded above 60.0 in his career. Nielsen was part of a Saints coaching staff that always had quality safeties on the roster, such as Marcus Maye, Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell and Malcolm Jenkins. Bates can step into Williams’ previous role at free safety, and he also has the capability to play in the box and succeed in Atlanta.“
Bates has already been seen in public hanging out with Falcons players this offseason. The 26-year-old has a market value of $14 million per year, according to Spotrac.
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