Falcons make a flurry of moves at the start of free agency

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The legal tampering window opened at noon Eastern Time on Monday, and the Falcons were one of the most active team in the league at the start of free agency. Let’s recap what was an incredibly successful day for the Dirty Birds and Terry Fontenot.

A lot of these deals will not become finalized until the start of the new league year on Wednesday. These are agreed to in principle. 

Falcons trade for Jonnu Smith

The day kicked off with a trade out of left field. Atlanta acquired Jonnu Smith in a deal that sent the Patriots a seventh-rounder in a salary dump. Fortunately, the Falcons have more than enough cap space to handle Smith’s contract, but to make this move even sweeter, it was reported the two sides have already agreed to a re-worked contract that will make it even more team-friendly.

Chris Lindstrom agrees to a five-year, $105 million extension

Shortly after that bombshell, an even bigger story broke. The Falcons agreed to an extension with Chris Lindstrom that will pay the All-Pro guard $105 million over five years, making him the highest paid player at his position. After a campaign that ended with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors, the former first-round pick gets his lucrative contract extension, which also created a large chunk of cap space for the team.

Falcons sign free agent DL David Onyemata

Atlanta also made a big time free agent signing in former Saints defender David Onyemata; it is a three-year deal worth $35 million with $24.5 million guaranteed. He reunites with his former position coach and current Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen in Atlanta, as well as Terry Fontenot. He’ll join Grady Jarrett to form one of the most talented interior defensive lines we’ve seen in Atlanta in a long time. It’s a great deal; Onyemata is a very good defender in most facets of the game, rarely misses time, and fits the timeline of the club.

Pair of key contributors return to Atlanta

The Falcons made a significant addition by signing Onyemata, but it’s the signings of Bradley Pinion and Keith Smith that tickle my peach. The lesser-thought-about signings are just as important as the marquee names.

Bradley Pinion was one of the better punters in 2022 and was rewarded with a three-year deal worth $8.65 million. He had one of the best years of his career in 2022, averaging 45.9 yards per punt and 41.2 net yards per punt with 23 punts inside the 20-yard line.

Moreover, Keith Smith — the Falcons fullback — was re-signed to a one-year deal. He was a special teams stalwart and is back for his fifth season in Atlanta and 10th total. He played various roles in Arthur Smith’s offense, including lining up as a tight end. He plays a thankless role, but the Falcons offense depends on his presence.

Falcons sign #1 free agent target

To cap off an extraordinarily productive day, the Falcons inked the top safety available in Jessie Bates III to a four-year deal worth $64.02 million. It makes the All-Pro the fourth-highest paid player at his position, and it couldn’t have made more sense. Bates will captain the defense from the secondary and help Richie Grant along the way. He’s versatile enough to do anything Ryan Nielsen asks of him, and most importantly, he’s incredibly durable. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic day for the Falcons’ front office!

Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

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