In the first offseason of the Falcons’ new regime, Terry Fontenot made few splashes in free agency, and there’s a reason for that. Fontenot and Arthur Smith are settling into their new roles, which for Fontenot includes assessing current and future talent, establishing communication and trust, building a high-level staff, and creating stakeholder alignment — i.e., developing a new culture.
Assessing talent is critical to learning a new organization, and it’s vital to avoid shortcuts by relying on word of mouth. A full, comprehensive assessment of a roster can prove useful in analyzing current talent and developing a long-term plan. First-year general managers and head coaches must be adept at judging and maneuvering current and future players.
Fontenot isn’t just responsible for putting together the very best roster he can for Smith, but he’s also piecing together the entire machine of an organization how he sees fit. With so many different moving parts, it would’ve been foolish to sign expensive multi-year deals with any free agents this year. Instead, it made sense to sign a plethora of one-year deals.
Fontenot had multiple things working against him this offseason, including a lack of talent on the roster and a salary cap mess. He had to save money while also attempting to improve the personnel. He began by trimming the fat off the roster, cutting Ricardo Allen, James Carpenter, and Allen Bailey. Then he immediately signed a flurry of veterans to one-year deals — Brandon Copeland, Erik Harris, Barkevious Mingo, Fabian Moreau, and Mike Davis (the only multi-year deal given out this offseason).
Furthermore, Fontenot would go on to sign Josh Andrews, Steven Means, Jonathan Bullard, Duron Harmon, Cordarrelle Patterson, and A.J. McCarron to one-year deals to round out the bulk of the roster. Obviously, I’m missing a few one-year contracts, given Fontenot has to fill out a 90-man roster, but these are the ones that will most likely make the 53-man.
Rounding out the roster to fill as many holes as possible before the NFL draft is a strategy that allows Fontenot to take the best player on his big board regardless of position. In the next couple of years, his strategy will surely change. As the roster reaches striking distance of a Super Bowl, Fontenot will sign more lucrative deals with free agents instead of stop-gap players. The timeline the Falcons are on right now warrants these cheap one-year deals, because Atlanta isn’t close to competing for a Super Bowl. Expect a steady increase in allocation of funds to free agency the further we get into Fontenot’s tenure.