In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons failed to repeat as NFC Champions, as they instead fell in the Divisional Round to the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles. While the Atlanta defense was instrumental to their success last season, they have several holes to fill before they begin their quest for the Lombardi Trophy in 2018. Perhaps the biggest hole to fill will be at defensive tackle, as Dontari Poe will be a free agent. With that being said, here are some potential options for the Atlanta Falcons at defensive tackle in 2018.
Atlanta Falcons Off-Season Defensive Tackle Options
Re-Sign Dontari Poe
In the 2017 off-season, the Falcons signed Dontari Poe away from the Kansas City Chiefs for a modest one-year, $8 million deal. While Atlanta would love to keep Poe on a similar contract in 2018, it is unlikely Poe will agree to such a deal. After having a terrific season for the Falcons, the 27-year-old is likely going to command a long-term deal on the open market, which the Falcons may be unwilling to give him. If Poe is willing to take a shorter term deal, then the Falcons would love to bring him back in 2018. However, all signs are pointing towards Poe signing elsewhere, as even general manager Thomas Dimitroff said that Poe is unlikely to return to Atlanta in 2018.
The Atlanta Falcons could look to add another Florida Gators player to their defense, as Taven Bryan could join former Gator Keanu Neal in Atlanta. Bryan is quick, versatile, and aggressive in rushing the quarterback and stopping the run. Standing at 6’4″ and nearly 300 pounds, Bryan is a physical lineman who can immediately bolster Atlanta’s defensive line. Additionally, Bryan’s ability to switch between defensive tackle and defensive end gives Atlanta the versatility Dan Quinn desires out of his players. Bryan’s athleticism fits Atlanta’s defense, and he would be a great selection with the 26th pick in the draft.
Washington’s Vita Vea would also be a tremendous addition to the Atlanta Falcons defensive line. While he may not be available when it comes time for the Falcons to pick at 26th, he could slide down draft boards due to a hamstring injury suffered at the Combine. Vea has the potential to go top 15 in the draft, but the Falcons could look to trade up to select him. Vea is a powerful, athletic lineman who would dominate immediately on Atlanta’s defensive line. He is a tremendous fit in Dan Quinn‘s system, and he would be the perfect addition to the Falcons defense in 2018.
Bringing in Muhammad Wilkerson on a one year, incentive-laden contract would be a low-risk addition for the Falcons. After a subpar season for the New York Jets in 2017, Wilkerson could have a bounce-back season for Atlanta in 2018. Wilkerson is only 28 and likely has something left to give for a contending Falcons team. With the ability to play both defensive tackle and defensive end, Wilkerson also provides the versatility that allows him to fit in easily with the Falcons as a pass rusher. Wilkerson’s potential contract with Atlanta would be similar to that signed by Poe in 2017.
Gone are the days when Haloti Ngata was an elite pass rusher who also dominated against the run. Ngata is 34, yet still is a solid run defender. While he won’t provide much in pass defense in 2018, Ngata could be a nice, cheap addition for the Falcons if they wish to delay their search for a long-term defensive tackle until the off-season of 2019. Ngata is coming off of a biceps injury that ended his 2017 season in Detroit, but he is still worth a cheap contract to provide both veteran leadership and solid run defense.
Bringing in Star Lotulelei from the rival Carolina Panthers could be a solid addition for the Falcons. Lotulelei has not lived up to his potential as a first round pick in 2013, but at 28 years old he still has the potential to grow and develop just a bit more in Atlanta. Perhaps not a long-term answer at defensive tackle, Lotulelei could be an effective starting defensive tackle for the Falcons in 2018.
With a solid defensive tackle in 2018, expect Atlanta to remain in contention for a championship. While they have not yet found a long-term solution to their defensive tackle issue, drafting a player like Vea or Bryan seems like the best option for the Falcons. Either option provides a potential multi-year piece of Atlanta’s defense, and the pairing of one of these draft prospects with a veteran like Ngata in 2018 could be what Atlanta decides to do this offseason. Regardless, expect the Falcons to do something to fill the hole that will likely be left by Poe this off-season.
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