By this time a year ago, the Falcons had made a handful of major moves, cutting ties with Brooks Reed, Robert Alford, and Matt Bryant. By mid March, they had waived Ryan Schraeder, and they moved swiftly when free agency opened to sign Jamon Brown, James Carpenter, Luke Stocker, and Kenjon Barner. This is traditionally the way this team has operated: Strike quickly with the moves it needs to make, then move at its own pace to get remaining deals done.
This year, though, the team has been eerily silent. They’ve had plenty to say about everything from the draft class to Devonta Freeman, but the actual moves have been largely tiny, veteran minimum sorts of additions and subtractions, with Ryan Allen and Younghoe Koo re-joining and John Wetzel getting cut. The big announcements have been that the team will let Austin Hooper and De’Vondre Campbell hit free agency and won’t try to bring back Vic Beasley, things that would not have happened in offseasons past.
When it comes to figuring out why the Falcons have been so quiet, so slow, and so seemingly frugal thus far, there are two items to consider. The first is the slow shift in power in the organization, with Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff continuing to be the public faces of the organizations and deeply involved, but with Rich McKay clearly stepping into a larger role behind the scenes. The second, as I wrote about a week ago, is the lack of a new CBA.
The Falcons are hardly alone here, but the lack of clarity with the CBA has clearly impacted their offseason. You need look no further than Freeman, an obvious candidate for a re-structured deal or a cut, and the complete lack of movement on either despite the team’s soon-to-be burning need for cap space. Atlanta wants to know if they’ll have a post-June 1 cut option, what their options are, and so forth, and that clarity just isn’t available.
The problem for Atlanta—and again, every other NFL team—is that clarity doesn’t appear to be forthcoming, and we’re just two weeks away from the kickoff of the new league year. That means the Falcons could find themselves with a raft of difficult decisions, no new CBA, and an urgent need to create cap space and bring aboard some help in a year where Arthur Blank has said he expects the playoffs. If that situation feels pretty difficult to navigate, that’s because it is.
It’s also why I’m so dour about the team’s fortunes at the moment. The talent is still here and avenues to create cap space and land useful players in the draft are very open, something the Falcons have done before when we were very down on their prospects (see 2012 and 2016, in particular). The marriage of expectations inside the building, limited cap space, and outside factors beyond the team’s control have never come together quite like this in the Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn era, however, and the lack of movement has only made me more nervous about what’s ahead.