2:55 PM ET
- Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer Close
- Covered Bears for seven seasons at Chicago Tribune
- Also worked at Chicago Sun-Times, Fresno Bee
- Honorable mention, Football Writers Association of America for enterprise writing, 2002
The 6-foot-3, 346-pound Poe, known for delivering a jump pass for a touchdown while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs last season, selected the Falcons over the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. He should have an instant impact on what was already an improved defense.
Terms: One year, $8 million with a $10 million max based on incentives.
ESPN 150 ranking: Fifth
Grade A-: The Falcons needed to find another difference-maker along the interior of the defensive line, and Poe definitely brings that to the table. The 2012 11th overall draft pick out of Memphis has strength, power and tremendous athleticism for a man his size. His run-stopping ability was evident from his 200 tackles in five seasons with the Chiefs, including a pair of 45-plus tackle campaigns as a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014. The attention he'll draw up front will open things up for players such as speedy linebacker Deion Jones. But another aspect of Poe's game is his ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks, an area that the Falcons need to improve despite having NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley Jr. off the edge and nose tackle Grady Jarrett, who tied a Super Bowl record with three sacks, alongside Poe on the interior. One NFC defensive coach said Poe is an "underrated one-on-one pass-rusher, in part due to the 2-gap defensive system that he's been a part of so far. He's capable of being more of a factor rushing the QB or being a consistent contributor as part of a four-man rush." The Falcons were 28th in the league against the pass last season, surrendering 266.7 passing yards per game. They were 26th in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 42 percent of the time. And they were 17th against the run in allowing 104.5 rushing yards per game.
What it means: Bringing in Poe doesn't necessarily put someone else's job in jeopardy, considering the Falcons parted ways with veteran defensive tackles Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux. There is a little bit of a question about how Jarrett will be used now, being that his quickness playing the nose might not be on display as much. However, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Poe will play both the nose and the 3-technique spot with his versatility. What the addition of Poe means in the big picture is that the Falcons don't have to make defensive tackle a high priority in the draft with Poe anchoring an interior that also includes Jarrett, newcomer Jack Crawford, Derrick Shelby, Ra'Shede Hagema, and Courtney Upshaw. They can focus on adding an offensive guard or edge rusher to play opposite Beasley.
What's the risk? Quinn told ESPN that he's already had a discussion with Poe about maintaining a proper weight, though Quinn did not reveal just how much Poe weighed right now. It's worth monitoring because the Falcons want Poe to live up to his potential and not be held back by weight issues. It wouldn't be a surprise to see incentives built into Poe's contract based on his weight, just like the Falcons did with the recently re-signed Upshaw. The other risk with Poe might have to do with his back, as previously reported by ESPN's Ed Werder. Poe missed all of training camp before the 2016 season because of a herniated disk that required surgery. It didn't keep him from starting all 16 games this past season, but it's something to monitor.