While teams continue to evaluate prospects at this year's NFL combine, the event always serves as a platform for casual pre-free agency discussions as front office members, coaches and agents interact.
Regarding the Atlanta Falcons, there were a handful of names circulating as possible additions for 2016. Here is some of the chatter we picked up on:
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, who just won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos, is high on the Falcons' radar -- provided Trevathan reaches free agency, which begins March 9. Linebacker is one of the biggest needs for the Falcons, particularly after the release of veteran Justin Durant. Trevathan, who turns 26 next month, led the Broncos with 109 tackles and had two interceptions this past season. There is a natural tie with Richard Smith, Trevathan's former linebackers coach in Denver, now the Falcons' defensive coordinator. But there's also been talk of Trevathan reuniting with his former head coach, John Fox, in Chicago. Word is the Falcons are willing to pay to $5 million to $6 million per season for a linebacker, but that probably won't be enough to secure Trevathan. Getting a starting-caliber linebacker in free agency likely would result in the Falcons targeting a pass-rusher in the first round of the draft.
Mohamed Sanu is expected to be a Falcons' target at receiver. Of course, the Falcons need a player to help take some of the pressure off top target Julio Jones. Sanu is looking to get out of Cincinnati and is certain to draw interest from plenty of teams. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound fourth-year player averaged 11.9 yards per catch this past season and 14.1 yards per catch in 2014. Not to mention the former quarterback can throw the ball well, which would give offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan another toy to play with. But the Falcons also want a No. 2 receiver capable of handling kick returns, which might make Cleveland's Travis Benjamin a little more appealing.
Matt Schaub's return to Atlanta is a strong possibility. The Falcons were interested in signing the veteran quarterback last season to back up Matt Ryan, but he opted for the Baltimore Ravens instead. Schaub, who is said to have a home in the Atlanta area, also seemed open to the idea of returning to the team that drafted him in the third round (2004). Schaub, who turns 35 in June, had his best years with Shanahan when the two were in Houston together. The Falcons need a reliable backup in case Ryan takes a beating or struggles throwing the ball like he did in games last season.
Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson is on the Falcons' list at strong safety. This is not to say the 32-year-old Nelson is the team's top target, but he'll be in the mix. The Falcons released starter William Moore, who never adjusted well to the scheme. Kemal Ishmael might get a chance to start, but he's not guaranteed anything. Nelson, who ended last season with an ankle injury in the playoffs, tied Kansas City's Marcus Peters for the league lead with eight interceptions last season.
The Falcons' interest level in Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin remains unclear. There is a natural tie between Irvin and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who used to be the defensive coordinator Seattle. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Falcons are all-in on Irvin, who could command a high salary as a player better suited to rush off the edge. Quinn was asked about Irvin at the combine but, of course, couldn’t go into detail per tampering rules. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declined to discuss specific impending free agents but he did address the talk that circulated last year after Irvin said he wanted to come back home to Atlanta and play for Quinn and the Falcons. "That's because somebody in the media brought that up, though," Carroll said. "I don’t think [Irvin] really jumped out there. Somebody asked those questions. But there’s always stuff to deal with. There always will continue to be. With every guy, we work with them as they get through it and help them as much as possible. Yeah, everybody hopes to say the right thing, do the right thing. We’re trying to get that done. And, they’ll be more of [speculation], I’m sure."