The legal tampering period for the NFL began on March 13th, but NFL free agency officially kicked off on March 15th. With the Falcons having the second most cap space in the league, they swiftly filled a lot of holes with multiple interesting pieces — some better than others. PFF gave the Falcons a decent grade, but I think it was a little low.
I’m here to give each Falcons signing a way-too-early grade of my own, and grade the class as a whole. All figures are via Over The Cap. Defense and special teams is up next.
QB Taylor Heinicke — 2 Years, $14 Million ($6.32 Million Guaranteed)
I see a lot of pushback for this deal, but it kind of feels like the going rate for a backup quarterback, and Heinicke is a solid player. He can push Desmond Ridder in camp — he went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in a playoff game. I think he has a little Brett Favre lite in his game, and his contract is pretty easy to come off of. I don’t understand the hate for this move, especially with uncertainty at quarterback. I had the Falcons picking up Heinicke in my offseason overhaul series at around the same value — so maybe I’m biased, but this was a good signing.
FB Keith Smith — 1 Year, $2.35 Million ($625k Guaranteed)
This is a solid deal for Smith. I thought Parker Hesse might slide into this role, but Smith has been a staple of the Falcons for a while and plays his role well on a run heavy team.
WR Mack Hollins — 1 Year, $2.5 Million
Hollins wasn’t the sexiest pickup, but this was a pretty poor class for wide receivers, which really sucks in a year when the Falcons finally had money to spend for the first time in a decade. I think he’s a fine system fit; he had some big games in 2022, and he’ll make for a fine WR2 at the price. I still expect the Falcons to draft another wide receiver.
TE Parker Hesse — 1 Year, $940k
Another value deal that I like; Hesse was a good role player last year in a tight end room that needs bodies. With John FitzPatrick and Kyle Pitts hopefully fully healthy, Hesse should still be able to carve out plenty of valuable snaps.
TE Jonnu Smith (Trade, Restructured)
At first, I wasn’t a fan of this deal, but after seeing Smith’s new deal, I like the move. Smith now carries a $6 million cap hit in 2023 and a $9M cap hit in 2024 with just $2.5M guaranteed. That’s a pretty solid price tag for a guy who found the endzone eight times the last time he was in an Arthur Smith offense. I didn’t think Dalton Schultz would only command a one-year deal for $9 million, or I would have preferred him over Smith, but hindsight is 20/20, and I can’t really knock the Falcons for it.
OG Chris Lindstrom — 5 Years, $105 Million
There’s been a lot of debate over this deal, but I don’t think it was an overpay. All-Pro Guards don’t grow on trees, and before last season, the Falcons have had a pitiful offensive line. The alternative of waiting another year and potentially paying more or letting Lindstrom hit free agency was unacceptable. Good teams pay franchise players, especially franchise players critical to protecting a young quarterback in a run-heavy scheme.
OT Kaleb McGary — 3 Years, $34.5 Million
Possibly the best move on this entire list, we saw some potentially inferior tackles get much more money than McGary. I think this was a bit of a comfort thing. He had his best season as a run blocker alongside Chris Lindstrom and cemented himself as a key piece of this offensive line. Hopefully, 2022 isn’t an outlier, and if it isn’t, this was one of the big steals of the offseason for the price and fit.
The Falcons still have some needs and money to spend, but overall, you can survive with this roster going into the 2023 NFL draft. I’d like to see a premium guard option or Elijah Wilkinson brought back, along with another wide receiver. I’d also welcome Olamide Zaccheaus back. They didn’t make any massive splashes, but they locked up the core of their offensive line and added some contributors. Two weeks in, we’ll see how the Falcons move forward, but I think they get a passing grade on the offensive side of the ball.
Offensive Grade: B
Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
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