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Impending free agents around the NFL that should interest Falcons

Every NFL team experiences personnel and staff attrition. The 2022 Falcons will look much different than the 2021 version because of the amount of impending free agents they have. Terry Fontenot exclusively handed out one-year, team-friendly deals last spring, and I’d expect a similar approach this upcoming offseason with a few multi-year contracts trickled in.

The Falcons will have to deal with more turnover on defense; in fact, Atlanta leads the league in snaps coming from impending defensive free agents. The offense isn’t going to be without change, either. The Falcons’ top three receivers, in terms of the percentage of snaps played, will all be hitting free agency — Olamide Zaccheaus (57%), Russell Gage (56%), and Tajae Sharpe (47%); the trio accounts for nearly 80% of all snaps by receivers.

Obviously, the Falcons could bring back a couple of in-house free agents — Cordarrelle Patterson, Foye Oluokun, Fabian Moreau, etc. However, it isn’t guaranteed. Some will have priority like Patterson and Koo, but if the price isn’t right, Fontenot won’t over-extend himself. As we approach the offseason, more and more 2022 free agents will sign deals as teams attempt to retain players before testing the open market. Here are a few free agents that should pique Terry Fontenot’s interest.

Emmanuel Ogbah DE

Ogbah will get paid this offseason after a complete breakout the past two seasons, totaling 82 tackles, 45 quarterback hits, 15 passes defended, and 18 sacks. He’s a versatile edge defender with a dangerous combination of functional strength and explosiveness that would give Dean Pees a guy who can pressure the quarterback regularly. I’d be shocked if Miami let him walk, but Atlanta should be there in case things do fall through.

Jadeveon Clowney DE

Though he is past his prime, Clowney has been a consistent presence along Cleveland’s defensive front. He certainly benefits from playing opposite Myles Garrett, but the Falcons wouldn’t bring the former first overall pick to be the guy. Instead, they’d need his impactful run defense on the edge and versatility to kick inside on obvious passing downs.

Witherspoon isn’t a name that many would recognize outside of Pittsburgh, but he’s a solid defensive back that has shown a nose for the football. He currently leads the Steelers in interceptions (3) and could form a more reliable duo with A.J. Terrell than Fabian Moreau.

George Odum S

Odum is a depth piece for the Colts at this point, so I’d be shocked if they brought him back with Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon holding down the backend. With a full-time role, Odum could prove to be a great value signing. If he doesn’t pan out under Dean Pees, he’d instantly become Marquice Williams’ best special teams player.

Harold Landry OLB

In the final year of his rookie contract, Landry has had his best season since entering the league. Notching 12 sacks, a career-high, should get him a significant deal this offseason; however, I’d expect the Titans to do everything they can to bring him back in 2022.

D.J. Chark Jr. WR

The former LSU wideout broke his ankle in Week 4, which could provide an opportunity for Fontenot to save some money. Before the injury, Chark quickly became one of Trevor Lawrence‘s favorite targets. Chark could give the Falcons offense an element they’re missing with the top-end speed to take the top off opposing defenses.

Tyrann Mathieu S

Back-to-back bayou boys. Mathieu has established himself as one of the most versatile players in the NFL and was an instrumental piece of the Cheifs’ Super Bowl team. His leadership should entice the front office and coaching staff, but his on-the-field performance is even more valuable. Since signing with Kansas City in 2019, the Honey Badger has led the team in interceptions (13) and has been selected for two Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pros. His unlimited versatility should have Dean Pees’ mouth watering.

Casey Hayward CB

The Raiders should bring Hayward back because their cornerback room is bare. He’s been their top cover man this year after signing with Las Vegas following the 2021 draft and has been one of the better corners in this league since being drafted by the Packers years ago. He signed with the Chargers after his rookie contract expired, where he improved drastically. The Falcons could do much worse opposite A.J. Terrell than Hayward.

Randy Gregory DE

Gregory is an incredible story. He’s been able to put his troubles behind him in part due to the NFL lessening the punishment for positive drug tests, and he’s back to being the dominant player he used to be. His ability to match power and bend makes it extremely difficult for tackles to block him consistently. Gregory could immediately provide Pees with an edge rusher that can always get after the quarterback.

Tyler Conklin TE

Tight end might not be on anyone’s radar right now, but Kyle Pitts is the only player at the position under contract for the Falcons next season. Conklin’s 59 receptions totaling 587 yards and three touchdowns have made the Vikings very happy with their fifth-round selection. He’s a capable blocker and receiver, paramount in Arthur Smith’s offense. There are injury concerns, so Atlanta would have to feel comfortable with that risk.

Tracy Walker S

Walker is another versatile safety that has thrived in Aaron Glenn‘s defense. With such a weak roster, Detroit would be fools to let Walker go; however, if that is the case, Fontenot should scoop him up.

Haason Reddick OLB

Reddick is the Panthers leading pass rusher, and the Falcons have a pretty good idea of the player he is after matching up against Carolina twice already. Leading the team in sacks (11.0), forced fumbles (2), and quarterback hits (18) will make him a hot commodity this offseason, but the Falcons should absolutely be interested.

Laken Tomlinson iOL

Tomlinson has been a steady presence along the offensive line in San Francisco and won’t break the Falcons bank. He’s a reliable run blocker but could stand to improve in his pass sets. Tomlinson has only allowed two sacks, but some of that has to do with the offense he plays in as well as aligning between Alex Mack and Trent Williams. It would be an immediate upgrade over Jalen Mayfield, though.

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