Terry Fontenot has made it clear he believes in competition, and he believes that you can’t have too much of a good thing at core positions like quarterback and wide receiver. He’s suggested that with his comments and with actions like cutting ties with capable young backup Kurt Benkert. As free agency and the draft draw nearer, he’s underlining that sentiment and bolding it.
In a recent interview with Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated, Fontenot discussed his trip to Clemson to watch Trevor Lawrence throw and how he’s building relationships with Arthur Smith and front office staff like Kyle Smith, who he didn’t know before hiring him away from Washington. The article and the one before it are worth reading for those insights, but I did want to draw your attention to one passage in particular.
And along those lines, it’s worth reiterating what we had in the Thursday column. That, even with plans to go into 2021 with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones aboard, you can expect to see Fontenot and Smith at all the big quarterback pro days. “The question I get a lot is: Hey, would you be willing to draft a quarterback, would you be willing to draft a receiver, despite how strong your receivers are or where you are with Matt Ryan?” Fontenot said. And yes. Yes, yes, yes. We’re definitely going to acquire at both of those positions, and we’re going to work hard to bring in competition. But I hold both those guys in high regard.”
There is nothing strictly new here, but I don’t think you can look past any hints or outright statements of intent from a new front office when you’re in the early stages of learning what they’re about and what they plan to do. The most cynical reading of this statement is “yeah, we’re going to acquire backup quarterbacks and receivers” and this is just a vague way of indicating it could happen through the draft. Given that Julio is 31 and may not be a part of the team’s long-term plans, and given that the Falcons are picking #4 in a draft class with intriguing talent at quarterback and some later round options worthy of development, I think it’s fair to read this as a suggestion that the team will invest in players who can help them in 2022 and beyond. Either way, it’s evident Atlanta won’t be standing pat at either position, with the only question now concerning whether they’re going after reserves or potential long-term starters.
We’re less than 10 days away from the beginning of free agency and a little more than a month and a half away from the draft, so this question will have answers soon enough. The direction the team goes in will tell us a lot about whether Fontenot is the latest cagey general manager who likes to leave the door open on possibilities he doesn’t actually intend to explore, or whether he’s telling us exactly what this team intends to do in March and April.