Atlanta Falcons' 2019 free-agent signings: Carpenter adds toughness to O-line

A breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons' 2019 free-agent signings:

James Carpenter, offensive guard

The Falcons signed Carpenter to a four-year, $21 million contract that includes $9.25 million guaranteed and a $3.5 million signing bonus. Here’s a closer look at Carpenter, who spent the previous four seasons with the New York Jets:

What it means: The Falcons addressed a position of need not only to help protect quarterback Matt Ryan but also open holes in the running game for the return of Devonta Freeman. The 6-foot-5, 321-pound Carpenter has started 97 games for the Jets and Seattle Seahawks, so he should step right into a starting role at left guard. Coach Dan Quinn wasn't satisfied with what he's had lately at that spot between Wes Schweitzer and Andy Levitre. Quinn is familiar with Carpenter from his days in Seattle, where Quinn was the defensive coordinator and Carpenter started on the line for the Super Bowl champs.

What's the risk? Carpenter, who turns 30 on March 22, didn't finish last season and is coming off shoulder surgery. It's always a risk when a player is coming off an injury. But as ESPN Jets reporter Rich Cimini noted, Carpenter was extremely durable and is tough as nails. For a Falcons team that has struggled up front, Carpenter, a Georgia native, is worth the risk. Carpenter has talked about enjoying a gap scheme more than a zone scheme, but he should be better than what the Falcons had regardless of the offense. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is known for adjusting his scheme to the players he has.


Jamon Brown, offensive guard

The Falcons signed Brown to a three-year deal worth $18.75 million, including $12.75 million guaranteed. Here’s a closer look at Brown, who spent the final eight games of the 2018 season with the New York Giants.

What it means: On paper, the Falcons will be making immediate upgrades at guard with the additions of Carpenter from the Jets and Brown from the Giants. Brown was a project coming out of Louisville and even played defensive tackle his freshman season before switching to offense. He started primarily at tackle for Louisville before evolving into a guard at the NFL level. The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Brown is big and athletic. And he's just 25, so he could be around for a while.

What's the risk? This will be Brown's third NFL team since entering the league as a third-round pick of the then-St. Louis Rams in 2015. He was placed on IR in '15 with a lower-leg fracture. Then, in July of 2018, Brown said his two-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy stemmed from marijuana being found in his car during a traffic stop. He lost his starting spot and eventually was waived before catching on with the Giants. There's no evidence that the substance abuse violation will be a recurring issue for Brown, but the Falcons typically steer clear of such situations -- but Brown does have potential. He's been a starter at right guard the past two seasons.


Luke Stocker, tight end

The Falcons agreed to terms with Stocker on a two-year deal. Terms of the deal were not immediately available. Here’s a closer look at Stocker, who spent last season with the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: The Falcons needed to add more of a blocking tight end to go with Pro Bowler Austin Hooper. Perhaps the veteran Stocker, at 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, will fill that role. Stocker has experience playing under both new Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in Tampa, new Falcons tight end coach Mike Mularkey in Tennessee, and wide receivers coach Raheem Morris in Tampa. That should lead to an easy fit for Stocker, who really hasn’t been called upon much in his career to catch the ball, although he’s capable. Stocker also has the versatility to play fullback.

What's the risk? Stocker, like a lot of veteran players, has dealt with his share of injuries over the years, including a concussion. A nagging hip injury landed him on IR early in the 2013 season. But as long as he stays healthy, he should be able to contribute.


Kenjon Barner, running back

The Falcons agreed to terms with Barner on a one-year contract. Terms of the deal were not immediately available. Barner spent last season with both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.

What it means: The Falcons were in search of a player with return ability after kick returner Marvin Hall said his goodbyes and punt returner Justin Hardy probably headed elsewhere, too. Barner, known for his straight-line speed, has 37 career punt returns and 31 career kickoff returns. That doesn't mean he'll win the job, but that's why he was signed. The Falcons also view him as a potential third back behind Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, with Tevin Coleman having joined San Francisco. Word is Barner is a good guy to have in the locker room. He's best known for absorbing that punishing hit from punter Matt Bosher last season. Now they're teammates.

What's the risk? With the one-year contract, there's not great risk here. The Falcons can see what they have in Barner and cut ties if he doesn't pan out. The team might want younger, fresher legs in the return game, and Barner turns 30 in April. But it's worth it to see what they have in a guy who won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles.