After years of shaky performance http://www.authenticsatlantafalcons.com/cheap-matt-bryant-jersey , the Falcons’ special teams fared quite well in 2018. Matt Bosher had a good year, Matt Bryant and Giorgio Tavecchio were terrific, and coverage improved significantly over an awful 2017. In the end, that wasn’t enough to save Keith Armstrong’s job, especially after yet another year of poor performances in the return game. That leaves special teams as unsettled as it has been in many, many years. No longer is Armstrong’s philosophy guiding things with new coach Ben Kotwica taking over as special teams coordinator, which means things we’ve taken for granted over the years could change suddenly. Kotwica is a virtual lock to add one or two of his guys if he can, meaning longtime special teamers like Kemal Ishmael may or may not return. Then there’s the situation at kicker, where Matt Bryant is as dependable as ever but faces a legitimate threat to his job for the first time in recent memory from Giorgio Tavecchio. How will things shake out? Let’s look.Free agencyThe team has to weigh whether they want to bring back their own free agents, first and foremost. Justin Bethel was just as good as you’d expect him to be, given his outsized reputation, but he’s a noted disaster in coverage and may not be back just to contribute on teams. Kemal Ishmael is a more reliable defender who can play linebacker or safety and has been a core contributor on teams since he arrived as a seventh round pick way back in 2013, but he’s not a lock to return either.If the Falcons are planning to replace them, keep an eye on guys Kotwica has recently coached. Linebacker Zach Vigil is an unrestricted free agent and spent two seasons working with Kotwica in Washington, leading all players in special teams snaps in 2017 and grading out as Pro Football Focus’s fourth-best tackler on the team that season. The Falcons could very well elect to replace Ishmael (or somebody like Bruce Carter, if they’re not drafting a linebacker) with Vigil, who has shown his reliability and would be very comfortable with what Kotwica will want to do.Ultimately, the Falcons are unlikely to make special teams the outsized priority it was heading into 2018 Black Deion Jones Jersey , when they signed Bethel and traded for Jordan Richards, and will likely roll on with promising young players like Eric Saubert, Russell Gage, and Sharrod Neasman. The only curveball would come if the Falcons finally decided they were tired of mucking about at returner and went hard after a proven specialist like Cordarelle Patterson, but I’d expect Atlanta to stick to bringing in a couple of useful players Kotwica is comfortable with and calling it at that.The draftThis is where you may see some action for special teams, but no one’s going to be drafted primarily to contribute on that side of the ball until very late, if at all. It is, it goes without saying, entirely too early in the year to be considering who the Falcons might draft for their special teams value, so we’ll punt this one until a bit later in the year. Just know it’s a possibility.The preferred outcomeThe Falcons free up enough money to make a run at Patterson, who could help set the offense up with greatly improved field position due to his excellence as a returner. They bring back Matt Bryant for another year, given his ongoing reliability as a kicking option. Then they bring back Ishmael, add someone like Vigil, and roll with what they have beyond that, giving them a capable, strong special teams unit that will hopefully thrive under Kotwica.The likely outcomeI’ve wrestled with this one a lot. The Falcons keeping Tavecchio around this long would seem to indicate that they are going to seriously weigh keeping him instead of Bryant, especially after Bryant dealt with injury last year. On one hand, there’s no guaranteed money for Tavecchio Black Grady Jarrett Jersey , making it easy for the Falcons to cut ties with him if they want to. On the other hand, he will be an extremely cheap option in 2019 and will be a restricted free agent in 2020, giving the Falcons the ability to cut costs at kicker pretty sharply for two seasons if they roll with him instead of Bryant.Ultimately, though, I think Bryant’s experience and continued excellence to win the day, and for the team to cut Tavecchio in the late summer and hand the job to Bryant. Obviously if Bryant comes to camp looking diminished or gets hurt, that calculus changes, but I doubt the former will happen at the very least. That will leave the Falcons with Bryant and Bosher as specialists, Josh Harris back and healthy as the long snapper, and the returner gig becoming an open battle between Marvin Hall, Ito Smith, and perhaps Isaiah Oliver and a new addition. I don’t think they’ll actually consider investing huge dollars in a returner, even one as good as Patterson. Expect them to fill out the roster with the addition of guys like Vigil that Kotwica is comfortable with. The other day, a fan emailed me to ask if we could put together an update on key offseason dates that are coming down the pike. I was happy to do so, and be sure to refer to this all offseason long to keep track of what’s next. NFL offseason 2019 datesFebruary 4: Waivers began. This is why you saw the Falcons making moves starting that day, when they released Robert Alford. February 12: Teams can sign players who are no longer under contract in the CFL. If you had your eye on any of Saskatchewan’s finest, this will be a critical offseason date for you.February 19: If the Falcons think they won’t be able to get a deal done with Grady Jarrett without resorting to the franchise tag, they can apply it beginning on this date. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.February 26-March 4: The NFL’s Scouting Combine! This is a magical time where large men run fast and are weighed by out-of-shape men who comment on their haunches. The Falcons will use this time to help them identify players they really would like to draft.March 5: If the Falcons want to designate Grady Jarrett or someone else as their franchise or transition player for 2019 Black Logan Paulsen Jersey , they’ll have to do so by 4 p.m. today.March 11-13: LEGAL TAMPERING! This hilariously named period allows teams to start negotiating contracts with impending free agents before they actually become free agents鈥egally. March 13: Any options must be exercised by 4 p.m. The Falcons must extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents or risk losing them. Also, ERFAs must be tendered or they’ll split. Also, and finally, 2018 contracts expire at 4 p.m. and every team must be under the 2019 salary cap so they can sign free agents at a frenzied pace.March 25-27: Annual league meetings, which spawn sober profiles of owners where they make ridiculously out of touch comments. A tradition unlike any other.April 15: The Falcons can begin offseason workout programs. April 19: All restricted free agents must sign offer sheets by this date. It’s worth noting that we usually see the schedule released around this time, as well. April 25-27: The 2019 NFL Draft, held this year in Nashville. The Falcons will be trying to get their roster back on track post-free agency by putting together a killer class. Let’s hope they can do so.May 3-6, May 10-13: The Falcons get to choose which of these three day periods they’ll hold their rookie minicamp on.June 2: This is when the Falcons can realize the benefits of post-June 1 cuts, if they make any. June-July: Organized team activities, minicamps and training camps, oh my.August 1: Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. Preseason games for the Falcons will follow. August 31: Prior to 4 p.m., teams must cut down to a 53 man roster, the Falcons very much included.September 1: Waiver claims must be put in by noon today, and practice squads may be assembled beginning at 1 p.m.September 5: The 2019 NFL season begins anew!
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