Here are the players the Falcons will have to make decisions on as unrestricted free agents for this offseason.
OG Chris Chester – He just turned 33 last month after starting all 16 games for the Falcons at right guard. Chester did well for the Falcons in run blocking, but he struggled when called upon to help protect quarterback Matt Ryan. Chances are the Falcons will want to upgrade this position, but with Chester having experience in the zone blocking scheme, he would be a valuable backup at the right price. Chester has started every regular season game in the last five seasons, so he’s been durable which gives him value. Chester has been in the NFL for 10 years, so how much does he have left?
OT Bryce Harris – After being acquired from the Saints at the end of training camp, Harris appeared in just one game for the Falcons. He had played in 32 games the previous two seasons in New Orleans, but the ability for Ryan Schaeder and Jake Matthews to play most downs killed Harris’ chances for time in Atlanta. It’s unlikely the Falcons will battle to keep him if Harris gets another offer.
OT Jake Long – This will be interesting. If Long believes he’s now a backup, the Falcons may try to bring him back. But with Schraeder and Matthews locked in at tackle, there is no chance for Long to start in Atlanta. Long played in four games, but he did not make any significant impact. The Falcons may shrug their shoulders on this one. If he wants to be a backup, fine, but if not they’ll find someone else. Long’s best days are clearly behind him after numerous injuries. He’s still a big guy, though, and there are worse players you can have as a backup. Plus, he’d be a good leader for the two young tackles.
C Gino Gradkowski – Another veteran of the zone blocking scheme brought in late in camp, Gradkowski played in three games and started the season finale against New Orleans at center. The Falcons will likely look for a better option, however, as Gradkowski and Mike Person seemed like stopgap players at the position. The interior of the line must be better, and the Falcons will likely let Gradkowski walk if he gets a better offer.
TE Tony Moeaki – The free agent pickup was the backup to starter Jacob Tamme and played in 11 games without a start. Moeaki caught three passes for 58 yards, including one 42-yard touchdown in the season finale against the Saints. The Falcons could bring him back, but there has been talk of bringing in a younger tight end from the draft to pair with Tamme. So don’t look for Moeaki to have a great chance of returning.
K Shayne Graham – When Matt Bryant got hurt late in the season, the Falcons turned to the 15-year veteran Graham. He made all eight extra points and was 11-13 on field goal tries. With Bryant facing his 41st birthday in May and coming off his more inconsistent and injured season he’s had in his seven years with the Falcons, the team may bring Graham back. But will they instead look for a better option, which might cost more money? Graham has played for 10 teams in 15 years, so he’s been around a while.
DE Adrian Clayborn – Signed to a decent one-year contract last offseason, Clayborn was a decent player for the Falcons on the end. He started four games but played in all 16 and registered three sacks. Clayborn will turn 28 this summer, so he might believe he can still be a primary player. Atlanta expects to add a player in the draft at this position, and the thought process on Vic Beasley could determine their interest in bringing Clayborn back. But if he takes a decent, team-friendly deal, Clayborn could return for a similar role as he had in 2015.
DE Kroy Biermann – It was a surprise when the Falcons brought him back last season, and now is the chance to cut ties with the eight-year veteran. He served as a backup in 2015 and had 2.5 sacks, but Biermann did not prove his worth even on a small contract. The Falcons simply need to find a better option.
OLB Philip Wheeler – Signed in midseason when Justin Durant battled injuries, Wheeler had a productive nine-game run for his hometown Falcons. He made 29 tackles and got one sack. The 31-year-old may be more of a backup now, but he was fairly valuable for the team in a reserve role. With Durant now gone, the Falcons may want Wheeler back as insurance. He deserves another contract after playing well.
S Charles Godfrey – The nine-year veteran has been a decent backup for the Falcons the last two seasons after a productive career as a starter for the Panthers. He played in eight games in 2015 as a backup to William Moore, but when Moore was injured the team leaned on Kemal Ishmael instead. Godfrey is now 30, so it’s unlikely another team would tempt him with a contract to be a starter.
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