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Falcons hope to land Asamoah, Soliai

It's no secret the Atlanta Falcons are targeting both guard Jon Asamoah and nose tackle Paul Soliai as free agency officially begins Tuesday.

Now it's just a matter of signing them.

Multiple sources have indicated that there's a strong chance both players end up with the Falcons, but that might be the same feeling other teams around the league are getting about their chances as well. The New York Jets reportedly were prepared to make a strong play for Asamoah, while Soliai has at least four teams making strong pushes for him.

It's hard to say which of the two players the Falcons covet the most. Getting tougher along both the offensive and defensive lines was the emphasis going into the offseason, and both the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Asamoah from Kansas City and the 6-4, 340-pound Soliai from Miami bring that aspect to the equation.

Protecting quarterback Matt Ryan is imperative, which makes Asamoah's addition at right guard so crucial. He's known for his pass blocking and dares defensive linemen to try to get by him.

As for Soliai, the Falcons already have told players about their intentions to use more of a 3-4 base scheme, which makes the nose tackle position vital to the success of the scheme. Soliai was a big part of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's 3-4 look when Nolan held the same role with the Dolphins.

Again, the Falcons need to have backup plans in case their pursuit turns into a bidding war. Green Bay's Ryan Pickett could be a veteran player on the radar as a nose tackle candidate, while Tennessee's Chris Spencer, a center/guard who played under Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice in Chicago, could be available as well.

In terms of their own free agents, the Falcons made one move Monday by signing offensive tackle Mike Johnson to a one-year deal for depth. The real focus is re-signing center Joe Hawley, who performed well last season and is destined to remain as the starter and play next to a guy such as Asamoah.

Veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, who turns 33 in October, is a favorite of Falcons fans but seems unlikely to be back due to the change in scheme and a desire to get younger.

The Falcons stand at $18,593,379 under the cap as of right now, not factoring in the $7 million set to come off the books when Tony Gonzalez officially retires or Johnson’s salary after re-signing on Monday.