Few GMs are doing free agency better than Falcons’ Terry Fontenot

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When Arthur Smith’s job security came into question, Falcons fans deliberated on social media about the future of Terry Fontenot. The reality? Atlanta’s general manager was never in danger of losing his job.

“If you want to be in this role, you’re going to put more pressure on yourself than anyone ever does. You want honesty. You want deliberate, honest, direct. And that’s what our owner is. He’s very direct. And so that’s why I never even get concerned with outside narratives because Arthur Blank is a very direct communicator,” Fontenot told Tyler Dunne.

And for good reason. Fontenot has done nothing be succeed in his role. No GM bats 1.000, so of course there have been blunders, like drafting Jalen Mayfield, trading for Bryan Edwards, or signing Mack Hollins.

However, there are far more ‘plus’ acquisitions and moves than not. Drew Dalman, Tyler Allgeier, Clark Phillips, and DeMarrco Hellams were all Day 3 draft picks that have been critical to the team’s limited success in Fontenot’s tenure.

Jonnu Smith turned in a very productive year after being traded from New England. Who could forget about Cordarrelle Patterson’s back-to-back career years in 2021 and 2022 when the Falcons had nothing to spend in free agency?

All in all, Terry Fontenot has done very good things in Atlanta, but his most successful moves have come in free agency. The Falcons didn’t have the cap space to contend with some teams for the marquee free agents during his first two offseasons, but last year, there were no financial limitations.

Fontenot hit on nearly every single free agent, including going three-for-three with his multi-year deals. Jessie Bates turned in the best year of his career, while Kaden Elliss and David Onyemata heavily contributed to Atlanta’s defensive turnaround.

That doesn’t include the defense’s co-sack leaders — Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell. Obviously, there are a couple of misses, like Mack Hollins; however, Fontenot has overall done great work in free agency.

The Athletic recently highlighted this exact subject, “The goal was to quantify how much value teams actually create via free agency.”

Here’s their methodology:

“Using contract figures from Over the Cap, we determined the amount of cash spent on each of 897 free agent signings over the past four seasons — 2020 through 2023.”

“Unlike in baseball with Wins Above Replacement, there is not an ideal statistic to use for this. However, Pro Football Reference has a statistic called Approximate Value (AV)”

“Pro Football Reference describes AV as “an attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year (since 1960).” You can find a full explanation for how AV is calculated here.”

The Falcons came in ranked 12th (137) by total AV added from 2020 to 2023, which is pretty good, except when you consider the money spent. Atlanta spent $‎141,427,166 during that period. The Browns (136) came in right behind the Falcons but spent upwards of $60 million more.

So, the Athletic quantified Team rankings by AV per million during that same span, and the Falcons came in 4th. Here is how the top five came out:

  1. Packers: AV per million (1.81), cash spent ($‎21 million)
  2. Cowboys: AV per million (1.341), cash spent ($53.7 million)
  3. 49ers: AV per million (1.012), cash spent ($110.7 million)
  4. Falcons: AV per million (0.969), cash spent ($141.4 million)
  5. Texans: AV per million (0.899), cash spent ($205.9 million)

So, over the last four free agency cycles, in which Fontenot has only been involved in three, the Falcons have been more efficient with their dollars spent than every team other than three.

Moreover, the amount of cash spent is important. The Packers spending $21 million isn’t nearly as impressive as the Texans spending north of $200 million and getting that kind of return on their investment.

Terry Fontenot is among the best in the business in free agency. With more than $40 million to spend this offseason, fans should expect another impactful class of new players.

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

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