Five things the Falcons have left to do this offseason

NFL: NOV 05 Vikings at Falcons

It is officially draft season, and the Atlanta Falcons are gearing up for the most highly anticipated campaign in years with Raheem Morris and Kirk Cousins in the fold.

No longer will poor quarterback play be an excuse for underwhelming results. Arthur Blank and Terry Fontenot signaled to the rest of the league they believe they can be contenders with Cousins.

Morris met with his team for the very first time yesterday for volunteer workouts, and the season will be here before we know it, but there’s still plenty to do this offseason.

The NFL Draft

We are about three weeks away from the NFL Draft, and the Falcons own four top 100 selections, thanks to the Calvin Ridley trade that netted an extra third-round pick. Here is the Falcons’ full allotment of picks:

  • Round 1, Pick 8
  • Round 2, Pick 43
  • Round 3, Pick 74
  • Round 3, Pick 79 (from JAX)
  • Round 4, Pick 109
  • Round 5, Pick 143
  • Round 6, Pick 187
  • Round 6, Pick 197 (via CLE)

Create More Cap Space

According to Over The Cap, the Falcons have around $6.2 million in cap space. OTC also projects Atlanta’s incoming rookie class to cost north of $12 million, so there’s at least a need to create more cap space for the upcoming draft class, but there’s also a need to create more flexibility for additions to the defense because it’s certainly still a ‘to-do’ for this Falcons team. Here are moves the Falcons can make to create more cap space:

Figures from OverTheCap:

  • Restructure Jake Matthews contract: (Saved: $9,526,667)
  • Restructure Grady Jarrett contract: (Saved: $7,520,000)
  • Restructure Chris Lindstrom contract: (Saved: $9,100,000)
  • Restructure Jessie Bates contract: (Saved: $7,916,667)
  • Release Lorenzo Carter: (Saved: $3,750,000)
  • Release Mike Hughes: (Saved: $3,095,000)
  • Total Savings: $40,908,334

Bolster The Defense

The Falcons have a championship-caliber offense with Kirk Cousins and Darnell Mooney in the fold, but this defense has more questions than answers. The first and third levels of the defense could use more talent. The edge unit, in particular, needs a lot of TLC. The Falcons are returning nine total sacks from that group — six from Arnold Ebiketie, three from Lorenzo Carter, and none from DeAngelo Malone.

The team isn’t even sticking with the status quo. Its co-sack leaders — Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree — are free agents. The Falcons would look a lot better with both of them back in Atlanta, but it’s still not enough for a team with championship aspirations. The same can be said for the secondary. It’s part of the pass rush, and there’s a lot of hope and prayers in the defensive backfield outside of A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates.

The Falcons need to add multiple bodies to the edge unit and cornerback room.

Extend A.J. Terrell

It’s only a matter of time before an A.J. Terrell contract extension is announced. The Falcons made Chris Lindstrom the highest paid offensive guard in football last offseason, and I anticipate a similar deal for his teammate. Terrell is likely looking at a four or five-year contract worth anywhere from $19-20 million in average annual salary. That would put him in the same realm as Jaylon Johnson, La’Jarius Sneed, Trevon Diggs, Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, and Jalen Ramsey, making Terrell one of the 10 highest paid corners in the league.

Exercise Kyle Pitts’ Fifth-Year Option

This is even more of a no-brainer than Terrell’s extension. Kyle Pitts broke onto the scene as a rookie, putting up 1,026 yards on 68 receptions en route to a Pro Bowl bid but hasn’t sniffed that level of success since then. His next two seasons were marred by a season-ending injury and shoddy quarterback play. Over the 2022 and 2023 campaigns, Pitts only recorded 1,023 yards on 81 receptions.

He’s expected to be healthier in 2024, another year removed from the knee injury. Zac Robinson is regarded as one of the brightest young offensive minds in the game, and Kirk Cousins is now in the fold. There’s reason to be optimistic about Kyle Pitts’ future in Atlanta, which means the Falcons should be exercising his fifth-year option.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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