The new regime’s only draft class was the first building block in Terry Fontenot’s brick-by-brick rebuild of the team. Through one season, it seems Kyle Pitts is the only sure thing from the 2021 class. Although, you’d assume a few more members of the class will continue to develop and turn into valuable pieces for the Falcons.
The fact is that Terry Fontenot doesn’t have two pennies to rub together, and Arthur Smith is working with spare parts. There are only a handful of building blocks left over from the former regime. Chris Lindstrom and Jake Matthews are great pieces to have for the future, but the rest of the offense is mediocre or aging.
The defense is even worse. With Grady Jarrett‘s future uncertain and Richie Grant‘s shaky first season, AJ Terrell is about the only piece on the defensive side of the ball that’s worth building around. However, that isn’t a slight at the rest of the defense, Terrell is just that good and deserves to be praised as the future in Atlanta.
His breakout campaign in 2021 put the league on notice and was predictably rewarded with All-Pro honors, even if he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. Terrell is a true budding star and has the trail of receivers to prove it — limiting Deebo Samuel, Jaylen Waddle, and Corey Davis to 0 yards in their respective matchups, 19 yards to Michael Gallup, and 24 yards to Stefon Diggs.
Obviously, that caliber of player at such a premium position isn’t going to be cheap. Terrell will seemingly play under his fifth-year option in 2024, but I’d be willing to bet the Falcons look to get an extension out of the way before he has the opportunity to hit the free-agent market. Denzel Ward’s record-breaking contract extension with the Browns that will pay him $100.5 million over five years will be a benchmark in negotiations between the two sides.
By the time Terrell is up for an extension, corners like Jaire Alexander will have already driven the price up for the Falcons. However, I’m here to tell you that Atlanta has a gem in Terrell. He will be worth every penny over the $20 million AAV he’ll command. He’s not only an All-Pro on the field, but Terrell also has intangibles that make an organization comfortable investing $100+ million. During a media session after the team’s first voluntary workout, Terrell told reporters one of his goals this year is to “be that ultimate leader on the defense.”
With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley gone, the Falcons desperately need leaders. Terrell is seemingly taking that responsibility seriously, which is more than encouraging and exactly what the Falcons want in their stars.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire