Here are the moves the Atlanta Falcons should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday:
Re-sign Adrian Clayborn: Clayborn is a relentless pass-rusher who led the team with 9 1/2 sacks last season. Critics will say Clayborn got six in the victory against the Dallas Cowboys and that he can't play the run. But coach Dan Quinn is all about pass-rushers, so it makes sense to bring back Clayborn, unless his asking price is outrageous. The Falcons wanted to trade for Clayborn's close friend Michael Bennett, but he landed with the Philadelphia Eagles instead. Although the Falcons are looking for more pressure from the interior, having Clayborn coming off the edges again along with Vic Beasley Jr. and Takk McKinley, and the ability to run stunts with them, should provide a good push. Word at the combine was Clayborn will draw strong interest from a handful of teams looking for pass-rush help. The Falcons still would need more help along the defensive line with a big defensive end to stop the run and a tackle to push the pocket, but there's always room for more edge rushers.
Bring in a vet tight end who can block: Although many fans have turned on Austin Hooper, the Falcons still believe the third-year tight end can be productive. That said, the Falcons could use a veteran presence to help bolster the offense and help mentor Hooper. One name mentioned several times at the NFL combine was Ed Dickson, who turns 31 in July and is entering his ninth NFL season. Dickson started 12 games for the Carolina Panthers last season and averaged a career-best 14.6 yards per reception. Dickson made a little more than $2 million last season. The Falcons have to add another tight end regardless after cutting ties with Levine Toilolo. They'll need their addition to be more of a blocker, which is not really Hooper's strength. Folks in Carolina say Dickson is good at both roles. Some of the better pure blocking tight ends expected to be available include Virgil Green (6-5, 255), Anthony Fasano (6-4, 258), Lee Smith (6-6, 265), and Darren Fells (6-7, 270). Remember, the Falcons need a little added push in those short-yardage situations.
Investigate cheaper guard possibilities: Everyone knows the Falcons need to upgrade at offensive guard, particularly at right guard where Wes Schweitzer started last season. Getting a guy like Andrew Norwell from Carolina would have been great, but he was well out of the Falcons' price range and is headed to the Jaguars on a five-year, $66.5 million deal. So the Falcons need to bargain shop, although they can't just sign any big body off the street to fit the scheme. A guy to keep an eye on is Kevin Pamphile (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) who started 15 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, although he split time with Evan Smith. The Bucs want him back, but Pamphile could reach free agency. He's a guy not being talked about a lot but has starting experience. Pamphile turns 28 in November and probably doesn't have all the wear and tear of most starters, considering he didn't play every snap. He also has scheme flexibility and can play all five positions on the line.