The Atlanta Falcons have a number of free agents set to hit the open market this offseason, but the only three key impending free agents are interior offensive lineman Joe Hawley and veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and Corey Peters. Yesterday, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Falcons have started contract negotiations with all three of those free agents, and it sounds like Hawley is the biggest priority of those three to re-sign.
Peters is heading to the free agent market with an injury, and I expect Babineaux to have more of a chance at sticking around with the Falcons. Both players could be re-signed by the team, but I think it’s more likely for the Falcons to keep Babineaux and pursue more of a pass-rushing DT to start next to him. The Falcons pass rush is in need of upgrading, and adding more of a pocket-pusher at DT could help.
The Falcons also have needs on the other side of the trenches, and it’s possible that they could add a new starting guard and tackle this offseason in order to upgrade their run blocking and, more importantly, help give star quarterback Matt Ryan more time to throw. Hawley was solid last season, and his ability to play both center and guard only helps his value. At this point, I would be surprised if the Falcons weren’t able to re-sign him before free agency starts on the 11th.