Eddie Goldman’s sudden decision to retire from the NFL, mere days after signing with the Atlanta Falcons, has left a void at the heart of the team’s defensive line. The Falcons brought Goldman in on a one-year deal to play over the ball and plug the run.
While it’s unfortunate to see Goldman retire at just 28, the Falcons are lucky the free-agent market is still home to several proven nose tackles. One veteran went to the Pro Bowl four years ago and has long anchored a defense that’s usually been among the toughest in the league.
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Massive NT Perfect for Falcons’ Defense
Brandon Williams is still on the market, something of a surprise, considering how effective he’s been during a nine-year career with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s 33, but Williams can still occupy double teams and push the pocket with the best of them.
What Williams brings to the heart of any defense is considerable size. The 6’1″, 336-pounder is tough to move in the middle and the perfect focal point for the 3-4 front the Falcons are trying to run.
It’s a scheme dependant upon a big man in the middle occupying multiple blockers and keeping inside linebackers clean to make plays. Williams has been doing those things for years, but he can also make his own share of big plays, like this tackle for loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2020, per The Scouting Academy:
His finest season came in 2018, when Williams made 34 tackles, including three for loss and registered a sack. Those individual contributions, along with what he did for the rest of the Ravens’ defense, earned the former Alabama standout a Pro Bowl nod.
Although he can play other spots along the defensive line, Williams is at his best whenever he lines up at nose tackle. That’s just where the Falcons need help.
Nose Tackle Still a Pressing Issue
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees isn’t short of options for nose tackle, but he’s lacking proven quality at the key position. Anthony Rush, Vincent Taylor and Ta’Quon Graham can all play zero-technique, yet none are dominant in the trenches.
Rush looks like a good candidate to make the job his own after starting six games last season. At 6’5″ and 350 pounds, he’s not lacking the mass to man the middle, but Rush is also a former undrafted free agent who’s spent time on five teams in two years, including the Las Vegas Raiders, where he caught the eye early, according to Just Pod Baby host Evan Groat:
It’s likely Rush would’ve been the main competition for Goldman, but the Falcons shouldn’t find it difficult to acquire an alternative. Williams makes the most sense as somebody who played for Pees for five seasons when the latter called plays for the Ravens until 2018.
A reunion should be on the cards, but Pees also has other options, including Super Bowl winners Linval Joseph and Danny Shelton.