Ranking the 2014 Impact of the Atlanta Falcons' Free-Agent Signings so Far
The Atlanta Falcons did something that they haven't done since 2008 this offseason. They actually went out and signed quite a few free agents instead of sitting idly by just re-signing their own guys. And they will be a much better team because of it.
They didn't sign many starters and looked to build depth through free agency. There are still needs for Atlanta to address heading into the draft and late free-agency periods in free safety, pass-rusher, left tackle and starting tight end.
However, in looking over their current free-agent crop, Atlanta has quite a bit of impact that it will pull out of its free-agency class. At the very worst, depth on the front lines has improved drastically.
6. OL Gabe Carimi
There were rumors back in 2011 that Atlanta was going to take Gabe Carimi had they not traded up for Julio Jones. Unfortunately, Carimi never turned out to be the guy that the Falcons and many other teams thought he would be in the pros.
However, Atlanta signed him to a low-risk deal where if he magically turns into the player he was in college, they could have a better option at starting left tackle than Sam Baker has been. Carimi has franchise left tackle potential, but he has to actually reach it first.
Reuniting with Mike Tice should help him. He also won't have any sort of pressure to start in Atlanta with starters, or at least competitions, at all five positions set in stone. Carimi should be the Falcons' next rendition of what Will Svitek was for them in 2011.
5. CB/RS Javier Arenas
Depth, depth, depth. When Atlanta signed Javier Arenas, most were thinking that it meant the Falcons were going to pass on Devin Hester—who was also in town at the time. Luckily, that wasn't the case, as they also signed Hester just a couple of days later.
Arenas was signed to play backup returner to Hester. On top of that, he's going to replace Dominique Franks as far as depth at cornerback. Arenas has shown the ability to at least be a competent nickel corner in the NFL and should compete there with Robert McClain.
The Falcons needed some solid depth there, as they released Asante Samuel before the free-agency period. Atlanta likely will still need to take a depth cornerback later on in the draft for long-term futures, but Arenas will at least provide depth for now.
4. WR/RS Devin Hester
When Julio Jones went down in 2013, the Falcons lost all explosion in their passing attack. They also haven't had an explosive return specialist since 2011 when Eric Weems was manning that role. Atlanta signed Hester to spend some time at wide receiver and be the primary return specialist.
He still has the same explosion that has him in range to break the all-time return touchdown record that Falcons' Ring of Honor member Deion Sanders holds. Hester needs just two more return touchdowns to finally be the all-time leader.
Hester's usage on offense is going to be the interesting situation. While he isn't going to be used as much as Harry Douglas is in the offense, he should still see some designed plays going his way that allow him to use his speed and vision to produce big plays that Atlanta couldn't get in 2013 without Jones healthy.
3. DL Tyson Jackson
In 2012 and 2013, the Falcons tried using Ray Edwards and Jonathan Babineaux as 5-technique defensive ends in both 3-4 and 4-3 alignments in a way that can only be described as an utter and complete failure. That's where Tyson Jackson comes in.
While he's not the best pass-rusher known to man, he's a good fit for Mike Nolan's hybrid defense as the base defensive end. He can start and rotate with Malliciah Goodman in multiple sets, allowing the Falcons to finally have the proper personnel up front.
Jackson is an excellent run-stuffer in both fronts, as he can eat double teams, allowing linebackers to run free on his side of the field. If Jackson learns how to improve his pass-rushing, Atlanta could finally have the B-gap pass-rusher they have needed to open up their edge-rushers.
2. NT Paul Soliai
Atlanta hasn't had a massive nose tackle since 2008 when they had Grady Jackson on the interior of their defense. Now, they've brought in a 340-pound monster in Paul Soliai out of Miami. He's going to provide the same kind of presence inside that Jackson used to bring.
Combining Soliai with Tyson Jackson, newly re-signed Corey Peters, Peria Jerry, Jonathan Babineaux and 2012's seventh-round pick Travian Robertson, Atlanta has quite a bit of bulk on the defensive line now. Adding them to the Falcons defensive end group will only help the pass rush.
Soliai at nose tackle in both 3-4 and 4-3 looks combined with the other talent should help the Falcons linebackers stay clean. Soliai should see at least 55 percent of the snaps in the middle of the defense and will be a key component of the 2014 campaign back to the playoffs.
1. OG Jon Asamoah
Atlanta hasn't had a good right guard since Harvey Dahl left after the 2010 season—notice the trend here? With this free-agency period, Atlanta has been fixing the holes that attrition and poor draft replacements haven't been able to fix.
Jon Asamoah is a very similar player to the former Falcon and Ram guard. He's nasty, has good size and is very strong at the point of attack in the run game. He'll create holes for Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers that they didn't see in 2013.
More importantly, he should see over 1000 snaps as the starting right guard protecting Matt Ryan. Atlanta needs to make sure that he can sit behind a clean pocket to deliver strikes. Asamoah should be able to sustain the depth of the pocket that Peter Konz and Garrett Reynolds have been unable to sustain.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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