The Falcons have been quite active this offseason. They’ve signed marquee free agents and even traded for former ones while locking up their own. Jessie Bates III inked a $64+ million deal; Jonnu Smith was once a highly sought-after free agent and was acquired from the Patriots. Chris Lindstrom is the highest-paid guard in the league, and there have been several other impactful additions.
Chiefly, the club added worthwhile talent at all three levels of the defense. The aforementioned All-Pro Bates should solidify the backend, while former Saints David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss will bolster the defensive front. Elliss’ role hasn’t been defined, but he can impact games in a variety of ways off and on the line of scrimmage; Onyemata should alleviate Grady Jarrett of double teams and apply pressure from the interior.
The Falcons have also filled a number of other holes. Kaleb McGary returns on a team-friendly deal to be the right tackle. Keith Smith is back in Atlanta, and Bradley Pinion garnered a three-year contract. Taylor Heinicke will be Desmond Ridder‘s backup. Mike Hughes was seemingly brought in to replace Isaiah Oliver, and the Falcons addressed the roster’s depth and special teams with the additions of Tae Davis, Mack Hollins, and Cornell Armstrong.
There are still a few areas that need to be addressed, though. The left guard position requires starting-caliber talent, and they need another able-bodied defender for the defensive line rotation. However, the most significant roster need might not get filled in 2023 — a dominant pass rusher.
No, quarterback isn’t the team’s most glaring need. It is unquestionably the most important position in all sports, and until NFL teams find a franchise signal caller, winning a Super Bowl is much more difficult. However, Desmond Ridder might be the answer. I’m not saying he is or isn’t, but Atlanta might have a quarterback that can lead them to a postseason run. His physical skill limits his ceiling, but Ridder can certainly become an above-average thrower in this league, and that’s enough to win a Super Bowl with the right roster around him.
However, teams rarely win championships without a pass rush, specifically a single dominant force. It’s not necessary, but having a reliable pass rusher that can take over games is the second-most valuable player in today’s NFL, and the Falcons don’t have that guy. They will not be able to fill that void this offseason, either.
There are absolutely no inspiring options on the free agent market, but that changes next cycle. Below are players that are currently set to hit free agency in 2024:
Those are difference-makers. The Falcons also don’t really have any internal candidates. Arnold Ebeketie is the clubs’ best option, but to expect him to turn into a dominant force in his second NFL season is asinine.
The NFL Draft is just as barren. Will Andeson has that type of ability, but the Falcons will be out of reach unless they trade up. Tyree Wilson, Myles Murphy, Nolan Smith, and BJ Ojulari are enticing prospects but won’t contribute at a game-altering level in 2023.
If the Falcons are going to change their pass rushing fortunes in 2023, it will be a group effort. They won’t be getting double-digit sacks from any player this year.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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