The Falcons are gearing up for training camp in what will be fierce competition for those fringe roster players. The club has completely overhauled the roster since the new regime took over, with the most substantial changes coming this offseason.
Armed with the second most cap space entering free agency, Atlanta made a number of splash signings, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. They also made a divisive draft pick, among other moves. So, let’s break down the offseason thus far.
|Free agency signings||Free agency losses|
|S Jessie Bates III||WR Olamide Zaccheaus (PHI)|
|OT Kaleb McGary||LB Rashaan Evans (FA)|
|DL David Onyemata||TE Anthony Firkser (NE)|
|EDGE Lorenzo Carter||WR Bryan Edwards (NO)|
|LB Kaden Elliss||OL Chuma Edoga (DAL)|
|EDGE Bud Dupree||QB Marcus Mariota (PHI)|
|WR Mack Hollins||CB Isaiah Oliver (SF)|
|QB Tyler Heinicke||S Erik Harris (FA)|
|CB Mike Hughes||LB Nick Kwiatkoski (PIT)|
|DL Calais Campbell||DL Abdullah Anderson (WAS)|
|DL Eddie Goldman|
Free agency recap
Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith worked quickly at the opening bell, inking deals with Jessie Bates III, Kaden Elliss, and David Onyemata on the first day of free agency.
Bates, the prize of the class, garnered the most lucrative deal the club handed out. Elliss and Onyemata each signed for three years, making around $7 million and $11.6 million per year, respectively. The Falcons were keen on finding versatile impact players at all three levels of the defense.
However, they weren’t done. Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree would also choose Atlanta over what many considered more attractive free agent destinations.
The Falcons loaded up on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, and it should result in a much improved unit as a whole.
2023 Draft class
R1 (8): RB Bijan Robinson
R2 (38): OT Matthew Bergeron
R3 (75): DE Zach Harrison
R4 (113): CB Clark Phillips III
R7 (224): S DeMarcco Hellams
R7 (225): OG Jovaughn Gwyn
2023 NFL Draft recap
The most controversial selection of the entire 2023 draft was Bijan Robinson at the 8th pick. However, with added context, it makes a bit more sense for the Falcons.
Atlanta’s run heavy offense places added value on the running back position, and even though 2021 fifth-rounder Tyler Allgeier broke a franchise rookie record, Robinson will only make his counterpart better, given the pair’s ability to spare the other’s body.
Moreover, Robinson is better described as an offensive weapon than just a running back. He’s a can’t-miss prospect whose intangibles are somehow more impressive than his tangible assets.
In the second round, the Falcons likely found an immediate starter in Matthew Bergeron. A college tackle at Syracuse, Bergeron will slot in at left guard but could potentially develop into a pro tackle in the wake of Jake Matthews‘ future retirement.
Zach Harrison was an interesting pick. He was a top recruit that never really developed at Ohio State, which is known for pumping out elite talent at the position. Still, there’s plenty to like physically. If he can refine his craft under the guidance of Ryan Nielsen and Calais Campbell, there’s reason to be optimistic about his path.
Clark Phillips is a personal favorite because of how he plays the game. Despite being limited physically, he plays with a ton of tenacity and is a ball hawk. You can never have enough guys who can cover in today’s NFL, and Phillips is a future nickel defender in this league.
Nobody is expecting the Falcons to compete for a Super Bowl in 2023, but they should expect them to compete in a terrible NFC South. The Saints are their stiffest competition; however, New Orleans’ roster has been in a slow decline ever since Drew Brees retired.
The Falcons are superior in the trenches for the first time in what feels like forever, and though there are question marks surrounding Atlanta’s quarterback position, New Orleans’ coaching staff will severely limit Derek Carr‘s ability to win games.
Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael will hold the Saints back. The key for the Falcons is Desmond Ridder to elevate his player and control the offense. Don’t play outside of yourself, and the club should be able to secure its first home playoff game since 2016.
Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire