Falcons' depth made it easier to cut ties with DT Ra'Shede Hageman

The Atlanta Falcons obviously weren't willing to wait for an NFL ruling on defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman following last year's arrest on domestic violence-related charges.

The team cut ties with the former second-round draft pick Monday with the league's investigation into the matter still pending. Owner Arthur Blank has a low tolerance for such off-the-field issues, which no doubt weighed heavily in the organization's final decision.

So what does losing Hageman mean from a football perspective as the Falcons prepare for Sunday's season opener at Chicago? Coach Dan Quinn actually praised Hageman during the preseason, saying Hageman had his best training camp in three years.

"He's been a factor, for sure," Quinn said.

Hageman, who has 60 combined tackles and four sacks in 44 career games, always possessed great strength and took measures to become even stronger in the offseason. He figured to benefit from not having former defensive line coach Bryan Cox barking in his ear anymore while getting more hands-on instruction from Bryant Young, a highly successful interior defensive lineman for years with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Falcons positioned Hageman as the backup nose tackle behind emerging star Grady Jarrett. But moving forward without Hageman won't sting so much based on the quality depth the Falcons have established along the defensive line leading into this season.

The Falcons have a lot more talent and more interchangeable parts up front as a whole, including on the interior. Dontari Poe and Jarrett are the starters inside, and each player seems capable of lining up at either the nose or three technique. Jack Crawford showed his versatility to play inside and out and seems capable of playing either or, although he created havoc from the three technique in the third exhibition against the Arizona Cardinals. In fact, Crawford's sack against the Cardinals was on a play where Derrick Shelby and Hageman ran a stunt on the other side. Shelby is another guy you can plug into the interior. Quinn said Courtney Upshaw could also step in and get some reps on the interior, particularly in nickel.

Again, Hageman's physical presence and ability to push folks around up front would have been a nice luxury as the Falcons prepare to shut down talented Bears running back Jordan Howard and put pressure on immobile quarterback Mike Glennon. But Hageman isn't a game-changer like a Vic Beasley. He can be replaced.

Another option if the Falcons happen to find themselves thin at nose tackle at any point during the season is to elevate Joe Vellano from the practice squad. Vellano was listed as third on a depth chart at nose tackle behind Jarrett and Hageman during the preseason.

On a side note, the second-round picks haven't exactly been a sure bet for the Falcons in recent years. Offensive lineman Peter Konz, the team's 2012 second-rounder, is not on an NFL roster. Cornerback Jalen Collins, a second-rounder in 2015, is suspended without pay for first 10 games of the regular season after a second violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The Falcons do, however, have big expectations for their most recent second-round pick, second-year middle linebacker Deion Jones.