Cover 9@9: Post free-agency depth chart has holes

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Combined ShapeCaption
The Falcoins hold the No. 8 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The no-spin zone: The Falcons, who started their final NFL draft meetings Monday, essentially are finished with free agency.

When you add in the retained players with the new players and the reserve-future signings, the Falcons have some obvious holes in the roster that they will fill in the coming draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

The Falcons have 69 players on the roster. After the trade of Matt Ryan to the Colts for a third-round pick, the Falcons have nine draft picks and will sign undrafted rookie free agents to reach the 90-man roster limit.

The Falcons signed three wide receivers: Auden Tate, KhaDarel Hodge and Damiere Byrd. That will not preclude them from adding to the position in the draft.

“Obviously, receiver there’s some things we need to get accomplished prior to the draft with pro players,” general manager Terry Fontenot said March 23. “We’re going to work hard to continue to do that.”

Tate (12), Hodge (two) and Byrd (24) mostly have been reserves. They have 38 combined starts.

The Falcons have only two quarterbacks on the roster and will need to add at least one.

For some reason, the Falcons didn’t do much with the offensive line. They extended left tackle Jake Matthews, re-signed backup guard Colby Gossett and signed Elijah Wilkinson, a potential backup swing tackle.

The Falcons’ offseason program starts April 19 and will be completed with the mandatory minicamp June 14-16.

Here’s a look at the current depth chart heading into the draft:

OFFENSE

WR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, KhaDarel Hodge

TE - Kyle Pitts, Ryan Becker, Brayden Lenius

LT - Jake Matthews, Willie Beavers

LG - Jalen Mayfield, Colby Gossett, Rashaad Coward

C - Matt Hennessy or Drew Dalman

RG - Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil

RT – Kaleb McGary, Germain Ifedi, Elijah Wilkinson, Rick Leonard

TE – Parker Hesse, Daniel Helm, John Raine

WR – Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd, Austin Trammell, Chad Hansen

RB – Damien Williams, Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison, Caleb Huntley

FB - Keith Smith

QB – Marcus Mariota, Feleipe Franks

DEFENSE

DE - Grady Jarrett, Marlon Davidson

NT – Anthony Rush, Ta’Quon Graham

DE – Nick Thurman, John Cominsky

OLB – Lorenzo Carter, James Vaughters, Jordan Brailford

ILB - Deion Jones, Dorian Etheridge

ILB – Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker

OLB – Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Quinton Bell, Rashad Smith

LCB - A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall, Corey Ballentine, Cornell Armstrong, Lafayette Pitts

FS - Jaylinn Hawkins, Erik Harris

SS - Richie Grant, Teez Tabor, Luther Kirk

RCB – Casey Hayward, Isaiah Oliver, Kendall Sheffield, Avery Williams, Dee Alford

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Younghoe Koo

P – Dom Maggio

LS – Beau Brinkley

H – Dom Maggio

PR - Avery Williams

KOR – Cordarrelle Patterson, Avery Williams

2. Message to the Colts: Falcons owner Arthur Blank had a message for Colts owner Jim Irsay about his new quarterback.

“I’ve told Jimmy Irsay that they’ve got a great human being and a quarterback that can still play at a high level,” Blank said. “They have a good roster, and I wish Matt really well.”

3. Ryan was kept in the loop: The Falcons kept Ryan in the loop on their plans to trade him.

“Coach (Arthur) Smith spoke to Matt Ryan every single day,” Blank said. “He saw him twice. I spoke to Matt. I mean, there was no secrets there ... was complete transparency. Matt knew everything we were doing. We never wanted him to read about anything or speculate about it. That comes out of respect and affection for who we are and for who he is as well.”

4. The new overtime rule: There wasn’t an outcry to change the overtime rules after the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and lost in overtime to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Under the new overtime playoff rules, the Falcons would have received the ball after New England scored.

“Yeah, I think that was a great rule change,” Blank said. “I have to be careful because (team president) Richard (McKay) is chair of the competition committee. I told him last night, the only thing I would not be a fan of, you don’t want to change that rule throughout the season. These guys play 17 games, a couple of ties are OK. But I think in the playoffs where it’s kind of one-and-done, I think it’s a good rule change.”

5. Meet Damien Williams: New Falcons running back Damien Williams briefly chatted with local media recently.

Here are some questions with Williams:

Q: What led to his decision to sign with the Falcons?

A: “Honestly, going on my visit and honestly them being the first one to call that, for me, personally shows the interest that somebody wants you right now. Going up there meeting with the GM and the head man and knowing that my old running back coach is there as well. It just jelled from there as far as personality-wise.”

Q: What did they say his role might be?

A: “Honestly, there was no role to be spoke of. At the end of the day, I know what my role has always been. Just coming into somebody’s organization and help them get to a championship.”

Q: What was it like winning the Super Bowl with the Chiefs?

A: “It felt great. It felt good. But that’s in the past. I’m on to bigger and better (things) with the Atlanta Falcons.”

Q: What’s his impression of the rebuilding Falcons?

A: “Excited for the change. What’s better than change? I feel like it’s exciting. You don’t know what is going to happen. All I know is (with) me being who I am and what I can bring to the team as far as ... whatever you want to call it as a rebuild or whatnot. I’m just excited to get there and see what happens.”

Q: Have you ever spent any time in Atlanta, like what are your impressions of the city and how excited are you to get here?

A: “I’m excited. I have a lot of family in Atlanta. I know the area. It’s really exciting to start my journey.”

Q: How tough was it opting out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic?

A: “It was not tough at all. I had my reasoning. It was for my mom to be there for her and take care of her. Now I’m back. … She (was) diagnosed with cancer. (I) took off and took care of her.”

Q: How is your mother doing now?

A: “She’s doing great. She’s doing a lot better. But as far as, you know, sitting out, like I said, it wasn’t a hard decision for me at all. Just because I knew that I was doing it for my mom and my family, but at the end of the day, it’s something I’ve been doing for years now. ... Obviously, I missed it a lot. But like I said, I went through that. Now I’m back. Ready to keep it going.”

6. Meet Casey Hayward: New Falcons cornerback Casey Hayward briefly chatted with local media recently.

Here are some questions with Hayward:

Q: What was it like signing with the Falcons and getting the opportunity to play in your home state?

A: “It was dope. It’s a dope experience. I’m so excited. My pops gets to come to more of the games. He would probably come to like two or three during the season. Fly out, come to the games on the East Coast when we would play. Now he would get to come to all of the home games. That’s kind of dope, especially toward the end of my career to have more family to come out here and support me.”

Q: When you met with the Falcons, what were the discussions like and how did they describe the opportunity here with the football team?

A: “I went out to dinner with the guys. We didn’t really talk much about football. We just talked about life and things like that. But I do know what I bring. I bring leadership. Presence. We’ve got some good young guys in that secondary. So, hopefully, I can come in, compete and play some good football for the home team.”

Q: Why did you pick Atlanta, which is not an obvious Super Bowl contender?

A: “Who’s to say we can’t? You just never know. Every year is a different year. You never know how these things are going to pan out. Each year, a team can get better. This game is opportunity, you got a chance to win any time that you go out there. When you strap on the (pads), you have a chance to go out there and win the game no matter what people think about our roster or not. When we go out there, we are trying to win each and every (time) no matter how people view the roster. For me, I just go out there and compete ... our goal is to win them.”

Q: Were you a big Falcons fan growing up?

A: “To be truthful, I was more of a basketball fan. Then I became more of a Michael Vick fan than anybody else in the state. A big Mike Vick fan. I played quarterback in high school. I kind of modeled my game after him and Pat White out of West Virginia. I was excited about that growing up here. Most of my family are Falcon fans. We have a few Cowboy fans.”

Q: Did you discuss playing man vs. zone defense with the Falcons? (Defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to play more man in 2022).

A: “There wasn’t a discussion. They’ve seen my film, and they know what I can do. (I can) play zone, play man. Play all different types of defenses. It kind of (doesn’t) matter what we play. My goal is to be ready, go out there and compete and try to win games.”

Q: What do you know about Dean Pees’ defensive schemes?

A: “I’ve talked to coaches who have coached with him. A few players that have played with him and some of the guys that have been here already as well. A.J. Terrell is one of my guys. Throughout the season, I actually really watch a lot of his film. I understand the defense that they play. I think it fits me as well. I’m excited to be here, to get better, to be home and go out there and compete.”

Q: Where do you know A.J. Terrell from?

A: “We both have the same agent.”

Q: How did playing with Terrell help his decision to play with the Falcons?

A: “It’s kind of dope. Besides me being in Green Bay, I don’t think I’ve ever had a running mate on the other side as talented as A.J. When I was with the Chargers, we had Jason Verrett, and he was probably one of the most talented guys I’ve ever been around. But he was hurt when I was there. Then we had a bunch of free-agent guys. ... I’ve played with a lot of pretty good guys but not as talented as A.J. is. The guy is super talented.”

Q: What it’s like training with Lilian Abdelmalek?

A: “I’ve been training with Lilly for nine or 10 years now. She’s done a great job of getting me ready for the season. Getting my footwork ready and things like that. Implementing a lot of different things as well. Working with my (defensive back) coach Ray Buchanan; he’s been DB over the last three years. I’ve been honing in with him, trying to get better. But Lilly has been great. She does a lot of work around here in this area with a lot of pro guys and Falcons guys as well. I’ve been going there and work out hard every day. She pushes. She’s the GOAT. She’s really the goat.”

Q: What’s it like training with women?

A: “She’s small. But a lot of people when they see her ... each time I bring in some new guys. I take her new guys every year. Come try this trainer out. I tell them I’m training with this lady name Lilian. They’ll go, ‘a lady?’ Then they’ll come in and she (works them out hard). They like the workouts and never kind of leave.”

7. Mock draft: We’ll have to update our mock draft with the Saints-Eagles trade.

8: LSU Pro Day: The Tigers will hold their Pro Day on Wednesday. A lot of the focus will be on cornerback Derek Stingley, who is scheduled to do all the drills. Some consider him the top cornerback in the draft.

9. Free-agency tracker: With free agency winding down, here’s what the Falcons have done:

Extension

Jake Matthews, LT – Three years, $55.5 million.

Retained

Younghoe Koo, PK – Five years, $24.25 million ($11.5 guaranteed).

Olamide Zaccheaus, WR – $2.4 million tender.

Erik Harris, FS – One year, undisclosed.

Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, WR – Two years, $10.2 million.

Isaiah Oliver, CB – One year, $2.3 million.

Colby Gossett, OG – One year, $965,000.

Anthony Rush, DT – One year, $965,000.

Not retained

Foye Oluokun, LB – Three years, $45 million ($28 million guaranteed) with Jaguars.

Russell Gage, WR – Three years, $30 million with Bucs.

Josh Harris, LS – Four years, $5.6 million ($1.92 million guaranteed) with Chargers.

Hayden Hurst, TE – One year, $3.5 million ($2 million guaranteed) with the Bengals.

New players

Marcus Mariota, QB – Two years, $18.7 million ($6.7 guaranteed).

Casey Hayward, CB – Two years, $11 million.

Lorenzo Carter, OLB – One year, $3.5 million ($2 million guaranteed).

Damien Williams, RB – One year, $1.62 million. Included $500,000 signing bonus.

Elijah Wilkinson, OL – One year, $1.03 million.

Teez Tabor, DB – One year, $965,000.

KhaDarel Hodge, WR – One year, $1.03 million.

Rashaan Evans, LB – One year.

Beau Brinkley, LS – One year.

Damiere Byrd, WR – One year.

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