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D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons are targeting linemen in free agency

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FLOWERY BRANCH — The legalized tampering period started Saturday at 4 p.m. and agents around the league were giddy.

With an increase in the salary cap from $123 million to $133 million, the agents are expecting more robust deals this season.

Defensive end Red Bryant (above in video from the Super Bowl) landed a deal with Jacksonville after being released by Seattle.

“History tells you that there will be more deals out there for big money than there were last year,” said ESPN analyst Bill Polian, a former general manager and six-time winner of the executive of the year award. “The biggest impact may come — and I underline the word may – with the so-called middle class. Last year, a lot of those fellas got one and two-year deals.

“Cliff Avril being the one that stands out in my mind. They got one or two-year deals … at mediocre money. I would think that some of those fellas will be able to get a little bit longer deals. Whether if the money goes up, we shall see. But the fact of the matter is that with more money in the market, you’d hope that it would go to the middle class. We’ll find out.”

For the Falcons, it will be all about the trench warfare. Look for them to address both lines as general manager Thomas Dimitroff has repeatedly stated this offseason. There’s one report linking the Falcons to Kansas City guard Jon Asamoah.

He was drafted by Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who was the Chiefs’ general manager in 2010.  Asamoah, 6-foot-4, 304 pounds, was taken in the third round (68th overall).

Asamoah, who turns 26 in July, is represented by Joe Panos

Also, the Falcons have been linked to Carolina safety Mike Mitchell and Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai.

Restricted free agent Robert McClain has been tendered at $1,431 million.

Below are the 2014 tender amounts.

–$1,431,000 for Right of First Refusal (ROFR) only

–$1,431,000 for original draft choice compensation + ROFR

–$2,187,000 for 2nd round draft choice compensation + ROFR

–$3,113,000 for 1st round draft choice compensation + ROFR of First Refusal (ROFR) only

Nothing has come out of the Jairus Byrd camp, but Aaron Williams went on with Alex Marvez and Phil Savage NFL Radio on SiriusXM Sports  and said he hopes Byrd re-signs with the Bills.

The free agents must be system fits for the Falcons.

“Football is not a seamless transition,” Polian said. “Systems change and people have a difficult time adjusting to begin with and then if you have a system change or a technique change, it’s even worse. … It may take him a year to adjust and that that’s a year that you’ve paid pretty big money for. That’s the other danger.”

The Falcons have a hole at right guard that Asamoah could fill.

“There are some holes on your club that you just have to fill,” Polian said.

The Falcons will try not to over pay in free agency.

“Free agency is not free,” Polian said. “It cost things that you never get back, time and money. So, when you have a good team. …and when you have a good personnel department that drafts well. … then It behooves you to be restrained in free agency because you need the money to sign your own players and to be in position to make very, very good judgments on a few players in free agency.”

Who the Falcons sign in free agency could tip off the direction they’ll go in the NFL draft, which is set for May 8-10.

“There will be some signings that will take place right out of the box,” Polian said. “They are usually the big ones, then (free agency) settles down. Then (free agency) sort of grinds along. Teams become more selective.”

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