Fix-it Friday: The Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have been on a downward spiral ever since Super Bowl LI, a game that will live in infamy among Falcons fans. I can’t shake the feeling that that game hangs like a cloud over the whole franchise, and it won’t truly be sunny days again until the key members of that team are gone. I know this is a harsh take, but sitting at 4th overall in the draft, I think the Falcons should look to make some more major changes this offseason.

They finished the year with a 4-12 record, down from 7-9 the two previous years, which was down from 10-6 the year after the Super Bowl, and 11-5 from the year of the Super Bowl. The Falcons fired both General Manager Thomas Dimitroff and Head Coach Dan Quinn during this past season.

Head Coach and General Manager:

The Falcons found their replacements at these two positions about on par with the other teams with these vacancies time-wise in the process. They hired former Tennessee Titans’ Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith to be their new head coach. Smith created one of the highest scoring offenses in the league the past few seasons, mainly relying on the legs of Derrick Henry, but a lot of built-in RPOs for his intelligent QB in Ryan Tannehill. Smith was one of the hottest names in this year’s head coach hiring cycle.

They also hired former Saints’ Assistant GM/VP of Pro Personnel Terry Fontenot. The Saints are widely known for having great draft classes while enjoying a lot of success on the field. Fontenot was with the Saints for 16 years, meaning he was there during their Super Bowl win. Fontenot has a great resume, and it doesn’t hurt to steal a high personnel member from a division rival.

Cap Space: $-33.2 million

Cut/Trade:

Ricardo Allen, FS – $6.25 million

James Carpenter, IOL – $4 million

Allen Bailey, DE – $4.5 million

Tyeler Davison, DL – $2.2 million

The Falcons can make a few little cuts here and there, and restructure a few deals to free up some more cap space this offseason, but this is about it. Most of their money is tied up with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones; cutting or trading either of them would result in less cap space, as their dead cap hits are higher than their salaries. The Falcons won’t be able to do much this offseason and we should expect them to pick in the top 10 again next year, but after the 2021 season, they need to make big decisions with Ryan and Jones.

Resign:

Brian Hill, RB

Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB

Darqueze Dennard, CB

Steven Means, DE

Edmond Robinson, LB

Laquon Treadwell, WR

Younghoe Koo, K

Damontae Kazee, S

Brandon Powell, WR

Matt Gono, OT

Jaeden Graham, TE

Christian Blake, WR

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, DL

Like I said, the Falcons are strapped for cap space. Most of these deals will be cheap one-year deals, with the exception of Koo. I love Keanu Neal, and I know Falcons fans do as well, but if you’re rebuilding with minutes cap space, it’s hard to pay a safety.

Free Agency:

If the Falcons don’t free up even more cap space than I alluded to above, their free agency will be very quiet. Therefore, I’m only going to list some Tier Three players, which are players that will likely come cheap on a one-year deal.

Josh Norman, CB

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR

Kyler Fackrell, LB

Everson Griffen, EDGE

Sean Lee, LB

Austin Blythe, G

Daryl Williams, OT

Matt Skura, C

Quinton Dunbar, CB

Chidobe Awuzie, CB

Taylor Moton, OT

Tedric Thompson, S

James White, RB

John Johnson, SS

Shaquill Griffin, CB

Levi Wallace, CB

Draft:

Round One:

4th Overall:

Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Micah Parsons, LB

Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Let me start by saying I don’t know if Fields will be available at 4, and I’m not sure that would be the right pick anyway. Yes, I believe the Falcons need to move on from Ryan, plus how often does a team find themselves picking in the top 5 with good QBs on the board? However, this will pigeonhole the Falcons into trading Ryan after the 2021 season, lowering his value a bit. Plus, the Falcons can use whatever picks they get from that trade to trade up for a top QB in the 2022 draft.

The other 3 options at this pick make sense, but I’d prefer a trade down to a QB needy team. As long as the Falcons stay in the top 12, at least one of these 3 defenders will still be on the board.

Round Two:

35th Overall:

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami

Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State

If either Harris or Etienne are on the on the board at 35, the Falcons need to seriously consider taking one of them. Their running back room has been a bit of a disaster since DeVonta Freeman went sharply downhill a few years ago. The Falcons can also once again look at those three key defensive positions.

Round Three:

68th Overall:

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma

Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

Landon Dickerson, IOL, Alabama

If Trask makes it to 68th overall, it would be a good idea for the Falcons to take him. There was the idea mid-season that Trask could be a first rounder. Ultimately, his traits showed through a little more as the season wore on and his big numbers were chalked up to a a great supporting cast. At this point in the draft, the Falcons can take a shot on him to learn from Ryan. They could still have the flexibility of trading Ryan and drafting a QB high in the first round next year if they don’t see a future with Trask.

Round Four:

98th Overall:

Kylin Hill, RB, Texas A&M

Hamilcar Rashed Jr., CB, Oregon State

Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State

Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson

Once again, the Falcons can address the RB position with this pick. They can also take a corner like Hamilcar or edge rusher like Oweh. The Falcons can also use this pick on an offensive lineman with high upside. They seem to be set at tackle with Jake Matthews and Kaleb McGary, but Carman can kick inside to help with the (more than likely) loss of Alex Mack.

Round Five:

131st Overall:

Zamir White, RB, Georgia

Ben Cleveland, IOL, Georgia

Kary Vincent Jr., CB, LSU

Kaden Sterns, S, Texas

This pick I more about cleaning up the previous positions mentioned, but can also provide depth. Caden Sterns could possibly be on the Falcons radar in the 4th round. They will likely lose Keanu Neal in free agency, so bringing in a safety in this draft should be high priority. I’m a bit more skeptical of this safety class than others, but I wouldn’t mind a Day Three pick at safety for the Falcons.

Round Six:

162nd Overall:

T.J. Carter, CB, Memphis

Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss

Patrick Johnson, EDGE, Tulane

David Moore, IOL, Grambling

Tariq Thompson, S, San Diego State

Jovian Hawkins, RB, Louisville

With their last pick in the draft, the Falcons can go a lot of ways, mainly for depth. They need another starting caliber worthy CB and pass rusher, but they can also use the depth at the positions. Hayden Hurst played well this past season, but there isn’t much behind him in the TE room. Moore can be a good depth piece along the offensive line. Thompson feels a bit underrated right now to me. While I’m lower on this safety class than most, I like the depth it has on Day Three. Hawkins would be a nice addition to any RB room in the league, and he can work alongside Brian Hill, assuming he is brought back.

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