Don’t look now, but the Falcons are an ascending NFL franchise again. After years of mediocrity following a magical Super Bowl run, the new regime in town might actually be building a winning program.
Arthur Smith outperformed expectations last year, netting seven wins and remaining in the playoff race until the end of the season. Now, the front office is out from underneath a mountain of dead money and bad contracts, enabling Terry Fontenot to spend significant cap dollars in free agency.
The roster is in great shape. The offense was surprisingly productive last year, and nearly all 11 starters are returning, except for Marcus Mariota, which should be addition by subtraction. More importantly, the defense was completely overhauled.
On the first day of free agency, Fontenot inked long-term deals with Jessie Bates III, David Onyemata, and Kaden Elliss, but hevdidn’t stop there. The Falcons GM would acquire a number of others — Eddie Goldman, Mikes Hughes, Jeff Okudah, Bud Dupree, etc. — in one way or the other; however, the most intriguing acquisition was Calais Campbell.
The former All-Pro defender chose the Falcons over a pair of Super Bowl contenders in the Bills and Ravens, as well as playoff hopefuls in the Jets and Jaguars. That is pretty unusual for a 37-year-old mercenary. Typically, a player of his caliber likely headed for the Hall of Fame would be ring chasing. Joining the Falcons at this stage in his career was shocking, but as the layers are peeled back, the picture is becoming clear — Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot might be building something special.
Calais Campbell revealed that despite Aaron Rodgers’ efforts to get him to New York, what is happening in Atlanta was more enticing. Moreover, an interesting facet of the Falcons’ recruiting efforts involved Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot sitting down with Campbell and watching film on Desmond Ridder.
Thank you for listening to the whole thing & a key point. Campbell said, “I watched tape with Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot & the offensive coordinator came in & we just watched tape on (Desmond Ridder) & they made me a believer that he has the tools,” in his visit BEFORE signing. https://t.co/rL2czttbrN
— JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) April 21, 2023
The third-round pick is set to take over as the Falcons’ signal caller following an encouraging four-game mini-audition to end the 2022 campaign, but there have been many doubts about his viability. I am not one to jump to conclusions; however, the stories in and around Flowery Branch point to Ridder working out. We’ll have to temper expectations, but there’s reason to be excited for Falcons football again.
Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
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