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Falcons signed Dante Fowler, made Hayden Hurst trade official on first day of free agency

As is typical, the Falcons made a bunch of smaller moves leading up to the opening of free agency, and one big one day of.

NFL: NOV 28 Saints at Falcons Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons have made a point all offseason of noting that they were not in cap hell, as they put it, leading me to term their particular location “cap heck.” Indeed, even after lining up a handful of cuts with free agency looming, it didn’t seem like they were going to have a ton of cap space to work with, and the market was booming.

It turns out those reports about the team’s interest in Dante Fowler were legitimate, though. On a busy first day of free agency across the league, Atlanta pleasantly surprised many of us by reaching deep into their wallet and coming up with Fowler money, adding Hayden Hurst officially through trade, and officially cutting ties with Desmond Trufant with a post-June 1 designation.

Where does this leave Atlanta? Pretty simply, in a better position than they were a day ago at defensive end and tight end, and a much worse one at cornerback. Fowler is a huge upgrade over what the Falcons had coming into free agency—and, if he produces like he did in 2019 for the Rams, a big upgrade over what they trotted out last season—and gives Atlanta a solid defensive line on paper before they make additional investments. Hurst should, in an expanded role, give this team pretty good production from the tight end position, as he’s shown well as a receiver in his limited looks.

Of course, two moves do not an offseason make, for better or for worse. Give the Falcons credit for making some tough choices, carving out the space to snag one of the best available pass rushers on the market, and making it clear they don’t intend to punt the year (not that they could, I guess) by acquiring a veteran tight end instead of trying to rely on a rookie who likely wouldn’t have been up to the task in year one. Atlanta’s taken a lot of punches for the way it’s handled just about everything about this offseason, but when the new league year came, they showed us the plan has some legs.

Now there are many more holes to address. The Falcons also officially cut Desmond Trufant, a player who was terrific a year ago before injury cost him a big chunk of the year, and was interesting enough in the open market that the Lions quickly snapped him up. That leaves them without a true #1 cornerback at the moment, and with Devonta Freeman, Ty Sambrailo, and Luke Stocker exiting, the team also needs a #1 back, a swing tackle, and another reserve tight end. De’Vondre Campbell hasn’t been re-signed and linebacker is perilously thin at the moment, and the defensive line still doesn’t feel like a finished product.

Still, if you’re a believer that Tom Brady and Drew Brees are too old to push the Saints and Buccaneers over the top and recognize that the Panthers are rebuilding a bit, maybe you’re feeling a little optimistic by now. If you loved the Fowler and Hurst moves and you already thought retaining staff was the right decision, you’re probably downright happy. The rest of us at least can acknowledge that the team has taken some needed steps and has plenty of time to handle their remaining needs, and see what today will bring.