Free agency is just a couple of weeks away, and the Falcons are currently between $25-30 million over the projected salary cap. Restructures will surely happen as well as a few more cuts. That will give Atlanta some money to spend in free agency, but they’ll have to use it wisely in an attempt to patch up as many of the holes on the roster as they can.
As we sit here today, the Falcons’ most glaring needs are on the defensive line and in the secondary; however, they also need to sure up the offensive line and add at least two running backs — the latter of which will be the subject matter of this article. Atlanta will surely draft at least one running back come April and possibly multiple. Still, if they don’t opt to use an early pick on a talent like Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or Javonte Williams, it’s likely they will also need to bring in at least one veteran. Given the Falcons won’t want to spend too much money on the position, there aren’t many exciting options, but Leonard Fournette is an intriguing one.
The fourth pick in the 2017 draft watched his stock plummet after a falling out with the Jacksonville Jaguars and wound up settling for a one-year deal with the Buccaneers. In Tampa Bay, he wasn’t utilized nearly as much as he would have liked, appearing in 13 games (3 starts) and carrying the ball just 97 times for 367 yards. That all changed once the postseason arrived.
In the playoffs, Fournette turned into the Buccaneers workhouse, nearly equaling his rushing yards total in the regular season on a fraction of the carries and scoring four times. That will certainly attract some suitors this offseason, and the Falcons should be among them.
The former LSU Tiger is just a year removed from carrying the ball for over 1,100 yards and 4.3 YPC behind a porous Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line in a miserable offense. He’s only 26-years-old and made it pretty apparent during the playoffs that his demise has been greatly over-exaggerated. Not to mention, he’s an ideal fit in Arthur Smith‘s offense.
Running the ball may not have been very important to Dirk Koetter, but it is imperative for Arthur Smith. Having a good offensive line and a running back that can make the most of every opportunity will be key to the Falcons re-establishing themselves as one of the top offenses in the league. Fournette can do a lot of the things Henry can do; there’s a reason why he was taken 41 picks higher in the same draft, and remember, Henry never eclipsed the 1,100 yard-mark before Smith took over the play-calling.
I’m not saying Fournette is bound to become the league’s next 2,000-yard rusher if he comes to Atlanta, but I do believe this could be a perfect marriage for both sides. From the Falcons perspective, Fournette is a cost-efficient option that fills a glaring hole in their offense. From Fournette’s perspective, Atlanta, particularly with Arthur Smith calling the shots, could be the perfect place for him to revitalize his stock and earn a much more lucrative contract next offseason.
Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire
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