Nobody truly believes in the Falcons outside of Atlanta. USA Today boldly predicted the franchise would be picking No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the Falcons’ new regime shouldn’t be judged too harshly in 2022.
The organization has the least amount of cap dollars allocated to active players on the roster and nearly $20 million less than the second-to-last Browns. Terry Fontenot has essentially been working with one hand tied behind his back, ridding the Falcons’ cap sheet of the bloated, overpriced contracts he inherited from the former regime.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones account for almost all of the team’s dead money, which totals more than any other team. Until there are no remnants of the Thomas Dimitroff-era contracts, everything this new regime does should be taken with a grain of salt. But that’s not stopping the people inside Flowery Branch from exuding confidence.
The Falcons’ front office has done a fantastic job acquiring the right players, the ones who want to be in Atlanta. And the coaching staff has done an equally impressive job providing a competitive environment, regardless of where on the depth chart the battle lies.
Veteran Casey Hayward questioned why the Falcons couldn’t surprise people and compete following the Ryan trade. Grady Jarrett, one of the team’s leaders, explained why he thinks the team is closer than people realize. Most recently, it’s second-year phenom Kyle Pitts telling reporters not to underestimate the Falcons, even going as far as to say the team can compete for a Super Bowl. But the role players also echo similar sentiments.
“I feel like we’re a playoff team,” Olamide Zaccheaus said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We just (have) to put everything together. Really start fast at the beginning of the season and not get into a hole. I just feel like as a team, we can shock a lot of people.”
The coaching staff is even walking with its chest out. Dean Pees’ unit ranked in the bottom five of almost every single defensive metric but boldly predicted they’ll be mentioned in the same conversations as the great defenses he coordinated in Baltimore and New England. That sort of confidence starts at the top and resonates throughout the organizations, which includes the head coach, who recently compared the incredible success of the iPhone to the Falcons.
“Just go do a Google search, go look and see what they thought of the iPhone coming out if you want to humor yourself,” Arthur Smith told reporters. “It’s hard to find good comedy these days. Go back and look at those predictions if you want real comedy.”
Comparing the Falcons’ lowly expectations to the rise of the iPhone is quite bold. The device has been a revelation to the world and might be one of the single most profitable products in the history of capitalism. Apple is one of the most successful companies in the world, with a market cap of more than $2.5 trillion. Those are some lofty expectations for the Falcons, comical even. Atlanta isn’t going to turn things around this season or even next, but the cultural shift is palpable. Still, without tangible results, it’s just more of the same Dan Quinn rah rah this fanbase has heard for years.
The Falcons are seemingly headed in the right direction; the players and coaches are unified, showcasing their belief in one another and what they’re building. Rome wasn’t built overnight, so expectations this season should be tempered. The Falcons won’t be without significant dead money for a couple of more years, but for now, the new regime shouldn’t be judged too harshly.
Photographer: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire