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Report: Falcons staying course of bargain shopping in free agency

The team is reportedly ‘playing the long game’ in the process of solidifying its roster.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been bored to tears this free agency cycle for the Atlanta Falcons, well, that’s about what we expected. Just don’t expect the team to light off any free agency fireworks anytime soon.

ESPN insider Jeremy Fowler compiled some notes about the Falcons’ free agency process, reaffirming the notion we’ve all had that new general manager Terry Fontenot is trying to take his time with building up the team’s roster and navigate free agency carefully and cheaply.

If you need evidence that new GM Terry Fontenot is playing the long game in Atlanta, look no further than an offseason that features a whopping $2.39 million in spending on additions Brandon Copeland and Erik Harris through the first six days of free agency.

Atlanta finally made a mini-splash Tuesday with running back Mike Davis on a two-year, $5.5 million deal. Getting a power running back was really the only known item on Atlanta’s wish list around league circles, along with maybe a center.

There were some whispers before free agency that the Falcons could shop a few players for cap purposes. That never happened, and a few restructures and cuts got them just barely under the number.

In actuality, what Fontenot and his new front office are doing shouldn’t be that surprising, as reports and Fontenot’s own words indicated they’d be bargain hunting. The team had a terrible cap situation in 2021, and any new regime wasn’t just going to exacerbate that with unruly spending. The cap opens up in a big way in the next two years, and the team right now clearly is just trying to make sensible moves to add good depth to a team that’s, quite frankly, not had that in a long time.

This really might be the best path forward for an organization that has been starved for depth for a long time. Fontenot enjoyed sterling roster depth in New Orleans, and he’s making the same kinds of steps, albeit more affordably and slowly, to try to achieve something like that in Atlanta.

Could the team still surprise us and sign a marquee free agent? Well, let this anecdote from Fowler do some predicting for you.

One veteran NFL agent said Falcons brass talked with his high-end pass-rusher and basically laughed — as in, they’d love to have him, but have no chance.

Expect Atlanta to segue to low-cost defensive depth. There’s not much as far as established talent behind defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones.

Well, that might settle that. If the Falcons are sharing a good laugh with a top pass rushing free agent about having literally no chance to sign him, it’s probably not a good sign that the team could add any high-price player in free agency until 2022 or later.

Now, does that mean they can’t add any players of consequence? Of course not. The team’s addition of running back Mike Davis will be a boost to its rushing attack, and they could still add a stopgap starter on an affordable contract at any point before the draft if they so choose. Depending on your viewpoint and the coaching staff’s reckoning of the roster, they may have already done so with Erik Harris and Fabian Moreau.

The new iteration of the Falcons seems like it’s not trying to rush in to the process, which usually works out for teams starting over. The team isn’t adding any risky contracts and is leaving the real impact to come through the draft. Some big decisions await there, and we might not see too many more moves of consequence set in until that big weekend rolls around. From there, it’s worth watching whether Atlanta intends to contend this season as Arthur Blank and Rich McKay hoped earlier this year, or whether this is the prelude to a more significant sea change for the whole roster.