The Falcons had quite the eventful offseason. After grappling with salary cap constraints, the new leadership was finally able to dive into the free agency with a financial leeway, leading to an impressive array of player acquisitions. Alongside this, the team secured their third top-ten draft pick in as many cycles and managed to extend contracts for some of their key players. However, the changes were not confined to the roster alone; the coaching staff also underwent reshuffling following Dean Pees’ retirement. So, which of these moves has proven to be the most beneficial in the offseason?
The hiring of Ryan Nielsen
The former Saints co-defensive coordinator has been heralded for his ability to develop talent along the trenches and his intense demeanor. New Orleans’ defensive units have long been superior to Atlanta’s, but I would argue that production hinges more on the talent than the coach/schematics. With that being said, I’m excited to see what a new voice does for a much improved group on that side of the ball.
Jessie Bates III: The Crown Jewel of the Free Agent Class
The very first move of the Falcons’ free agency was inking Bates to a four-year, $64 million deal. His ability to play centerfield and quarterback the defense from the backend cannot be understated. He’ll be able to cover up some deficiencies underneath and help guide a young, developing Richie Grant. Moreover, his durability is an important note of this signing. The best ability is availability, and Bates is an iron man, never missing more than one game across his entire career. He’s a culture-changing acquisition.
Drafting Bijan Robinson
The Falcons made one of the more divisive selections in the draft by picking Robinson with the 8th pick, making him the highest-drafted running back since the Giants took Saquon Barkley 2nd in 2018. For an offense that ran the ball more than just about every other team, Robinson is going to be an immediate impact player. However, what makes this move arguably one of the best is his versatility and Arthur Smith’s positionless approach to designing and calling plays. Robinson will have an excellent chance to take home the Rookie of the Year award.
Extending Chris Lindstrom
Arguably the best guard in football is now the highest-paid player at his position. It might not sit right with some, but the Falcons have made it clear they want to reward their own, especially one as integral as Lindstrom has been in building the culture around the organization. It locks up one of the few All-Pros on the team for much of his prime, fortifying the right side of the line of scrimmage, where the Falcons were widely successful running the ball. It sets a precedent that if you perform in Atlanta, you’ll be compensated appropriately.
Upgrading the Defensive Front
I cheated on this one. It wasn’t just one move; the entire defensive front was overhauled, and it will be the most impactful move of the entire offseason. Not only did the Falcons add elite talent next to Grady Jarrett in David Onyemata and Calais Campbell, but the depth of the group has been drastically improved. After playing a prominent role in 2022, Ta’Quon Graham will play a reserve role behind Campbell, Onyemata, and Campbell. Moreover, Eddie Goldman returns from retirement.
That doesn’t even include the additions along the edges. Lorenzo Carter returns after a more than respectable 202 campaign. Bud Dupree joins in hopes of earning another lucrative, long-term free agent deal next offseason. Then, there are the former draft picks of Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. It’s an incredibly deep rotation along the defensive front and will be the biggest reason for the entire defense’s turnaround in 2023.
What’s the best offseason move in your opinion?
Photographer: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire