The Falcons are still making minor personnel tweaks after signing veteran free agent linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and trading for receiver Bryan Edwards last week. Even though they’re quickly solidifying the roster, the June 1 trade designation is approaching. Bringing in a starting-caliber linebacker sparks questions regarding Deion Jones‘ future in Atlanta, who would, in a perfect world, be traded after June 1 to maximize the cap savings.
Regardless, we’re in the final chapters of the offseason, and national pundits are very fond of the Falcons’ moves this spring. Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus gave Atlanta one of the better offseason grades.
Offseason Grade: B+
Free Agency Grade: Below Average
Draft Grade: A
On one hand, the Falcons probably downgraded at quarterback in a fairly significant way and are eating a record-setting amount of dead money on the salary cap to do so ($40.5 million, per Over The Cap). On the other hand, once they created the situation by openly courting Deshaun Watson, it was time to rip the bandage off and begin a rebuilding process for a franchise that should have begun when the new regime was hired.
From that latter perspective, the Falcons secured a solid bridge quarterback in Marcus Mariota and a rookie in the third round who could push to start sooner rather than later in Desmond Ridder. Their draft was one of the best in the NFL by any franchise. Ridder had a 90.7 PFF grade this past season for Cincinnati and had a year not dissimilar to Kenny Pickett’s in terms of building his draft stock. They also drafted a new No. 1 receiver in Drake London and defenders who should start and make an impact from the get-go, such as Arnold Ebiketie and Troy Andersen. The pathway is also clear for running back Tyler Allgeier to assume a major role in the backfield alongside a re-signed Cordarrelle Patterson.
Trading away a high-level quarterback is rarely a good move, but it may have been a necessary destructive step for this team to ultimately move forward long-term, and so their grade gets a little boost in that light.
Obviously, it’s very challenging to determine how successful an offseason is so soon. Perspective is everything. In a few years, we could be singing a much different tune.
Falcons fans are probably higher on this year’s draft class than the regime’s first, but development is the other side of this double-edged sword. The Falcons have to cultivate the in-house talent before dipping their toes in free agency, which will surely come next offseason. Atlanta is set to have as much cap space as any team heading into the 2023 season. That will either be the turning point for the Falcons or the reason they’re stuck in neutral. So far, Terry Fontenot has made the most of what little cap dollars he’s had, but next offseason is the actual test.
Photographer: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire