- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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If the Atlanta Falcons weren't considering drafting a safety high in next month's NFL draft, it definitely has to be under strong consideration now.
They thought they found a starter in restricted free agent Rafael Bush from the New Orleans Saints, a player the Falcons signed to a two-year, $4.5 million offer sheet. Bush even apparently told Falcons starting strong safety William Moore he wanted to get some attention from Atlanta.
Well, Bush ended up back with the Saints as New Orleans matched the Falcons' offer on Monday. And the Falcons were left without a legitimate option opposite Moore in the secondary.
The free-agent market is thin now, so the Falcons might have to seriously consider drafting a safety in the second round. The last time they drafted a safety that high, they plucked Moore from Missouri in 2009. The moved worked out pretty well, especially considering the leadership and toughness Moore brings to the team.
An offensive tackle or pass-rusher are likely to be the targets in the first round, as the Falcons currently own the sixth overall pick. The team did conduct a private workout with a safety projected to go in the first round: Louisville's Calvin Pryor. And Moore recently tweeted that Pryor is the one rookie he would love to have next to him. But that would appear to be an option only if the Falcons decided to trade down.
A prospect to keep an eye on is Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. He's relatively small at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, but Ward already impressed the Falcons at the Senior Bowl. He just needs to show he's durable, especially coming off foot surgery.
Another intriguing player might be Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, a cornerback who is capable of playing free safety. He has been projected anywhere from late-first round to the third round.
The other scenario to watch for is what happens after the draft. Some veteran safeties might be released, which could give the Falcons some options to consider.
A void at free safety was created when the Falcons decided to part ways with veteran Thomas DeCoud, a former third-round pick.