The Atlanta Falcons have officially gone into a full-on rebuild. Last season, the rebuild didn’t begin, but they took their first step in hiring first-time head coach Arthur Smith. However, officially moving on from quarterback Matt Ryan was the final move to enter a new era of Falcons’ football.
Improvements: Youth/Pass rushers
The Falcons last season had a lot of issues on defense. One of the biggest twas the pass rush. In 17 games, the Falcons’ defense got 18 total sacks, which was the lowest in the NFL, with the next team with 29 sacks. This was the first position of need, and the Falcons went after it in free agency and the draft.
Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone each had 74 pressures over the last two seasons…
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 2, 2022
With the reputation that the Falcons are entering into the first season of a rebuild, they were not in the running for any high-profile pass rushers in free agency. However, they were able to sign Lorenzo Carter to a cheap deal and re-sign Grady Jarrett. In the draft significant upgrades were on the way, selecting Arnold Ebiketie in the second round and DeAngelo Malone in the third round. They both will make immediate impacts, and could be starting right away due to the lack of talent at the position.
Stayed the same: Wide receiver
The suspension of Calvin Riddle has been a massive bump in the road for the Falcons’ plans. After stepping away from the team mid-season last year, he was likely to be used in a trade. Still, the wide receiver core was extremely weak the previous season, with only one in the top four in receptions on the team. That receiver was Russell Gage, who opted to leave in free agency, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gage’s production will likely be replaced by eighth overall pick Drake London, who, with tight end Kyle Pitts will be the focal points of the offense. The Falcons also traded for Bryan Edwards, who had 571 yards last year in his second season and could make a massive upgrade as a third option. Hybrid running back/wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson signed a two-year contract to stay with the Falcons.
Got worse: Quarterback
The Falcons traded fringe Hall of Fame quarterback Ryan and have replaced him with former second overall selection Marcus Mariota, who has completed 18 passes over the last two seasons. The decision makes sense as the Falcons had flirted around with trading for DeShaun Watson, which made Ryan want to be traded officially.
The Falcons are looking to build the team from the ground up, and Ryan, at 37, is no longer a part of that. They did draft Desmond Ridder in the third round, who many believe has the talent to have been a first-round quarterback. Time will tell if that is true, but he will likely get his shot this season.
There isn’t much that the Falcons could have done this offseason. They didn’t have a lot of cap space, eating a lot of dead cap in the Ryan trade, and are also not a favorable destination entering into year one of a rebuild. The Falcons had an excellent draft, which is the most important thing they could have done this offseason, and they succeeded in that.
Atlanta Falcons Schedule:
- Week 1: 9/11 vs. Saints. 1 PM, Fox
- Week 2: 9/18 at Rams, 4:05 PM, Fox
- Week 3: 9/25 at Seahawks, 4:25 PM, Fox
- Week 4: 10/2 vs. Browns, 1 PM, CBS
- Week 5: 10/9 at. Buccaneers, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 6: 10/16 vs. 49ers, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 7: 10/23 at Bengals, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 8: 10/30 vs. Panthers, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 9: 11/6 vs. Chargers, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 10: 11/10 at Panthers (Thursday), 8:15 PM, Amazon Prime Video
- Week 11: 11/20 vs. Bears, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 12: 11/27 at Commanders, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 13: 12/4 vs. Steelers, 1 PM, CBS
- Week 14: BYE
- Week 15: 12/18 at Saints, TBD, TBD
- Week 16: 12/24 at Ravens (Saturday), 1 PM, Fox
- Week 17: 1/1 vs. Cardinals, 1 PM, Fox
- Week 18: 1/8 vs. Buccaneers, TBD, TBD