What did the offseason teach us about the Atlanta Falcons? Let’s dive into a few things we have learned.
To sum things up, the 2018 offseason for the Atlanta Falcons was far from quiet.
There were numerous contract extensions, mildly surprising draft picks, interesting free agency signings, a couple of former NFL players showing up to training camp, widespread expectations from those in the media, and a particular star player making his viable case known for a deserved pay raise.
For those who have been fans of the Atlanta Falcons for quite some time, no offseason can be labeled as “easy” or necessarily “fun.” Last offseason was met with remnants of Super Bowl LI, and whether the team would be able to clear the treachery that awaited them. For the most part, they did. I mean, who can complain about a 10-6 season with Top 10 units on both sides of the ball and a playoff victory? Not quite the peak that the team reached toward the end of the 2017 season, but it beats sitting at home and missing the playoffs altogether.
This offseason itself presented a few lessons. To begin with, the mini-saga that was the Julio Jones holdout started fairly small but snowballed a little faster than most anticipated. Once training camp reached the starting line, what was growing angst became widespread relief once No. 11 trotted onto the field with a smile on his face and a common ground between himself and the front office.
The selection of Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the draft this year gave the team another stick of dynamite on an offense that has its fair share of fireworks already. The learning curve for the rookie will present a few tests, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff pulling the trigger on such a talent sparked flashbacks of his risk-taking in the 2011 draft to draft Jones.
Speaking of Dimitroff, contract extensions have now become the norm for the former New England executive. This offseason alone, Dimitroff and the rest of the Falcons front office made quarterback Matt Ryan a little more rich, negotiated extensions for solid young veterans in offensive tackle Jake Matthews and free safety Ricardo Allen, and did enough to bring Julio Jones back to the frontline. When you make note of his work with contract extensions for cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford along with running back Devonta Freeman last year, it is obvious that an emphasis has been made to corral the young core of the Falcons and stabilize continuity.
Free agency has not been an often-used facet for the Falcons to make significant improvements during the Dan Quinn era. Sans the signings of center Alex Mack and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in 2016, the Falcons don’t often go to the well of free agency. This offseason produced few major headlines via free agency for Atlanta, but the team did bring in help on the offensive line with seven-year veteran Brandon Fusco and defensive help with safety Ron Parker and defensive lineman Terrell McClain. None will really get the needle moving when analysts discuss the best signings of the offseason, but the Falcons found a few vets who will add a little more refinement to the entire roster.
If you listen and watch closely, there is a different premonition with this bunch of Falcons. A sense of renewed energy. An aura of eagerness. Maybe it’s because the team has viewed that window of opportunity as one that is wider than most give them credit for — or could it be because they are being told that they can very well be amongst the league’s best when it’s all said and done?
From the front office down to the field, the Falcons have approached this offseason with an agenda. As time reveals itself, we will see how far this quiet aggressiveness will take this talented franchise.