When the Falcons’ 2017 offseason wrapped up, many of us felt bullish about it. We loved the draft class and were at least feeling good about free agency. After a Super Bowl berth and an offseason that saw the team mostly hold together, it was difficult not to feel bullish, even if there was an ongoing sense that the Falcons hadn’t made any significant upgrades at guard, edge rusher, or linebacker.
As it turned out, Takk McKinley was the upgrade the Falcons needed at defensive end, and he looks like a core player for Atlanta. Dontari Poe was a very good fit on the interior of the defensive line, as well, and..well, that was it. The Falcons got very little out of most of their other pickups over the course of the offseason, with the rookie class offering small contributions at best outside of Takk, and Andre Roberts being a mixed addition as the team’s kick and punt returner.
That’s saying nothing about the coordinator changes, since we’ve beaten the Steve Sarkisian horse to death and will continue to do so in other articles.
It’s no surprise, then, that ESPN re-visited an offseason they had given a C+ and ended up giving it a C. The Falcons weren’t loaded with cap space and only had a handful of true needs, but I think you can argue that they were worse as a team in 2017, despite the defensive improvement they saw. I’m not sure the Falcons could have done much more in free agency given their cap space, but they certainly did not land multiple year one impact players in the draft the way they did in prior years. That’s inevitable, but it doesn’t mean the offseason didn’t wind up being sort of average, all told.
I still genuinely like this draft class. The Falcons are clearly going to count on Duke Riley sooner than later, Damontae Kazee and Eric Saubert remaining intriguing young players, and Sean Harlow might be a solution at guard with enough seasoning. The outlook is still bright, then, even if it was largely a disappointing rookie season for the class. Heck, Brian Hill isn’t even on this team any longer.
The Falcons will need to fare better this offseason if they’re going to stay competitive in a stacked NFC, with key free agents including Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn coming up and holes along both lines, at wide receiver, and perhaps even in the secondary once you look beyond the starters. May we look back a year from now and feel comfortable awarding a much higher grade.