The Falcons organizational direction is unclear

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Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith spoke to members of the media Tuesday in Indianapolis as the NFL Combine approaches. The two men provided a bevy of answers (or lack thereof) to several important questions regarding the Falcons offseason and future.

They touched on Calvin Ridley’s status, Cordarrelle Patterson’s impending free agency, the prospect of trading Matt Ryan, and many more gripping topics for Falcons fans. One that really struck me was Fontenot’s comments on the team’s specific approach moving forward. Or should I say the lack of commitment to a singular approach?

Aaron Freeman of Locked on Falcons kept everyone up-to-date on the media session, noting a particularly bothersome comment from Fontenot on wanting to win now while also rebuilding the roster.

Based on the team’s decisions leading up to the 2021 season, the Falcons clearly didn’t go one way or the other. Fontenot didn’t select prospects that could help the Falcons win now, outside of Kyle Pitts. The front office didn’t adjust contracts to create maximum cap space to sign difference-making free agents. Yet, they claim to be in a win-now mode; it just doesn’t make sense.

The Falcons are approximately $7 million over the league’s salary cap, so there are cap-creating measures on the horizon. Fontenot didn’t elaborate much on how they will create that cap space, though.¬†With such messy financials, it is befuddling why he won’t commit to saying they’re in the midst of a rebuild. “We have some big numbers associated with four players, particularly our quarterback,” Fontenot said.¬†

Matt Ryan will cost the Falcons $48.7 million against the cap, which would be the highest cap hit in league history. If a team has a quarterback costing close to $50 million, which is nearly 25% of their total cap, they’ll never be competitive without someone like Patrick Mahomes under center. It is counterintuitive for Fontenot not to want to make decisions that’ll cost the team in the future but still claim they’re in the business of winning now.

I mean, look in the mirror. The Falcons aren’t close to winning ANYTHING right now. Fontenot even echoed those sentiments. “Some teams feel like they’re one player away and make a big splash in free agency and spend a lot of money; we’re not at that point,” he said.

There has to be some level of self-reflection. To maximize future years, the Falcons have to realize their assets will depreciate each season. They must recoup draft capital while they still can and embrace the rebuild, but Fontenot clearly doesn’t see it that way, and it’s evident how unclear the direction of this franchise has become.

“We’re trying to have our cake and eat it too,” Fontenot said. “We want to be smart and don’t want to make decisions that will hurt us in future years, but we also want to build the best team that we can. So we’re gonna work hard to be smart and calculate in our decision making, but we have to improve the roster this offseason and add competition.”

Working through free agency and the draft with the future as the primary concern and winning in the present as a close secondary concern will never work with a $50 million quarterback. Fontenot is straddling the fence, and the decisions he’s made since becoming GM have clearly shown he’s working with one hand tied behind his back, but things will be a lot easier if he commits to one path or the other.

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