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Falcons free agency snapshot

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Scott Pioli is back in the NFL, joining good friend Thomas Dimitroff as a member of the Atlanta Falcons front office.

Pioli will join the Falcons on Feb. 3 as assistant general manager following the completion of his contract with NBC Sports Network and SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“Scott is one of the most respected and adept talent evaluators in the NFL and a member of three Super Bowl Championship teams,” said Dimitroff, who worked with Pioli in previous professional stops in Cleveland and New England. “We have worked together well in the past and been friends for more than 20 years. We have had the opportunity to experience a lot of success together, and I am very pleased that he has agreed to join our personnel team so we can work together again. We have made the commitment to improve every aspect of our organization this offseason, and with the addition of Scott to our personnel department, we have taken an important step to enhance our scouting staff.”

Pioli spent four seasons as the general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs before parting with the team in January 2013 when head coach Andy Reid was hired and met with Pioli before what Reid labeled a “mutual decision” to move in another direction. The Chiefs hired John Dorsey as general manager, and he was named the 2013 Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Pioli was named NFL Executive of the Year by various national media outlets five different seasons during his career, including honors from Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, and Pro Football Weekly/PFWA.

Pioli was NFL Executive of the Year in his second season with the Chiefs. In four seasons with the Chiefs, Pioli drafted Pro Bowl players such as Eric Berry (3), Justin Houston (2), Dontari Poe, and Dexter McCluster.

“Adding a seasoned personnel executive with the track record like Scott’s is in line with our organizational philosophy of making investments in hiring the best people,” Falcons owner and chairman Arthur M. Blank said. “This move was made as a result of Thomas’ competitive drive to build the best personnel team in the NFL, and the addition of Scott to his team certainly reflects that.”

Pioli joined the Chiefs after serving as the Vice President of Player Personnel with the New England Patriots, where he spent six seasons working with Dimitroff (2002-07). During his nine-year tenure in New England (2000-08), the Patriots compiled an NFL-best 102-42 (.708) regular-season record, won Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX, claimed four AFC championships, and won six AFC East titles.

Pioli began his NFL career when he was hired by Bill Belichick as a scouting assistant for the Browns in 1992. He spent the next three seasons working as the Browns Pro Personnel Assistant where he was responsible for evaluating both college prospects and veteran free agents, as well as negotiating various player contracts. He was promoted to Pro Personnel Coordinator when the team moved to Baltimore In 1996. In 1997, Pioli was hired as the New York Jets Director of Pro Personnel where he worked before following Belichick to New England in 2000. They teamed to win multiple Super Bowl titles and 11 playoff games before Pioli left to lead the Chiefs personnel department.

The front office isn’t the only area of the team in need of upgrading.

The Falcons appear to have a glaring need for a big-time pass rusher.

“I think any NFL team needs to have a high-end pass rusher to pressure and to disrupt the quarterback,” Dimitroff said. “It doesn’t always mean that he has to come out with 22 sacks. It means that there could be a significant amount of sacks as well as a significant amount of pressures and disruptions. It’s our goal to find the right mix of those players who can affect the passer, as we always say.”

Replacing Gonzalez will be a chore. The Falcons selected Levine Toilolo in the fourth round last season.

“He progressed well,” Dimitroff said. “He came in and he had an element of rawness to him. (He is) a big guy who actually has the ability to wall off and block. He continues to get better and better at blocking. He’s improving in the hands area.”

The Falcons are hoping they’ll get a cornerstone for their revival in the draft with that top-10 pick.

“We would be extremely calculated in our decision and our contemplation of taking anyone in the top six quite honestly, because the people that land in the top six slots are difference-makers,” Dimitroff said. “If we deemed a difference-maker is there at any position, we would contemplate it.”