In Terry Fontenot’s first two offseasons, he had next to no money to spend in free agency as he dealt with the mess left behind by the former regime. However, he did make the most of what little money he did have, most notably signing Cordarrelle Patterson, who has put together his best seasons since joining the Falcons.
However, that changed in year three. This past offseason, Terry Fontenot had gobs of cash to spend, and he allocated most of it to the defensive side of the ball, resulting in a new-look Falcons defense that is already delivering substantial dividends.
In Week 1, Jessie Bates — the crown jewel of Atlanta’s loaded free agent class — forced three turnovers on his way to NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He followed that up with another productive outing against the Packers. Through two weeks, he is PFF’s second-highest-graded defender in the NFL, behind only Micah Parsons of the Cowboys.
Bates isn’t the only member of the Falcons free agent class balling out early in the season, though. The other highest-paid acquisition, defensive tackle David Onyemata, has also made his presence known through two weeks. He’s been a disruptive force next to Grady Jarrett on the interior of the defensive line, resulting in the eighth-highest grade of any defensive player in the league.
The highest-graded defenders after Week 2 ⭐ pic.twitter.com/PsOPdWrsAw
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2023
When Terry Fontenot joined the Falcons after serving as the Assistant GM for the Saints, he was heralded for his ability to find talent where others were not looking. He showed that early on in his tenure, but in order to build a contender, you must hit on the players that you hand the big bucks.
It’s too early to make sweeping judgments, but if the first two weeks are any indication, the Falcons spent the bulk of their money very wisely, and they’ll have more money to lure free agents to Atlanta next offseason as well.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon