Every year, we take a closer look at every free agent who could be headed out the door for the Atlanta Falcons. With a new general manager and head coach in Flowery Branch, cap troubles to navigate through, and a long list of free agents, this year could represent a particularly large exodus.
Below, you’ll find the full list of free agents and rough expectations for them. We’ll dive in to the players Atlanta should prioritize a little further down the line.
Unrestricted free agents
- TE Luke Stocker
- WR Laquon Treadwell
- OT John Wetzel
- OG Justin McCray
- OC Alex Mack
- QB Matt Schaub (retiring)
- RB Brian Hill
- RB Todd Gurley
- DE Steven Means
- DE Charles Harris
- LB Edmond Robinson
- LB LaRoy Reynolds
- CB Darqueze Dennard
- CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson
- S Keanu Neal
- S Damontae Kazee
- S Sharrod Neasman
This is a long, long list.
The biggest name here is Keanu Neal. The veteran safety essentially lost two years to devastating injuries, but returned in 2020 and played pretty well all year. He’s a tone-setting physical safety and the Falcons are set to be very thin at the position, so if the dollars work and he fits with what Arthur Smith and his future defensive staff are looking for, he should be back. I’d expect Neal to be one of the priorities of the offseason.
Alex Mack’s future depends on what he wants to do and where he wants to go. It was widely expected that the Falcons would move on from him and replace him with Matt Hennessy, but the regime that drafted Hennessy is gone and it’s unclear how they’ll want to proceed. If Mack is willing to take a one year deal at this stage of his career, the Falcons might try to bridge the gap and let Hennessy compete at left guard, but this one is a huge unknown.
Steven Means might be third on this list. The veteran defensive end was among the team leaders in sacks with 3 and was a solid all-around player. Atlanta’s going to be dreadfully thin heading into free agency at defensive end, and having Means for another year to help bridge the gap would be helpful.
After that, it becomes more difficult to say who the targets might be, especially because the Falcons themselves have said they’re early in their roster evaluation process. A healthy Damontae Kazee is a capable ballhawk who has played safety and corner and would make sense to re-sign. Ditto Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who figures to be affordable and has proven to be quality depth in Atlanta. Neasman, Reynolds, and Robinson were all useful special teamers and could be back to serve in that role. Hill is also a useful special teamer and capable back who would make sense as an early down option while Atlanta breaks in a rookie, especially if they don’t go for one of the consensus top backs in the class.
I don’t expect Dennard to be back after an injury-marred, up-and-down season, and I think Gurley is definitely headed elsewhere after a disappointing year. Players like Stocker, Wetzel, McCray, Harris, and Treadwell feel like coin flips, though Stocker at least knows Arthur Smith.
In the end most of this list will likely wind up elsewhere, especially with the Falcons having limited cap space and a new regime. It’ll be interesting to see who they choose to prioritize, but Neal, Mack, Means, and maybe Hill feel like the ones they’ll weigh most carefully.
Restricted free agents
- OL Matt Gono
- WR Brandon Powell
Powell could be back to compete for the returner jobs and as an option at the back end of the wide receiver depth chart, but that late season fumble and the fact that he was merely okay as a returner in 2020 means he may not make it all the way to September with the team. He did a nice job in the red zone, though, and new special teams coordinator Marquice Williams overlapped with Powell in Detroit.
Gono, however, is a free agent the Falcons need to try to keep. Their depth along the offensive line is suspect, Gono can play both guard and tackle (though he’s been better at the latter spot), and he’ll only cost somewhere between $2.2 million and $3.4 million, depending on whether he’s tendered at the original round or 2nd round level. It’d be a shame if Atlanta let him get away after he’s held his own repeatedly when pressed into action.
Exclusive rights free agents
- WR Christian Blake
- TE Jaeden Graham
- DE Jacob Tuitoi-Mariner
- CB Tyler Hall
- K Younghoe Koo
Because of the ERFA designation, all of these players should be easy to re-sign, and the Falcons should probably bring all of them back.
Koo is the headliner here, a kicker coming off a Pro Bowl season and a year that was one of the finest in team history. There’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be back, and he almost certainly will be back.
Second on the list is Tuioti-Mariner, who has developed nicely all these years and turned into a very useful player in 2020. With the team’s deficiencies at defensive end, JTM’s likely price tag, and the fact that he’s still young and may have untapped upside, the falcons should prioritize him.
Graham would add quality depth to a barren tight end depth chart behind Hayden Hurst, Tyler Hall showed some interesting ability on special teams and is worth developing as a reserve cornerback, and the previous coaching staff talked up Christian Blake a lot even if he didn’t end up getting many opportunities to produce.