The Atlanta Falcons may’ve been consumers on the commerce deadline this 12 months. Followers are starved for a winner in Atlanta, contemplating the final successful season was all the way in which again in 2017, they usually’re sitting at 4-4 and atop the NFC South. It will’ve been straightforward to go get someone, anyone, to reinforce their divisional possibilities in 2022 and earn some goodwill on the value to their cap house and draft capital.
That’s not what they did, although. On Tuesday, we bought the surprising information an hour earlier than the commerce deadline that the Falcons had been transferring Calvin Ridley for compensation that bottoms out as a 2023 sixth rounder and 2024 4th rounder, and may escalate to a 2023 fifth rounder and 2024 2nd rounder. It was a stable deal for a participant the Falcons clearly didn’t intend to maintain, and the newest cap-clearing, compensation-adding transfer for Terry Fontenot and this entrance workplace. Then we realized the Falcons flipped reserve security Dean Marlowe for a seventh spherical choose and swapped a seventh rounder to the Chiefs for cornerback Rashad Fenton, who was a succesful starter as not too long ago as final 12 months and is simply 25 years previous. They had been each consumers and sellers, they usually arguably bought just a little higher with the addition of Fenton and gave up principally nothing to take action.
The Falcons employed Fontenot, a savvy professional personnel govt with evident persistence, with a watch on getting out of their present mess and turning into a contender once more. Except for what I firmly imagine to be the owner-led shortcut to competition with the the ill-advised Deshaun Watson pursuit, Fontenot and the entrance workplace have been in a position to take this rebuild at their very own tempo. Regardless of making three strikes—a principally unprecedented flurry of exercise on the deadline for this group—the Falcons didn’t do something to change their timeline. They had been by no means going to be main sellers as a result of that may be a type of give up in a 12 months the place they’re genuinely aggressive, however nor had been they going to throw a wrench into fastidiously laid 2023 plans with the sort of main transfer essential to make the Atlanta Falcons greater than a fringe contender within the right here and now.
Nonetheless, let’s check out what the Ridley commerce and deadline strikes meant for Atlanta, each this 12 months and sooner or later.
What it means for the Falcons in 2022
This can be brief! Atlanta didn’t have Ridley on the roster, primarily, due to his year-long suspension. His contract wasn’t on the books for the season owing to that, so there aren’t any quick impacts to the on-field product or the books from that commerce.
For the opposite two trades, the affect is extra noticeable. Marlowe is returning to a well-known spot the place he’ll have a major reserve position proper off the bat, and the Falcons are giving up a participant who simply began at security for them for a whole afternoon. Marlowe completed his eight sport profession in Atlanta having performed 25% of the defensive snaps—that one begin and a few reduction work for Jaylinn Hawkins, principally—and 75% of the particular groups snaps. He was tied for the group lead in particular groups tackles, and if nothing else, Atlanta simply shipped off a helpful reserve and main piece of their particular groups unit in 2022.
The Falcons possible really feel comfy with others choices—maybe not too long ago added follow squad security Jovante Moffatt, maybe Isaiah Oliver and Mike Ford—to exchange Marlowe on protection and particular groups, with Erik Harris positive to select up extra work going ahead as nicely.
The massive addition is Rashad Fenton. The previous Chief was a full-time starter for the primary few video games of the season in Kansas Metropolis, however was parked on the bench the previous three weeks after some uneven play. He was quietly fairly good as an eight sport starter in 2021 for the Chiefs, continues to be fairly younger, and has confirmed himself to the extent that Atlanta clearly felt good about rolling the cube on him as a contributor. With A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward out for an indeterminate period of time—Terrell might be again as quickly as this week, Hayward in a pair weeks, however we don’t know after they’ll return—Fenton offers Atlanta a helpful reserve with the expertise and upside to start out. Given the latest state of cornerback play, he’s a welcome addition.
Fenton’s additionally one more participant auditioning for a brand new contract subsequent 12 months, however we’ll get to that in a second. General, the affect on this 12 months from all of those trades is more likely to be small, however Fenton might be an necessary addition for a group attempting to carry on within the NFC South.
What it means for the Falcons in 2023 and past
For Fenton, a stable effort within the closing eight video games means an opportunity to be re-signed. The Falcons don’t presently have Isaiah Oliver, Dee Alford, or Mike Ford below contract in 2023, giving Fenton an opportunity to show himself and dangle on as a candidate for the third or fourth cornerback subsequent 12 months. Marlowe’s commerce leaves the Falcons rather less settled at security, however he was on a one 12 months deal, in order that doesn’t actually affect subsequent 12 months.
I’m most , as you’d count on, in what the Ridley trades says concerning the group’s priorities. Ridley will fetch a few draft picks, and at worst they’ll be in rounds the place Fontenot has discovered contributors prior to now couple of years. Having a pair extra bites on the apple in 2023 and 2024 is a helpful factor, and if the 2024 choose winds up being a 3rd or second rounder, the Falcons have an improved shot at including one other high quality starter. The picks alone are a very good return for a participant who appeared more likely to have performed his final down in Atlanta final fall.
Had the Falcons waited till the spring, when Ridley’s reinstatement was introduced, they could have gotten just a little extra outright. What’s fascinating is that they selected to do it now, forward of the deadline, in a commerce rife with situations. They did so due to the opposite main advantage of the commerce: Getting Ridley’s wage off the books nicely forward of free company, fairly than having to attend and see when he’d be reinstated.
Making the Ridley commerce now could be advantageous for the #Falcons, as they are going to get Ridley’s $11.2M cap financial savings as quickly because the 2023 offseason begins. No ready round for a deal to materialize with him on the books.
— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) November 1, 2022
Whereas the picks coming again are unsure, this was a strategy to be completely sure the Falcons weren’t carrying that wage. Relying on which estimates you’re utilizing, the group will head into subsequent 12 months with near $70 million in cap house, and that’s an quantity that can stay giant sufficient to make a couple of splashes even after the Falcons carry again precedence free brokers. It’s the sort of cash that, if used properly, may vault a good group into one thing rather more.
And that’s what it’s finally all about for the Falcons. The 2021 season was a discount basement cobbling collectively of what the group may out of spare elements and massive contracts, with the group shedding what wage it may and bringing picks again in. The 2022 season is extra of the identical, simply with just a little more cash, a second prime ten choose and sturdy draft class, and a staggering quantity of lifeless cash. Nobody concerned with the Falcons is sad that this group is .500 and searching like a severe risk to win the NFC South this 12 months given all of that, however no person’s speaking themselves right into a Tremendous Bowl or possible even a deep playoff run, both. There was a 12 months of crawling and we’re in a 12 months of strolling, however the Falcons intend to run in 2023.
I don’t know what the group’s grand aspirations are but—I’ve seen various starry-eyed followers speaking themselves into touchdown Lamar Jackson at quarterback, whereas others are simply dreaming of a star-studded free agent class—however Fontenot and the entrance workplace have been constructing to this all alongside. They’ll have an opportunity to carry again gamers like Lorenzo Carter and Damiere Byrd who’re thriving in auditions and should wish to be a part of the following nice Falcons group, and an opportunity so as to add some nice gamers like Jessie Bates at security and Elgton Jenkins for the offensive line, ought to they make it to free company. Seeing that plan coming collectively forward of the following spring, and being a believer on this entrance workplace’s capacity to spend responsibly and determine expertise, it’s tough for me to not suppose we’re practically executed watching our favourite soccer group wander within the wilds of mediocrity. In any case, that Ridley cash may purchase you a few affect defenders for 2023, one thing the Falcons badly want.
These trades might not have an enormous quick affect, in different phrases, however the Ridley commerce particularly might be vastly impactful in 2023 and 2024. The Falcons have laid the groundwork for a transformative offseason, and after we see what the remaining 9 video games of the 2022 season have in retailer for us, it’ll be time to see the place that freshly paved highway takes us.