Thomas Dimitroff has suggested something that sounds rather radical and even audacious for Falcons fans: That this is an Atlanta Falcons roster without any gaping holes.
The Atlanta Falcons of the past decade have been defined as much by their major holes as their best players. There were questions about receiving talent from 2006-2008, pass rushing and offensive line capabilities from 2008-2016, and of course big, big questions about linebackers after the Falcons’ deep 2012 playoff run. Those flaws were always remarked upon and ultimately usually proved to be fatal, and attempts to plug one usually resulted in another opening up. That is the way of the Falcons.
This Falcons team, on the other hand, has a decidedly different feel.
There’s a great quarterback, great running backs, terrific receivers, solid tight ends, and a very strong offensive line. There’s a stout defensive line with at least one very good pass rusher, two extremely promising young linebackers, and a great, young secondary. There’s a clutch kicker, one of the NFL’s best punters, and an all-around solid special teams unit. There are weaknesses here—defensive tackle, guard, tight end, edge rusher, and linebacker all spring to mind—but you could put the same team as 2016 on the field next year and it would be a strong favorite to make the playoffs. That is one of the major reasons to believe in this team, even if there are buckets of non-essential free agents the team will have to decide on.
What does that mean for this team’s ultimate architect and his brain trust in the front office? It means these Falcons can finally afford to fulfill D. Orlando Ledbetter’s deepest dream and go for the best player available, though there are still positions that are more urgently needed than others. It means the team can avoid blowing tons of money on big splash free agent additions and let the market settle, grabbing players they like on smart deals. And it means they can use the bulk of their cash to keep their best players around, hopefully keeping that title window jammed open.
This is somewhat unfamiliar territory for us as fans and this team, but I’m hopeful that they’ll continue to smartly build the roster by adding young starters and depth at key positions like tackle, where the Falcons got lucky with excellent health this past season. For once, we’re not worried about which crippling roster weakness is going to doom this team in the end, and I’d like to continue to feel that feeling.