Familiarity a driving factor for Falcons free agent additions

dal220301 nfl combine1075

Free agent destinations can be appealing for a number of reasons. Every player values different factors, but the primary motivations will always remain the same — money, geography, chances of a Super Bowl, family life, and coaching familiarity.

NFL stands for a lot of things, but one that rings most true is Not For Long. Careers are short, players get seriously injured in the NFL, and those prime years create a tight window of opportunity for them to capitalize in free agency.

Geography also matters. Most people would choose the beach with 80-degree weather over the frozen tundra of Green Bay. Hell, state taxes play a role in a free agent’s decision. Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Washington have no income tax, whereas California and New York take a significant portion of paychecks.

Playing for a winner matters. Everyone wants to play for a chance at a ring. It’s not the most prevalent factor in a free agent’s decision making, but it is undoubtedly an element for older free agents. Family life is also important.

Last and certainly not least, familiarity with the coaching staff plays a role. Players want a sense of comfort and the accountability that comes with a coach they’ve had experience with.

For the Falcons, Atlanta is an excellent place to raise a family; the taxes aren’t terrible, but the connection to the coaching staff seems to be the driving factor for this crop of free agents.

“I didn’t really want to go somewhere I’d be put into a box,” Kaden Elliss said, via the team’s website. “[I can] do multiple things that I think allows me to impact a game in a more dominant way. So, knowing that I was going to [be reunited] with coach Nielsen, and knowing how he has coached defense, and how he has coached me personally the last four years was a huge factor.”

Elliss spent four seasons under Nielsen, who was most recently New Orleans’ co-defensive coordinator. Last year, he put up 68 total tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and two pass deflections and is looking to build on that breakout campaign in Atlanta, where he’ll be able to utilize his entire skillset.

“Some of the snaps may have logged me defensive end, some of them I may have been at a linebacker mugged up in the B gap,” Elliss said, via the team’s website. “That’s one of the things I kind of liked about coach Nielsen, is how he has that history in his background and how he helped put together the third-down plan over there [in New Orleans]. I was excited to follow him and work with him in this [defense].”

However, it’s not just Elliss. David Onyemata chose the Falcons for similar reasons.

“The numbers speak for [themselves]. If you go check on his resume, you see that,” Onyemata said of Nielsen, via the team’s website. “Still getting the chance to learn from such a great coach and person helps in the long term. It helps in the long term of a person’s career, and it just helps your game way better. As a player, I’m still learning. I’ve been with him for six years and I’m still learning. We’re still evolving.”

The numbers do speak for themselves. Since Ryan Nielsen joined the Saints staff in 2017, New Orleans recorded 281 sacks, which is the second most in the NFL over that span, and finished in the top 10 in sacks in five of the last six seasons.

The Falcons have placed emphasis on familiarity, and it continues this offseason. Jonnu Smith spent time in Tennessee with Arthur Smith, Onyemate and Elliss with Terry Fontenot and Nielsen in New Orleans. And in the two offseasons prior, the Falcons signed several former Bears. This regime seems to values connections more than anything.

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: