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NFL Free Agency 2019: Status of every Falcons unrestricted free agent on the roster

As free agency is slowly approaching, the Falcons aren’t wasting time in attempting to re-sign impending free agents. They have come to terms with several backups and potential rotational players.

Unlike last offseason, the Falcons don’t face nearly the same obstacles in keeping key players this offseason. Losing players like Adrian Clayborn, Dontari Poe, and Taylor Gabriel in the same year isn’t easy to recover from with limited cap space. Not being able to replace Clayborn and Poe proved to be costly in the defense’s inability to stop the run or generate a threatening pass rush.

The biggest priority this off-season involves Grady Jarrett. There aren’t many players on the roster more valuable than the ferocious defensive tackle. Re-signing one of the cornerstones of Dan Quinn’s defense is essential for a once-promising unit to get back on track. While there is no debate about keeping Jarrett, the front office will have to decide on which players are valuable enough to retain for the long haul.

I will be following the same format from last year. Only unrestricted free agents are going to be evaluated, which leaves Brian Poole and Marvin Hall off the list.

Following a difficult first season in 2015 plagued by penalties, Levitre bounced back and brought stability to a problematic area. It was integral for the veteran to play well, considering the underwhelming play at right guard. The once massive free agent flop became an unsung hero in 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately for Levitre, his last two seasons have ended on injured reserve. Trusting a 33-year-old left guard coming off two major injuries doesn’t seem likely for a team looking to bolster their offensive line. It’s fair to ponder if any team will take a chance on Levitre due to his age and injury history.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Garland is one of several players who already know their fate. It was announced last week that the Falcons aren’t going to re-sign the versatile lineman. With Dirk Koetter’s return and the offensive line desperately needing an injection of new talent, the decision makes sense from a personnel perspective. Garland’s ability to play multiple positions should always be appreciated. How he filled in at nose tackle during the 2016 season was remarkable. At 31 years old, Garland is heading towards the downside of his career. It makes sense to look for a younger player, especially one who could pass block consistently, which is something Garland struggled to do when called upon.

Should they have re-signed him: No

Will they re-sign him: No (official)

After releasing Robert Alford and deciding to let Brian Poole hit the open market, the Falcons suddenly lack depth at a once-crowded position. Re-signing Wreh-Wilson is a logical move in keeping a capable backup at a position where you desperately need solid depth. Wreh-Wilson has played relatively well in limited snaps. From being primarily used in dime packages to contributing on special teams, the veteran cornerback appears to be a solid fit in Atlanta following a disappointing three-year stint in Tennessee.

Should they have re-signed him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes (official)

The journeyman linebacker was one of the first players re-signed. Despite playing well in limited snaps, it’s somewhat surprising to see Quinn opt to bring back a 31-year-old player at a position filled with youth. Carter is a decent backup option who can handle special teams duties. Considering his inability to hold up against the run and finish plays in the open field, it would be problematic if he was forced into an extended role.

Should they have re-signed him: No

Will they re-sign him: Yes (official)

Irvin was signed during the mid-season to spark life into a languishing pass rush. It seemed like a move that could elevate the Falcons after winning three consecutive games. The resurgence was short-lived, as they ended up losing their next five games with the pass rush failing to make any real impact. Although Irvin had a decent finish to the season, it shouldn’t be enough to warrant a return to Atlanta. Irvin doesn’t win consistently enough with his initial move to be relied upon as someone who can help elevate a front four. Unless it’s off pure effort, the veteran pass rusher fails to generate pressure. His long history with Quinn is something that will be taken into consideration. It’s no secret that the fiery head coach values certain players more than others. In one of their more difficult decisions, the front office will decide to move on from Irvin and add a more consistent edge rusher to the rotation.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Shelby was initially a cap casualty last offseason. After losing to Philadelphia in the Michael Bennett sweepstakes, they opted to bring back Shelby on a one-year deal. It was a move to add strength to a depleted defensive line. The veteran edge rusher suffered multiple serious injuries in what translated into an injury-plagued season. Similar to the offensive line, the Falcons are looking to significantly upgrade up front defensively. Relying on injury-prone declining veterans will only hinder those plans. Shelby isn’t nor should be expected to be in their long-term plans.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

There should be zero hesitation in trying to retain one of the league’s premier defensive tackles. Other than Deion Jones, no defensive player is more valuable on the roster than Jarrett. The former fifth-round pick is coming off his finest season of an already excellent career. Not re-signing a difference-making player entering his prime would be a catastrophic decision for a team looking to reestablish themselves as genuine Super Bowl contenders. After Thomas Dimitroff stated publicly that keeping Jarrett long-term is a priority, it’s safe to assume Jarrett won’t be going anywhere.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

In a late offseason move, the Falcons traded for Richards to the delight of all Patriots’ fans. The strong safety proved to be a major liability when called upon in New England. Nobody quite knew why the Falcons made the move considering their excellent safety depth. That was quickly dismantled as Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen suffered season-ending injuries in September. Richards was inserted into a starting role shortly afterwards. Expecting the underachieving safety to replace an enforcer like Neal was never realistic. For him to look overwhelmed in all phases of the game wasn’t surprising either. Sharrod Neasman soundly outplayed him, which makes this is an easy decision.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

One of the few free agent signings from last season, Bethel failed to make a noticeable impact on special teams. It didn’t help that the highly regarded special teams ace suffered multiple injuries during the season. What hurts Bethel’s value is his inability to play corner effectively. He was routinely torched during his brief spell starting opposite Patrick Peterson in Arizona. While his lack of versatility is concerning, Quinn always speaks highly of the three-time Pro Bowler. That should bode well for him going into negotiations.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: Yes

Despite his limitations as a wide receiver and returner, Hardy makes up for it with his blocking and reliable hands. It’s one of the biggest reasons behind him developing into a reliable role player. The hard-nosed wide receiver wisely built a strong rapport with Matt Ryan. His tremendous blocking ability pushed the coaching staff towards using him as the lone receiver in heavy-set formations. For all the frustration about his limited playmaking ability, Hardy’s skill set meshes well with what the offense needs from him. Unless another team offers a staggering contract, the front office will make sure the underrated receiver remains in Atlanta.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

For the third consecutive offseason, Ishmael is a free agent. How the versatile defender hasn’t signed elsewhere over the past two years still doesn’t make much sense. Most would expect there to be a market for someone with Ishmael’s experience. His ability to play in the box against the run, while using his background as a former safety to shift into coverage is impressive. By drafting Duke Riley and Foye Oluokun over the past two years, the Falcons haven’t needed Ishmael to play linebacker often since 2016. The opportunities aren’t likely going to increase either, particularly with Carter being recently re-signed. All signs are pointing towards him moving on.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: No

The blocking tight end was a quality addition to Steve Sarkisian’s two tight end sets. On the few occasions where the Falcons ran the ball effectively, Paulsen played an integral role in their success. His ability to shield off edge defenders and make cut blocks in the open field proved to be instrumental. There is no reason why Paulsen shouldn’t be re-signed.

Should they re-sign him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes

Is there a legitimate claim to re-sign a 38-year-old quarterback who hasn’t started more than two games since 2013? Schaub isn’t a backup who inspires much confidence at this stage of his career. It would be wise for the Falcons to pursue a younger quarterback. They need to be better equipped in case the worst possible nightmare happens.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Means joined Wreh-Wilson and Carter on the list of veteran defenders to be re-signed. Unlike Wreh-Wilson and Carter, Means will be used as a key rotational player. He shined in a utility role in the final four games of the 2018 season. Between replacing Shelby off the edge to being utilized as an interior pass rusher, the veteran defensive lineman played his way onto the roster. He will likely be depended on as one of the main edge defenders in Quinn’s base defense.

Should they have re-signed him: Yes

Will they re-sign him: Yes (official)

When it comes to assessing recent free agent signings, McClain will be remembered as one of the front office’s bigger miscues. The inconsistent defensive tackle failed to make a positive impact in a featured role. Quinn’s scheme was designed to get the most out of him. Instead of being a miscast in a two-gapping role like he was in Washington, McClain was expected to thrive in a more free and aggressive role. That wasn’t the case, as he never showed signs of being the disruptive force he was in Dallas.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

It will be fascinating to see what Coleman makes this offseason. There is no denying he will be highly sought out by several teams. How they view the ultra-explosive, yet extremely frustrating running back is the real question. Coleman isn’t capable of handling a full workload or running between the tackles effectively. Not being able to run through contact or evade defenders often are other notable flaws when analyzing him. As exciting as Coleman’s highlight reel is, there isn’t enough substance to his game to justify paying premium money for him. Relying on Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith going forward is the best route towards reviving a once-prolific running game.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

Sambrailo is the lone offensive player to be re-signed. The former second-round pick has managed to start multiple games over the past two seasons. From having to replace Ryan Schraeder due to injury and performance reasons, he was given an opportunity to solidify his place on the roster. The organization clearly saw something in him after trading a fifth-round pick for him in 2017. What they saw remains to be seen by everyone else. Sambrailo hasn’t particularly impressed when pushed into a starting role. Not being able to block speed rushers continues to be his biggest flaw. He will compete for the starting right tackle opening, but there isn’t much evidence to suggest he would be an upgrade over Schraeder.

Should they have re-signed him: No

Will they re-sign him: Yes (official)

Zane Beadles

Losing Levitre and Brandon Fusco to season-ending injuries forced the Falcons to sign Beadles in late October. The well-traveled guard ended up replacing Garland at right guard in December. It didn’t translate into any substantial changes on the field. Beadles’ career went downhill after signing with Jacksonville in 2014. It’s one thing for a zone-based guard to struggle against explosive interior pass rushers. Not being able to make second level blocks as a zone-based guard leaves the coaching staff no other choice than to not consider you as a long-term starter. Similar to Levitre and Garland, Beadles is another guard over 30 years old that won’t be re-signed.

Should they re-sign him: No

Will they re-sign him: No

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