Falcons News: Recapping a busy weekend in Atlanta

NFL: SEP 17 Packers at Falcons

If you’re like me and weren’t glued to your phone over the weekend, you missed a lot of Falcons news, so let’s catch up.

Terry Fontenot made a couple of free agent additions, bringing back a pair of valuable backups in Storm Norton and KhaDarel Hodge. The former played 14 games last year as the offense’s swing tackle, starting three games in place of Kaleb McGary. Norton is a capable reserve lineman who struggles at times, but for a swing tackle, that’s typical.

The latter bolsters a receiver group that was thin before the start of free agency. Hodge had a decent season in 2023, recording career highs in receptions (14) and receiving yards (232). He’s a solid depth piece that could be called on in a pinch, but he shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a fourth or fifth option.

The Falcons added even more speed to the receiver room in the form of veteran Ray-Ray McCloud. With the 49ers the past two seasons, the 27-year-old proved to be a reliable return man, which may be important if Avery Williams isn’t back fully healthy this year.

At best, he could be a gadget option for Zac Robinson. McCloud had a combined 26 catches for 378 yards and a touchdown the past two years but reeled in 39 catches for 277 yards in a larger role with the Steelers the year prior.

Now, for the two biggest storylines from over the weekend — Desmond Ridder and Kirk Cousins.

The Falcons have officially traded Ridder to the Cardinals in exchange for Rondale Moore. The former third-round pick ultimately fell out of favor in Atlanta because of his turnovers. It’s that simple.

He threw 12 interceptions and lost seven fumbles to rank fifth among all quarterbacks with 19 turnovers in 2023, but he only started 13 games and led the league in red zone turnovers. The Falcons lost several games directly from his mistakes in the red zone.

I figured Ridder would stick on as a backup in favor of cutting Taylor Heinicke because of his rookie contract, but it seems the new staff sees the veteran as a more viable backup behind Kirk Cousins.

Moore, who the Falcons got in return for Ridder, has a year left on his rookie deal and is coming off a season where he put up 352 yards and a touchdown on 40 receptions. The former second-round pick from the 2021 NFL draft hasn’t lived up to expectations, recording just a hair of 1,200 yards and four touchdowns during his three seasons in Arizona. The hope is that a change of scenery will benefit Moore.

And last but certainly not least, the NFL is looking into potential tampering by the Falcons related to the free-agent signings of Kirk Cousins. Teams aren’t allowed to have contact with players during the legal tampering period that started last Monday, but Cousins alluded to already meeting with people from Flowery Branch.

“There’s great people here, and it’s not just the football team. I mean, I’m looking at the support staff. Meeting, calling, yesterday, our head athletic trainer, talking to our head of P.R., I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got good people here. And that’s exciting to be a part of,’” Cousins said in his introductory press conference.

The Dolphins were stripped of a first-round pick and fourth-round pick for their role in recruiting Tom Brady to Miami before he agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but I’m not sure if that’s quite at the same level as this situation.

I’m not sure what the league has in store for the Falcons, but it’s probably safe to assume some sort of punishment is on its way.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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