Atlanta Falcons depth chart: Wide receiver an even bigger threat

Julio Jones, a five-time Pro Bowler, signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension ($47 million guaranteed) in August 2015 and has three years and $34.45 million remaining on the deal. Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

With free agency and the draft completed, and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here's a closer look at the depth chart for the Atlanta Falcons (Note: Starters in bold):


Quarterback (2): Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub

Ryan, who turns 33 in May, landed a lucrative contract extension last week and will look to regain his 2016 MVP form in Year 2 of Steve Sarkisian's offense. He hasn't missed a game since 2009.

Running back (4): Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith, Daniel Marx, Luke McNitt

Freeman is recovering from significant knee ligament damage and has dealt with concussion issues, but is looking forward to a healthy season. Coleman is entering the final year of his contract and the Falcons expressed no desire to trade him. Smith is a rookie who can move into the No. 3 role. The undrafted Marx will battle fellow undrafted rookie McNitt for the fullback role.

Wide receiver (8): Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Russell Gage, Marvin Hall, Reggie Davis

Jones appears to be angling for a raise this offseason after watching other top receivers get paid more than him. The addition of first-round pick Ridley as a great route runner and speedy threat will help complement Jones.

Tight end (3): Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert

Hooper already has spent a lot of 1-on-1 time working out with Ryan this offseason to find a rhythm with his quarterback. Paulsen is the inline blocker the team brought in to replace Levine Toilolo. Saubert showed some things on special teams last season as a rookie.

Tackle (4): Jake Matthews, Ryan Schraeder, Ty Sambrailo, Austin Pasztor

Matthews is going into a contract year and should be extended at some point, but needs to play more like a top-10 pick at left tackle. Schraeder, at right tackle, is a fighter. Sambrailo and Pasztor hope to provide insurance.

Guard (4): Andy Levitre, Brandon Fusco, Wes Schweitzer, Sean Harlow

Levitre took a pay cut and needs to stay healthy at left guard, but he's on the downside of his career. Fusco was the "big" free-agent addition and has to show he's capable of being a solid starter or the Falcons could turn back to Schweitzer.

Center (2): Alex Mack, Ben Garland

Mack has been a strong addition since coming over as a free agent from Cleveland. Garland started at guard last season, but is a serviceable backup at both center and guard.


Cornerback (5): Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Isaiah Oliver, Brian Poole, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Justin Bethel, Damontae Kazee

The one-time Pro Bowler Trufant had a down year last season and looks to regain his swagger. The addition of second-round pick Oliver could make things interesting because he's better suited outside, meaning Alford or Trufant could be pushed into a nickel role. Kazee also could be a wild card at nickel, and he and Poole could be safety candidates. Bethel might have been the biggest free-agent pickup as a special-teams ace.

Safety (3): Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, Damontee Kazee

Neal is coming off a Pro Bowl season, and his hard-hitting style at strong safety sets a physical tone for the defense. Allen, the free safety, has yet to sign his one-year restricted-free-agent tender, but his importance to the defense should secure him a long-term deal.

Linebacker (5): Deion Jones, De'Vondre Campbell, Duke Riley, Kemal Ishmael, Foyesade Oluokun

Jones showed the world he'll be one of the league's best linebackers for years to come after last year's Pro Bowl showing. The Falcons will continue to count on Campbell using his length against tight ends. And the rookie Oluokun is a weak-side linebacker candidate who could also be a strong safety.

Defensive line (7): Vic Beasley Jr., Takk McKinley, Brooks Reed, Grady Jarrett, Derrick Shelby, Jack Crawford, Deadrin Senat

Beasley can focus strictly on defensive end after being asked to cover as a linebacker last season. Jarrett is among the top nose tackles in the league, and McKinley showed flashes of greatness as a rookie a year ago.


Punter (1): Matt Bosher

Bosher didn't have the greatest performance a year ago, but he dealt with some injuries. Having better coverage units will help him in 2018.

Kicker (1): Matt Bryant

The Falcons signed Bryant to a three-year extension because they believe he's extremely reliable and has some years left at age 43. He made 34 of 39 field-goal attempts (87.2 percent) in 2017 and 34 of 37 (91.9 percent) during the Falcons' run to the Super Bowl in 2016.

Long-snapper (1): Josh Harris

Harris is a steady performer who just does his job.

Kick returner (3): Hardy, Hall, Ito Smith

Hardy was the backup kick returner behind now-departed Andre Roberts last season. He's capable, although the Falcons might give someone else a shot to win the job.

Punt returner (3): Hardy, Hall, Oliver

The rookie Oliver could be an intriguing option here because of his track background. The Falcons might also want to consider the rookie Smith because of his jump-cut ability.