The Atlanta Falcons ended their offseason program on June 15. Here's a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals/grade: The Falcons didn’t need to make many significant changes coming off an unexpected Super Bowl run, but they did want to establish quality depth while getting stronger up front and enhancing overall team speed. They accomplished that with a solid draft class while not splurging too much in free agency, with the biggest splash being powerful, two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe at $8 million for one year. Coach Dan Quinn also found a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Steve Sarkisian, who prides himself in being an aggressive playcaller. Quinn also has a new, energetic defensive coordinator, Marquand Manuel, and a battle-tested and accomplished defensive line coach, former San Francisco 49ers player Bryant Young. Grade: B.
Move I liked: The addition of linebacker Duke Riley in the third round out of LSU added more speed at the position. Remember, the Falcons drafted a pair of starting linebackers with speed in 2016 in Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell. Riley not only has chemistry with Jones, having played with him at LSU, but he'll also compete with Campbell for snaps in nickel situations, provided he shows the ability to cover. Plus you can see Riley has leadership qualities in the way he communicates and he brings energy with his infectious personality.
Move I didn't like: Not re-signing Pro Bowl fullback Patrick DiMarco might not have looked like such a big deal, but DiMarco was a key contributor and cleared holes for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the running game. DiMarco also contributed on all phases of special teams, plus he was a first-class teammate. Folks will argue that the fullback position isn't all that valuable anymore, but DiMarco, who signed with the Buffalo Bills after not getting much interest from the Falcons, proved the fullback wasn't totally dead. The Falcons hope they found a capable replacement in Derrick Coleman, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks and the first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history. To be fair to the Falcons' decision-makers, Coleman will cost them just $690,000 in 2017 while DiMarco will make $3.35 million with the Bills.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: A lot of folks would point to the battle at right guard between Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland, which really won't be decided until they put the pads on. I'm more interested in the status of first-round draft pick Takk McKinley coming off pre-draft surgery on his right shoulder. McKinley expressed confidence about being ready for the season, and Quinn initially was optimistic about having McKinley for training camp. But Quinn said during minicamp that he plans to wait until McKinley rejoins the team from rehabbing in Los Angeles before deciding the pass-rusher's camp status. McKinley is expected to add more juice to the pass rush coming off the opposite edge of reigning NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. McKinley brings an edgy attitude to the field and some personality to the locker room.
Salary-cap space: $6,973,202 (source: Overthecap.com)
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: C Travis Averill, FS Marcelis Branch, T Daniel Brunskill, WR Deante Burton, WR Reggie Davis, DT Wil Freeman, LB Jermaine Grace, TE Alex Gray, CB Jarnor Jones, DE J’terius Jones, C Cam Keizur, T Andreas Knappe, G Robert Leff, LB Jack Lynn, WR Josh Magee, S Quincy Mauger, S Jordan Moore, DE Chris Odom, FB Tyler Renew, CB Taylor Reynolds, LB Christian Tago, QB Alek Torgersen, S Deron Washington.
Unrestricted free agents signed: DT Dontari Poe, QB Matt Schaub, DT Courtney Upshaw, DL Jack Crawford, TE Levine Toilolo, LB LaRoy Reynolds, QB Matt Simms, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, FB Derrick Coleman, G Hugh Thornton (retired), FB Soma Vainuku (released),
Players acquired via trade: None outside of draft trades.