The Falcons are a needs-based drafting team. They tend to focus their draft on adding guys that can immediately make the roster. After all, if a player cannot make the roster then he isn’t going to add very much value to your roster.
That’s why in re-examining the team needs from previously, I have paid more attention to the Falcons current depth chart to see what holes/weaknesses remain on the roster. I believe for the most part, the Falcons have the vast majority of the 53 prospective players that will be on this year’s team currently on the roster. But a few holes remain…
Free Agency Needs
These are needs that likely will have the team opting for veterans to fill.
Left Tackle: It seems very likely that at the least the Falcons want to bring in some competition at this position. While the team could probably live with Will Svitek and Sam Baker competing for this spot, it does not seem likely they want to. This was a position that was a weakness all year last year, and to expect that not to change in 2012 is foolhardy without any changes to the roster.
Center: Right now besides Joe Hawley there is no other center on the roster. The team could tinker with the idea of moving Andrew Jackson to that position. New position coach Pat Hill’s praise of Jackson’s leadership and intelligence was one of the reasons which drew the Falcons brass to him as a seventh round draft pick a year ago. But the team might also look to add a veteran later in the off-season to provide depth. A player like Brett Romberg is likely to remain available, but he’s always been a Paul Boudreau guy, and it’s possible Hill will prefer another option.
These are needs which the team will focus on adding young talent to fill via the draft. The Falcons are slated to only have five draft picks this April, which gives them more limited options of players they could target.
Tight End: Last year’s third tight end Reggie Kelly is a free agent, that almost no one has talked about re-signing. The Falcons extended Tony Gonzalez’s deal by one year, but he has made no secret that 2012 will be his last. Michael Palmer is a capable reserve, but has done little to nothing to show he has a future as a starter in this league. Expect this position to one of the team’s higher priorities come draft day. They will look for a guy that can add some immediate value as depth, but also offer starting potential in 2013 and beyond.
Quarterback: The Falcons re-signed Chris Redman for one more year, and John Parker Wilson is expected back. But the Falcons might be looking at more than just adding a fourth arm in camp, they might be looking for a guy that can immediately push/replace Wilson for the No. 3 spot, and have the upside to replace Redman as the No. 2 guy in 2013 and beyond. If the Falcons do eyeball a passer in the draft, they’ll likely take a flyer on someone in the late rounds.
Defensive Tackle: Peria Jerry has given this team little and Vance Walker is entering the final year of his deal. Coupled with the fact that Jonathan Babineaux is no spring chicken, an infusion of youth and depth at this position definitely will not hurt the Falcons. Someone that can bolster the rotation could be a mid or late-round target.
Outside Linebacker: The Falcons have never been married to Robert James, who currently is their top reserve on the strongside. While it’s likely that if Stephen Nicholas went down with injury, Spencer Adkins would be tapped to play the role, the team is probably looking for another reserve linebacker that can add some depth, be developed for the future, and contribute on special teams.
Draft/Free Agency Needs
These are needs that could be filled via the draft or free agency.
Return Specialist/Wide Receiver: While the team could probably get by with some combination of DOminique Franks and Harry Douglas manning this position as replacements for Eric Weems, it seems unlikely that the Falcons won’t look to bolster competition in camp. It’s likely that the team will look to add another wide receiver to compete with Kerry Meier for the No. 4 position that can offer some value in the return game, ostensibly replacing Weems niche/role on the roster.
Strong Safety: The Falcons need to add a backup safety behind William Moore. Having reliable depth at safety is often critical for success because safeties are generally the least durable position on the defense across the league. Moore missed some time last year, and has been injured in 2 of the last 3 seasons. The team could always settle on re-signing James Sanders later this off-season or a comparable veteran player as well. But they also probably would not shy away from adding a young backup in the draft that can also play on special teams.