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Under the microscope: New Falcons GM Terry Fontenot

The Falcons grab their next decision maker from their bitter rival.

David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s one thing to look for the next head coach in charge of an NFL franchise. It’s another to find a decision maker that oversees football operations, personnel, and management.

That decision maker is typically a team’s general manager, and is viewed as the one who sets the table for a franchise. The team’s success or failure in many cases will rest heavily on the shoulders of this individual.

Back in October, the Atlanta Falcons made a key decision to move on from their former general manager, Thomas Dimitroff. During his time with the Falcons, Dimitroff was instrumental in supplying the Falcons roster with the talents of Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Deion Jones and more. He was also ultimately the shot caller who made decisions such as signing Steven Jackson and Ray Edwards to free agency deals. The team decided to move on from Dimitroff during this past regular season after a long tenure and it was, in all likelihood, the right choice.

Reportedly, the Falcons, after conducting an extensive search, have decided to give the GM job to VP/Assistant GM for Pro Personnel Terry Fontenot of the New Orleans Saints. Today, I will focus on Fontenot and why the longtime Saints executive is tagged as the next general manager of the Atlanta Falcons.

About Terry Fontenot

Fontenot is a Louisiana guy through and through. Born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Fontenot attended LaGrange High School in Lake Charles and collegiately played as a safety at Tulane University between 1996-2000. Not long after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in business, Fontenot got his start with the Saints organization as a marketing intern, gradually working up the ranks to his present day position. A considerable part of his overall experience in the front office was spent within the pro scouting realm.

Once Fontenot was promoted to director of the pro scouting department, it gave Fontenot him a frontline position with the pro personnel aspect of a roster. That means he was directly involved with free agency, waiver wire, and trade acquisitions.

That also means that Fontenot was likely essential in free agency acquisitions of tight end Ben Watson, tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and safety Malcolm Jenkins over the years, among others.

That position also appointed the responsibility of overseeing the scouting department component of scouting opponents on the regular season schedule. Throughout the years, Fontenot has also gained experience with college scouting alongside Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and more recently ex-Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.

What he provides to the Falcons

Yes, on the surface, the hire of Fontenot brings its fair share of risks. Given that this is the first time that Fontenot will hold the position, expectations for the new general manager should be modest at the start. The Falcons have been down this road before with the hire of Dimitroff in 2008 after serving most of his career in the scouting department, where a handful of great decisions propelled the team forward and several mistakes ultimately held them back. But the one aspect that he will provide that can aid the Falcons tremendously is his ability find talent within the NFL. Sounds simple to most, but as I stated, being the director of the pro scouting department allows you to work hand-in-hand with the general manager in acquiring talent in free agency. That’s something the Falcons haven’t excelled at in recent years, often overpaying players who haven’t really worked out.

That particular aspect can play a considerable part in the future for the Falcons as over time, you may see the Falcons a little more active in free agency than years past. That is not a notion that the Falcons will be splurging heavily in the free agency market given their cap situation, but they may very well be a calculated organization that will poach a key free agent or two, and they may feel more comfortable stocking the back end of the roster with affordable veterans Fontenot has scouted in the past.

Also, with that position, Fontenot has gained plenty of knowledge in learning how to effectively manage a salary cap. He will have to roll his sleeves back a bit this offseason for Atlanta. But it does look promising that he can help the Falcons dig themselves out of a hole in the salary cap this offseason.

How he approaches the draft will be critically important, but his track record in that arena is less clear. As a key piece of the Saints front office and with an existing, experienced Falcons staff to assist him, hopefully he will be able to unearth great players in April.

Final outlook

It is without a doubt eye opening seeing someone within the Saints organization having interest in managing the Falcons. His initial approach with the team can allow the Falcons to set themselves up to climb out what has been a dark period for Atlanta.

This is a critical phase for the Falcons organization. Sitting in-between a rebuilding period and a period of reloading a bit and making playoff runs in the near future. A Louisiana guy has the keys to the team and a mandate to make things better. Let’s see what he can do.