Falcons sign free agent DL James Smith-Williams

Atlanta had been looking to add affordable help to the defensive line, and Smith-Williams fit the bill.

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons still need help at edge rusher, a need so chronic it’s a dark sort of joke within the fanbase. Our hope is that they’ll find a potentially elite player to fill that need in this year’s NFL Draft, but even if they accomplish that, there’s a need to stock the rotation with useful options.

We’ll talk about some of those potential options in the next day or two, but for the moment, we can share the news that they actually signed one. As we wrote the other day, the Falcons recently hosted James Smith-Williams, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Washington Commanders, and now they’ve signed him. That report comes to us via his agent, Mike McCarney, who ought to know.

Smith-Williams, 26, should soak up rotational snaps in Atlanta. In his lone year as a mostly full-time starter back in 2022, when he was heavily involved with injuries wreaking havoc on Washington’s line, he managed three sacks and 16 quarterback hits. Over the course of his four seasons, he has 27 starts and seven total sacks. Smith-Williams is a useful but not high upside pass rusher and a useful but not stellar run defender who is pretty durable; the definition of a solid rotational option. I’d expect the Falcons to view Smith-Williams as a candidate to play 20ish snaps per game, filling the back end of a rotation expected to include Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Lorenzo Carter, and probably a rookie.

The ties to the current regime are here, naturally. Smith-Williams was drafted in the seventh round back in 2020 under the watchful eye of Kyle Smith, Washington’s-then vice president of player personnel and Atlanta’s current assistant general manager. Smith appears to be a Smith-Williams fan.

No one’s going to jump up and down for this signing, but it fits neatly with what I imagine the Falcons want to do between now and the draft, which is get useful, solid veterans with starting experience in the building at critical positions of need. Antonio Hamilton at cornerback certainly fit the bill, and now that Smith-Williams has joined Atlanta, he’ll provide them with insurance for their starters, gameday help on defense and special teams, and a player young enough to potentially enjoy greater success after a change of scenery.

Give him a warm welcome to Atlanta, and let’s hope he’s a piece of a successful Falcons defense in 2024.

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