After a pretty terrible 2020 season, I’m already looking forward. This will be one of the most pivotal offseasons in Falcons history for multiple reasons. The cap sheet is bloated, they hold a very high pick in the draft, and the new regime will be responsible for navigating Matt Ryan and Julio Jones‘ twilight years. I’ll be breaking this down into three segments:
- Roster Moves
Keep in mind, it’s called a dream offseason for a reason. Some of these moves may be a bit of a stretch but try to have some fun with it. I’ll be getting into free agents in a later article, so be on the lookout!
GM – Ed Dodds, Indianapolis Colts Assistant GM
HC/OC – Joe Brady, Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator
DC – Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos Head Coach
Ed Dodds has been my guy for a while, and while Rick Smith is rumored to be the frontrunner in Atlanta — I can’t resist Dodds’ appeal. From Alex’s profile on Indy’s assistant GM:
According to Matt Miller, Ed Dodds is considered to be the best personnel evaluator in the NFL. He recently was John Schneider‘s right-hand man in Seattle and an integral part of their Super Bowl runs. Colts’ GM Chris Ballard poached Dodds from Schneider’s staff after earning five division titles and a Super Bowl title during his tenure.
In Seattle, Dodds was partially responsible for drafting Russell Wilson and assembling the legendary Legion of Boom. He has only augmented his reputation in Indianapolis by drafting Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard, both All-Pros at their respective position. But he also finds value outside of the high-valued rounds in the draft. Denico Autry and Kenny Moore were both acquired via free agency, proving Dodd’s ability to acquire talent through multiple mediums.
I’m giving Joe Brady the edge over Eric Bieniemy & Arthur Smith, and although I would be happy with any of the three — I broke down why Brady is my guy here. There are rumors that Arthur Blank is targeting Eric Bieniemy to pair with his former GM, John Dorsey. Brady would take a similar Shanahan/McVay role and just be his own offensive coordinator. Still, it would be interesting to see who he would pick as his QBs coach, especially if Atlanta selects Zach Wilson or Justin Fields in the draft. Brady has done great things with a pretty patchwork Carolina offense. Even in Christian McCaffrey‘s absence, Mike Davis has been great, and Teddy Bridgewater has DJ Moore looking like a superstar as well.
Vic Fangio may get one more ride in Denver as a head coach, but if he’s fired, he’s easily my first choice. Fangio was a key cog in developing a fantastic Bears defense, and he’s still respected as one of the great defensive coordinators in the NFL. Outside of Dirk Koetter, Atlanta’s defense is their most substantial problem. Pieces like Grady Jarrett, Mykal Walker, Deion Jones, AJ Terrell, and Foye Oluokun are quality ingredients, but someone needs to cook the food.
I think Atlanta addresses RB in the draft, but Brian Hill is fine on a cheap deal. Dennard has been pretty solid for less than $1 million on a one-year deal, and I would gladly bring him back at a similar price. Bringing back Younghoe Koo is a no-brainer. Matt Gono is fine as a swing tackle or fill-in guard. Jacob Tuioit-Mariner can be a solid role player on the D-Line on a cheap deal. Dirk Koetter’s neglect of Jaeden Graham drives me insane. I’d like to see him back with a new offensive coordinator.
Dante Fowler Jr. has been a miserable free-agent signing for the Falcons, and I broke down his remaining contract yesterday. He can be cut for $8 million in savings after June 1st, and I fully expect a new regime and cap-strapped franchise to make that move. He ranks near dead last for EDGE via PFF and only has two sacks for the Falcons. Allen Bailey is a good player, but he can be cut after June 1st for over $1 million in cap savings. Depending on how hard Atlanta is pinching pennies, I could see him being released. James Carpenter has been a pretty massive disappointment, and the Falcons can save over $4 million by cutting him this offseason. I fully expect Atlanta to address the interior offensive line in the draft with how Matt Hennessy and Matt Gono have looked in limited action.
If you can trade Ricardo Allen, do it. He still has some value and is a good player, but this is a loaded safety class in which Atlanta could be losing up to three players at the position. I’d rather draft two of Holland, Ford, Cisco, or Moehrig and try out Jaylinn Hawkins. Jake Matthews is interesting. Atlanta could save money by trading him, and if a Rashawn Slater or Liam Eichenberg is available in a very deep tackle class, Matthews makes a lot of sense to bump inside or acquire some picks for.
Like with Fowler, the Todd Gurley experiment was a failure. He’s had a few very critical mistakes that have cost the Falcons big time in the Red Zone, notably vs. Detroit and New Orleans. I don’t like paying running backs anyway. I love Alex Mack more than almost any other player on the team, but Atlanta probably can’t afford him, and he may retire. If he doesn’t, let him play for a competitor and get a comp pick next year. Matt Schaub will probably retire, but Atlanta will probably address QB at some point in the draft. Charles Harris was a waste of a 7th rounder in a trade, and Luke Stocker is replacement level. No idea why the Falcons have hung onto a run-blocking tight end this long when Koetter refuses to run the ball. Damontae Kazee is fine, but only on a CHEAP contract. I think he goes to free agency and gets a decent deal. Brandon Powell is replaceable. Keanu Neal is a gut-wrenching one. He’s played pretty well this year, but I don’t think Atlanta can afford him. It may be best to let him go with his injury history, but if he’s back at the right price, I won’t be complaining.
I have a few mock drafts here, and I’m always Captain Trade Down. However, it would be tough to resist pairing Zach Wilson with Joe Brady if he’s available. Here are three of my mock drafts — one chalk, one trade down, one trade up. Atlanta could pick anywhere from 3rd to 9th depending on Week 17, so I’ll post a final one after the season.
Currently, Atlanta would be selecting 4th overall. Being behind the Dolphins, I wouldn’t be shocked if they snag Penei Sewell. With Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith in play — they could pass on him for a WR, but I doubt it. Zach Wilson is my first choice, followed by Sewell. I just think they’re both that special. Matt Ryan isn’t the problem in Atlanta, but I think Zach Wilson will be an amazing pro, and he’d be learning from one of the best. Taking defense isn’t a horrible idea at all. I covered how fantastic Atlanta’s linebacker trio has been, but I’m still very adamant about moving to a 3-4 and snagging Micah Parsons. Patrick Surtain II would be nice to pair with AJ Terrell as well, especially in a trade down situation. I think this draft is crazy deep, especially at EDGE — so I’d like to move back and accumulate more picks, considering all of the Falcons needs.