With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Atlanta Falcons' offseason moves.
Best move: Drafting offensive tackle Jake Matthews. He is an NFL-ready player with sound technique and strong NFL bloodlines. The Falcons sorely needed stability along the offensive line to help protect Matt Ryan and revive a listless rushing attack. Matthews will be solid for years to come. Adding Matthews and free-agent guard Jon Asamoah should keep the offensive line from being pushed around as often as last season.
Riskiest move: Not securing a proven pass-rusher in free agency or a promising one via the draft. Instead, the Falcons beefed up with run-stuffers in Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, and rookie Ra'Shede Hageman, although Hageman could be a key figure in terms of pressuring quarterbacks and batting down balls at the line of scrimmage. The Falcons are counting on their outside linebackers to provide the rush while the defensive front keeps the offensive line occupied.
Most surprising move: Drafting Wisconsin safety Dez Southward in the third round. Sure, Southward has the potential to develop into a dependable player, but he was projected to go lower in the draft and really doesn't do anything spectacular. The Falcons cut starting free safety Thomas DeCoud with thoughts of upgrading the position. There's no guarantee they did so with the additions of Southward and unknown veteran Dwight Lowery.
Underrated move: Something tells me that getting running back Devonta Freeman in the fourth round of the draft is really going to pay off. Freeman looked faster than advertised and caught the ball extremely well in shorts during rookie minicamp. Likely starter Steven Jackson recently tweeted about how competition would be a good thing. Well, Freeman's possible emergence could help elevate Jackson's game.