The Atlanta Falcons have a good coach in Arthur Smith. Now they need a good roster to go with him.
In our 2023 Atlanta Falcons free agency predictions, we explore the best (and worst) way for Smith, Terry Fontenot, and the rest of the franchise to maximize a once-a-decade opportunity to upgrade a roster that surely needs it.
Atlanta Falcons Free Agency Predictions
The Falcons enter NFL free agency with the second-most salary cap space at a whopping $64 million (per Spotrac, as of last week). That is even more impressive when you consider they already have 59 players on the roster.
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That roster needs big-time improvement, however. The Falcons have needs everywhere, but most significantly on the offensive and defensive lines and quarterback.
At this point, it’s probably Jimmy Garoppolo-or-bust for the Falcons in 2023. If they sign the 49ers free agent quarterback, they are the odds-on favorites to win the NFC South.
The same would be true, of course, if they were to acquire Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. But the Falcons were so determined to let the world know they weren’t interested, they went so far as to tweet it out on the day Jackson received the franchise tag.
That’s puzzling, considering Desmond Ridder is still a big-time unknown, and Logan Woodside and Feleipe Franks are the only other quarterbacks on their 2023 roster. What’s more, the Falcons, who own the eighth pick in the draft, will probably need to package picks to land one of the four big quarterbacks.
So landing Jimmy G — who will likely cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million annually — is Step 1. Protecting him is Step 2.
The good news? There are plenty of quality offensive linemen expected to hit the open market. The list includes Orlando Brown Jr., Mike McGlinchey, and Isaac Seumalo.
Atlanta’s free agency would be a failure, however, without improving their defensive front. The Falcons were brutal on defense in 2022, and new coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who joins them from New Orleans, surely has a vision he wants to implement.
Names to watch include David Onyemata, Frank Clark, and Tremaine Edmunds. And don’t totally discount the possibility that Fontenot puts in exploratory trade calls to the 49ers and Commanders about Nick Bosa and Chase Young, who are set to hit free agency in 2024.
The only thing worse than not having a quarterback is overpaying for the wrong one. And that apparently is the rationale for the Falcons not being in on Jackson.
Between the compensation they likely need to provide Jackson (a largely — if not fully — guaranteed contract likely eclipsing $200 million) and the compensation they know they would need to provide the Ravens (two first-round picks, including No. 8 overall in 2023), it’s a price the Falcons probably shouldn’t pay.
Now, if Jackson agrees to a more reasonable contract structure, the Falcons should be all in. But committing that much, for that long, to a player who cannot stay healthy is a career-threatening risk for the Falcons’ brain trust.
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But there’s a fine line between caution and cowardice. The Falcons must be prudent. But they also can’t be scared to take big swings.
They have the money to do anything they want — basically.
The Chicago Bears have some $30 million more than the Atlanta, which raises the risk that the Falcons will end up with their second choices at every turn — particularly if Garoppolo picks, say, the Texans.
Atlanta Falcons Free Agent Targets
The good news for the Falcons? Aside from quarterback, there are a number of excellent options at their top positions of need.
- Orlando Brown Jr., Kansas City Chiefs
- Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco 49ers
- Isaac Seumalo, Philadelphia Eagles
- Wes Schweitzer, Washington Commanders
- Ben Powers, Baltimore Ravens
- Jamel Dean, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Eli Apple, Cincinnati Bengals
- Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas Raider
- Tre Flowers, Cincinnati Bengals
- Jonathan Jones, New England Patriots
- Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia Eagles
- Arden Key, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Dalvin Tomlinson, Minnesota Vikings
- Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns
- David Onyemata, New Orleans Saints