Atlanta Falcons’ Draft Impacts 2019 Free Agency

Atlanta Falcons Ben Garland (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons Ben Garland (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons’ 2019 free agency class looms large following a massive contract extension and a mildly surprising draft class.

Of all the scenarios that could have occurred on draft day, the Atlanta Falcons landing Calvin Ridley was not the most surprising. It wasn’t quite expected either. Several prediction analysts believed the Falcons would take Taven Bryan, who was still available by the time the Falcons drafted. They also believed Ridley would be gone before the Falcons selected.

The pick did bolster a receiving core that was in need of depth after Taylor Gabriel’s departure.

A more surprising pick came in the second round. Once again taking talent over need, the Falcons drafted Isaiah Oliver. Oliver’s speed, height and coverage skills are worthy of the early pick. But he joins a secondary that wasn’t in dire need of another corner back.

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The Falcons did lose several depth pieces at defensive line to free agency. Depth at offensive line and competition for some starting jobs on the line are needed too.

On either side of the line, the Falcons drafted one player–one defensive lineman, no offensive lineman.

There’s been divide over the success of Atlanta’s draft. CBSSports and the Bleacher Report gave the Falcons’ positive grades, siting how the Falcons improved their skills groups to become elite.  Sports Illustrated questions whether the early picks were wise considering the team’s current holes.

Matt Ryan’s record-setting contract and rumors that Julio Jones is also looking for a pay raise put the Falcons in a financial bind.

With so much money tied up in its stars, Atlanta risks losing more key cogs on the offensive and defensive line.

Who’s Due For Payday?

Grady Jarrett, Jake Matthews and Andy Levitre’s contracts run out at the end of the 2018 season.  Backups Ben Garland, Austin Pasztor and Ty Sambrailo will also dip into the market.

The Falcons have made it clear that their first priority now that Matt Ryan is resigned is to negotiate a new contract with Grady Jarrett.

Next the Falcons will look to retain Matthews. He hasn’t turned into the stud tackle the Falcons envisioned when he was drafted with the third pick in the 2014 draft, but Matthews evolved into a solid starter during his first few season.

What about Levitre, Garland and the rest of Atlanta’s offensive line free agents? They’ll have to take a wait and see approach. Levitre already renegotiated his contract for the 2018 season. Would he be willing to take a pay cut to return in 2019? The Falcons retained Garland for 2018 with a second round tender. Understanding his value as a backup and potential starter, Garland may look for a raise that the Falcons simply couldn’t afford.

Successful draft picks enabled the Falcons to spend money on their veteran stars. The Falcons’ young stars understand know they will receive the payday they deserve somewhere. Retaining the most important players will come with sacrifice.

Next: Why the Braves Should Finish The Rebuild In 2019

With so many potential holes in the trenches in 2019, the Falcons will assuredly look to fill the gaps next off-season. But are they waiting one draft too late?