The Falcons hold the 26th pick in next week’s draft. There will be temptation for them to try to offset the loss of Dontari Poe, who was here only a year, but the more prudent course would be, for the first time under Quinn, to wait until later to address the defense. All this accumulated young talent should improve with time, should it not? (Although Beasley’s near-disappearance last year – he slipped from 15.5 sacks to five – is a major concern.) It’s the star-spangled offense that needs immediate help.
Chris Chester’s retirement after the Super Bowl left a void at right guard as yet unfilled. The Falcons have high hopes for Hooper, but he disappeared in the playoffs – four catches for a total of 18 yards. (One year earlier, he’d caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.) Justin Hardy has been here three seasons and caught no more than 21 passes in any of them. If he’s not capable of becoming at least a No. 2 receiver, they need to find somebody who can.
Last summer, Pro Football Focus adjudged the Falcons’ roster as the league’s best. That it didn’t often play that way last fall was mostly a failure of coaching, but the Falcons won’t be allowed to draft an offensive coordinator in Round 1. The NFL isn’t like college football, where the difference between Alabama’s talent and Vanderbilt’s is as broad as the Atlantic Ocean. A hard salary cap means talent cannot be hoarded forever, that money spent on one player -- $30 million per year to extend Ryan’s contract, say – can come at a cost of other players. (Poe and Gabriel, say.)
The Falcons’ offense is still the better of the two units, but it’s also the older of the two. It needs more than a new coat of paint. It needs a playmaker to replace Gabriel, a guard to replace Chester, a more reliable third wideout for Ryan, a potential successor to Coleman. No team can ever fill every need in any one draft, but the Falcons’ tepid showing in free agency – their biggest acquisition was 29-year-old guard Brandon Fusco, surely not a long-term answer – suggests they’ve been waiting for these three days in April.
They’ve done well the past three Aprils. They need, duh, to do well again. Last year’s team wasn’t nearly as good as the Super Bowl team. If this year’s team isn’t as good as last year’s, you know what we’ll be calling that Super Bowl? A blip.