A makeover was needed. This was a good start.
The Falcons didn’t sign any of the major names on the first day of free agency but they signed three players who should significantly improve their offensive and defensive lines.
By doing so, the team acknowledged personnel mistakes of the past, while also sending a signal about a change in philosophy on defense.
A quick recap:
— Signed: Nose tackle Paul Soliai (from Miami). He’s 6-4, 344 pounds and his signing pretty much confirms what has been hinted over the past several days that the Falcons will shift their base defense to a 3-4. Soliai immediately gives the defensive line a greater physical presence.
— Signed: Defense end Tyson Jackson (from Kansas City). He was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft and largely was viewed as one of the failures of former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli (now an assistant to general manager Thomas Dimitroff in the Falcons’ front office). But Jackson has proven to be an effective end in the 3-4 — even if not worthy of the No. 3 pick — in the last two seasons after three pretty mediocre ones, primarily as a run-stopper. He also has seven sacks in the last two seasons (only nine in five years overall).
— Signed: Guard Jon Asamoah (from Kansas City). He’s another of Pioli’s former players and his likely signing was the worse-kept secret in Flowery Branch. Asamoah won’t fix all of the problems on the offensive line but he fills a huge hole at right guard, occupied last season by Garrett Reynolds (since released) and Peter Konz. Asamoah is 6-4, 304 pounds.
— Re-signed: Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and center/guard Joe Hawley. Babineaux has been the team’s best defensive lineman (granted, not a significant statement). He has the flexibility to play inside in the 4-3 and at end in the 3-4. Hawley is expected to compete with Konz for the starting center spot and can back up both center and guard positions.
— Released: Free safety Thomas DeCoud. He could’ve been cut after the 2012 season because of his horrendous tackling. The Falcons gave him one more year and it was a mistake. The team will need to find another safety in free agency or the draft.
I’ll have more on the Falcons’ decisions later in a full column on MyAJC.com.