Now that the month of March is upon us that means only one thing, NFL free agency is just around the corner! At 4 p.m. ET on March 13, the new league year will be officially underway, and free agency begins.
The Falcons have already made moves, such as releasing kicker Matt Bryant and cornerback Robert Alford. Our staff shares what they think of the offseason thus far as we head into free agency in words and GIFs.
I don’t even know what to think
On one hand, the moves the Falcons have made to this point make logical sense for the most part. Moving on from Robert Alford, Brooks Reed, and even Matt Bryant all makes sense from a cap perspective. You can even make a case for keeping Vic Beasley despite the price tag, and tagging Grady Jarrett was a no-brainer since the team really can’t afford to lose such a key piece of its defense. Clearly the Falcons are banking on the concept that injuries and the coaches they moved on from were the reasons for last season’s struggles. But then I hear things like the Falcons think Ty Sambrailo is a starter, which Dan Quinn said during the Combine, and I look at the amount of cash the team has to work with this offseason balanced against the glaring needs, and I have no clue what to expect from this team anymore. - Jeanna Thomas
How am I feeling about the Falcons heading into free agency next week? pic.twitter.com/Mc0hfYg9H1— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) March 5, 2019
What are you, an idiot sandwich?
The Falcons released the best kicker in franchise history, Matt “Money” Bryant. I must admit, I felt after last season that the move was possible, but my emotions were not prepared. The move saved the team close to $3 million this year, and close to $4 million in 2020.
In my opinion, it’s one of the dumbest things they’ve done in a long time, which is saying a lot. You don’t release a reliable, legendary kicker like Matt Bryant to save $3 million, whilst paying Vic Beasley nearly $13 million in 2019. In franchise history, Matt Bryant has the most field goals made (250), extra points made (372), and best kicking percentage over 26 attempts (88.7%). It’s a bad move that’ll likely come back to bite the Falcons. -Evan Birchfield
Everything is not fine, no matter how much the team says it is
If you read interviews with Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff you’d get the sense that things are going great for the Falcons this offseason. What we’ve seen points to the contrary, however.
I’m okay with all of the releases thus far, but the decision to keep Vic Beasley Jr. and pay him $12.8 million this year seems inexcusable. To compound this issue, the team failed to come to terms with Grady Jarrett on a long-term extension by the franchise tag deadline and applied the non-exclusive tag to Jarrett, putting them on the hook for a $15.2 million cap hit for the year if they don’t come to terms (applying the tag is smart, but that commits $28 mil in cap space to Beasley and Jarrett this year, and Jarrett can still negotiate with other teams). There’s next to no cap room to work with in free agency at the moment, prompting me to see that things are not fine. - Adnan Ikic
We know there’s a plan, but do we like it?
There’s a tendency to assume incompetence or lack of effort when things don’t go the way we like, whether it’s on the field or during the offseason. That’s certainly the case here, where keeping Vic Beasley, resorting to the franchise tag for Grady Jarrett, and re-signing fine but uninspiring players like Matt Schaub and Ty Sambrailo while cutting Robert Alford and Matt Bryant seems like it can’t possibly have been the team’s first choice.
But let me assure you, this is the plan, minus maybe Jarrett not agreeing to a long-term deal by now. The Falcons have every intention of signing Jack Crawfords and and Logan Paulsens, useful players with upside who don’t inspire at the time of their signing, and get the rest done through the draft. They’re intent on fixing this thing with better health, better coaching, and even more young talent, essentially doubling down on the approach that made them at least somewhat successful in years past.
The question is whether this is a plan that will work, and the fact that I don’t have an easy answer is making me uneasy. The Falcons ought to be better than last year if they follow the course and are truly healthy, but in what looks like a make-or-break year for the current braintrust, they’re going to need to absolutely nail their draft and second-tier free agents to get this thing back on track. Until I see it with my own two eyes, these nerves are jangling. —Dave Choate
Was the plan to bumble through incompetently?
Some of the team’s biggest cap hits are dedicated to the backup right tackle, the third wide receiver, and a backup defensive end? There’s a lot of head scratchers, starting with cutting Matt Bryant, next with keeping Vic Beasley at nearly $13 million, and giving Ty Sambrailo a guaranteed $5 million in 2019. It sounds like Sambrailo will start but who were the Falcons bidding against? He’s paid starter money, his backup is paid starter money, and we have no clue if either are starters. Thanks to the Jarrett debacle, Beasley, and holding onto other high-priced veterans, the Falcons are widely expected to be out of free agency due to a lack of cap space. They haven’t even given Julio Jones an extension. That leaves very little room for errors in the draft.
Seriously, was this the plan or did everything fall apart from a much better plan?