No Orakpo for Falcons, but a Byrd?

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
6:15
PM ET
The Atlanta Falcons certainly would have made a run at Brian Orakpo had the standout pass-rusher been available in free agency. But since the Washington Redskins decided to use the franchise tag on Orakpo on Monday, the Falcons won't get a chance to lure the three-time Pro Bowler to town.

So what will the Falcons do now? Well, there's no reason to panic. Plenty could happen between now at the official start of free agency on March 11. Maybe they look to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, who played his college ball at Georgia Tech and apparently wants to come back to the Atlanta area. But there are some concerns about his inconsistency.

Maybe the Falcons will just wait until the draft and look at pass-rushers such as Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, although there's still a strong chance the team could target an offensive tackle in the first round.

Whatever happens, the Falcons realize they can't invest an extreme amount of money into one single free agent, even if they have a decent amount of cap space available (estimated around $18 million at this point). They also want to land a solid offensive guard and big defensive tackle.

Speaking of hefty investments, the Buffalo Bills decided not to place the franchise tag on safety Jairus Byrd and couldn't come to a long-term agreement with him, either. That means Byrd is bound for free agency. But that doesn't mean the Falcons will land him.

Sure, the Falcons would be interested in someone of Byrd's caliber to step in at free safety, with the release of veteran Thomas DeCoud looming. But the Falcons are highly unlikely to get into a bidding war for Byrd with so much money already tied up in strong safety William Moore.

But there's no denying that a Moore-Byrd tandem would be just what the Falcons need on the back end of the defense.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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