The Atlanta Falcons chose wisely to improve their team methodically rather than hastily trade for Lamar Jackson and try to microwave this thing on the fly.
Let me tell you about the most positive 24 hours Atlanta Falcons fans have had in over six years.
For the first time in god knows how long, the Dirty Birds had some money to spend in free agency. While the previous regime did a good job of drafting and developing homegrown talent, it paid a premium for good players, Dallas Cowboys style, and that did not work out so hot. After taking it on the chin for at least a year or more financially, Terry Fontenot absolutely cooked in free agency.
The Falcons general manager traded for tight end Jonnu Smith of the New England Patriots to set the tone for what would be a fantastic Monday. Getting star safety Jessie Bates III to come over from the Cincinnati Bengals is the best free agent move the Falcons have made since signing Alex Mack. They did not stop there and were able to extend their all-world guard Chris Lindstrom, too.
As if the greatest Monday since closing out the Georgia Dome on good terms wasn’t enough, Fontenot was not done. He opted to sign a high-end backup in Atlanta area native Taylor Heinicke of Washington Commanders fame Tuesday morning. The former Collins Hill star and Old Dominion legend will probably get into coaching after this, but will compete with Desmond Ridder for now.
All of these transactions that happened above and so much more would not have been possible if Fontenot took the shortcut and traded for Lamar Jackson. I don’t know how good this team will be next year, but 11-6 or 10-7 is not out of the realm of possibility. Given how truly awful the NFC South is across the board, Atlanta could win its first division crown since Kyle Shanahan blew it.
Dare I say it, the Falcons are giving me hope and for whatever reason, I am buying into all of this.
NFL rumors: Atlanta Falcons show why they did not trade for Lamar Jackson
Let’s be real. I haven’t been this excited about a defensive back coming to Atlanta since the Falcons drafted DeAngelo Hall. I had a sneaking suspicion the Bengals would do what they do and go cheap, allowing Bates to go get his money. He reunites with his former secondary coach Steve Jackson, as well as other top David Mulugheta clients on the Falcons like A.J. Terrell and Kyle Pitts.
The David Onyemata and Kaden Elliss signings were all about getting more Ryan Nielsen guys in the building. It is not easy to cherrypick guys off the team you hate more than anything in the world, but Fontenot has been good to us and Nielsen shows promise. The Onyemata signing will do wonders in letting the rest of the NFL world fully understand just how great Grady Jarrett is.
I mean, we can go down the line. Every move the Falcons have made this offseason has been calculated and methodical, which is all I could have ever hoped for. They put real thought into this offseason plan, and I’m proud of them. Whether it is a culture-shifting one like Bates or bringing back some more beef in the running game in fullback Keith Smith, the pieces are coming together.
Not to say the Dirty Birds are going worst-to-first 1991 Atlanta Braves style on us, but they are my bet to be the 2022 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 2021 Bengals before that. Those were bad teams that got better rapidly by crushing it in NFL free agency and making savvy draft picks to hopefully build a winning team around an offensive-minded head coach and a young quarterback.
Even re-signing punter Bradley Pinion is a solid move, because you can never put a price on having continuity on special teams. You can win and lose games in that department. This is a way how the Falcons can cut into the deficit of the many one-score defeats they suffered a season ago. Extending perhaps your most talented player and overall good guy in Lindstrom is pure brilliance.
Right now, I want to talk about the two additions they made to improve the offense, first with Smith and then with Heinicke. Although Smith did not work out in New England, the Patriots don’t know what they are doing offensively, but head coach Arthur Smith sure does. He specialized in coaching tight ends like Smith before becoming the offensive coordinator in Nashville. I love this.
And for Heinicke, it is so very Atlanta of him to grow up in the metroplex and not root for the Falcons as a youth. Why would he? Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers were better when we were kids. However, he plays with an edge to him that I have always loved. I’ll never have my idol Ryan Fitzpatrick play for the Falcons, but I can have a peer of mine do similar things in Heinicke.
Overall, just be happy for us, dude. This has been the roughest stretch of Falcons football in my lifetime. The good news is I honestly feel we are getting out of our perpetual quagmire and will turn some heads this fall. The best part is they still have draft capital, including the No. 8 pick. So just draft one of my Dawgs in either Jalen Carter or Nolan Smith in the top 10 and I will be ecstatic.
Ultimately, the only other things the Falcons can do in free agency to make this offseason perfect is to re-sign right tackle Kaleb McGary and bring in a veteran wide receiver to help bring Drake London along. Everyone is going to count us out, but Atlanta kind of thrives off that. Always has, always will. Just wait until this football team gets good again. Oh, we will be so awful to deal with.
I am so waiting for this to crash and burn and for the blade to drop from above, but it has been fun.
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