After returning home from Super Bowl 50, general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn commenced the team’s all-important “February Meetings.”
Several key personnel decisions will come out of these gatherings, where the focus is on the draft and free agency.
“We’ll continue to hone in on comparing what is out there in the draft and what possibly is out there in free agency,” Dimitroff said. “That’s a big part of it.”
As a result, Dimitroff and Quinn will spend a great deal of time together.
“Then Dan is able to be so much more involved in that now, which makes it great,” Dimitroff said. “We spend a lot of time watching video together and discussing our team’s direction.”
The Falcons have just five picks in the draft, which is set for April 28-30 in Chicago. The Falcons lost their fifth-round pick in the artificial crowd noise scandal and traded away their sixth-round pick to Tennessee in the Andy Levitre deal.
The team’s revamped scouting department will quickly be on the spot in this draft.
“We have some very adapt scouts,” Dimitroff said. “The way that scouting works in this work, you have 15-plus guys on your scouting staff and some people are strong in certain areas and other people are stronger in other areas. That’s up to me as the general manager to discern who is really strong in what area.”
Dimitroff also reiterated that all scouts can handle every position and every nuance of player scouting.
The Falcons have watched Carolina take control of the NFC South, the Panthers winning an unprecedented third-straight division title on their way to Super Bowl 50.
“My perception is that they approach it in a very mindful way as far as continuity,” Dimitroff said. “The teams that are consistently successful are the ones that have continuity. That’s important.”
Here are the five positions that the Falcons need to shore up through free agency and the draft:
1. Strong safety: The Falcons have an opening after cutting William Moore on Feb. 8. Moore, who was the Falcons’ 2009 second-round draft pick, played in 76 games and earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2012. He had 481 tackles (319 solo) with 16 interceptions and 3.5 sacks over seven years. Quinn wants the team’s ball-hawking to improve and needs a strong safety with a some range, but a player who can also play close to the line of scrimmage against the run.
2. Weakside linebacker: Justin Durant was signed as a free agent last season after playing with Jacksonville, Detroit and Dallas. He played in 13 games with 12 starts and totaled 82 tackles with three tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and three passes defensed. Released the same day as Moore, Durant’s departure clears the path for a reunion between Quinn and Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin, who set to become a free agent. Seattle elected not to exercise the fifth-year option on Irvin’s rookie contract. Irvin, who has played in 58 games with 37 starts, has been to two Super Bowls and has 22 sacks.
3. Center-Guard: The Falcons will look to address this position in free agency. Rookie linemen take time to season and they need someone to step in immediately. Stefen Wisniewski, who played with Jacksonville last season, and Ben Jones, a Georgia alum who played with Houston, appear to be the best value players at the position. The Falcons likely won’t spend upwards of $8 million on former Pro Bowler Alex Mack if he opts out of his contract in Cleveland. Currently on the Atlanta roster, right guard Chris Chester is 33 and Levitre, who played left guard, led the team in penalties last season. The Falcons must fortify the interior of the pocket for quarterback Matt Ryan, who appeared a little jumpy in the pocket at times last season.
4. Wide receiver: Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller was heavily scouted by the Falcons at the Senior Bowl. He could be an option in the third round of the draft.
5. Strongside linebacker: The Falcons signed Brooks Reed last offseason, but he was just steady when healthy. The team could used the 17th pick in the draft to select Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland. He played mostly middle linebacker for the Crimson Tide, but played strongside linebacker at the Senior Bowl and most scouts were impressed.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.