The season is over, and the Falcons have already announced their futures signings. Seventeen of them, in fact.
First off, let’s review what a futures contract is. Essentially, any player who was not on an active roster at the end of the 2021 season is eligible to be signed to one of these deals, which do not count against the roster limit or salary cap until the 2022 league year begins in March. At that point, they’ll count against the 90 man roster limit. In the meantime, they’re on the team’s reserve/futures list and can’t be signed by any teams.
Essentially, this is the Falcons signing players they think might be interesting this spring and summer to deals, In early 2021, before they even had a new general manager and head coach in place, they signed 11 players to deals and some of them wound up sticking around for a long time. The most notable name on that list was Willie Beavers, the reserve tackle who competed for the swing tackle role in training camp and spent the season on the Falcons practice squad, but suffice to say this isn’t the last time we’ll hear most of the names on this list.
The Falcons have already announced their full list, so this tracker was poorly timed. Here it is, with extended profiles below. You’ll note this is essentially the team’s practice squad plus a couple of intriguing players from the CFL.
- DB Cornell Armstrong
- OL Willie Beavers
- OLB Quinton Bell
- LB Jordan Brailford
- LB Dorian Etheridge
- WR Chad Hansen
- RB Caleb Huntley
- DB Luther Kirk
- P Dom Maggio
- OL Ryan Neuzil
- DB Lafayette Pitts
- TE John Raine
- LB Rashad Smith
- DE Nick Thurman
- WR Austin Trammell
- DB DeAundre Alford
- TE Brayden Lenius
CB DeAundre Alford
The most intriguing name the Falcons are likely to sign, Alford is a 24-year-old Canadian Football League all-star who recorded four interceptions in 14 starts this past season, which was his rookie year in the league. Alford grew up in Griffin, Georgia, and per 3 Down Nation was “considered by many to be the most sought after CFL player for NFL teams this off-season.” The 5’11” defensive back will compete for a job in the secondary this coming summer, and given that he’s young and clearly talented, Alford will likely be a player worth watching this summer.
WR/TE Brayden Lenius
Per 3 Down Nation, the Falcons added former CFL wide receiver Brayden Lenius to a futures deal. The 6’5” receiver is coming off a season where he caught 37 passes for 471 yards and four touchdowns, and he’ll compete for a reserve role in Atlanta this spring and summer. Interestingly enough, the Falcons have him listed as a tight end,
RB Caleb Huntley
A summer standout and 2021 undrafted free agent, Huntley is a bruising back who wound up spending most of the season on the practice squad. He should have another opportunity to compete for a reserve role in what the Falcons clearly prefer to be a physical backfield, and I like his chances of sticking this time around unless the team makes a bunch of new additions.
WR Austin Trammell
A Kevin Knight favorite, this 2021 UDFA was a hyper-productive receiver at Rice and brings real speed to the table. He appeared in a couple of games at the end of the season but spent the year on the practice squad, and he’ll head into the spring and summer looking to carve out a role in what right now looks like a bare cupboard at the receiver position. Trammell was also a productive returner in college, and while he’s not likely to move Avery Williams out of the way for that role with the Falcons, it could help him hang on as a reserve option.
WR Chad Hansen
The 6’2”, 26-year-old receiver is one of the more experienced names on this list and a fairly recent addition to the Falcons practice squad. He’s appeared in 20 games with the Jets (2017) and Texans (2020), bringing in 26 catches for 330 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons will see if his size and solid hands can translate into a reserve role in 2022 for a group that, as I mentioned above, needs help.
OL Willie Beavers
The sole 2021 futures signing who is still with the team, Beavers competed to be Atlanta’s swing tackle over the summer and was somewhat surprisingly cut. He’s spent the year on the practice squad and offers experience. He should be in the mix for the swing tackle role again in 2022.
OL Ryan Neuzil
A strong, tenacious guard, Neuzil shone throughout the summer as a 2021 UDFA in Atlanta and has spent the year on the practice squad. The Falcons seem likely to bring back Colby Gossett, who is an exclusive rights free agent, but Neuzil should be in the mix for a reserve role with more seasoning. He’s certainly got the talent.
FB/TE John Raine
The versatile 2021 UDFA dabbled at fullback and tight end this past summer and has been on the practice squad all year long. A quality athlete and blocker, Raine will use his versatility to try to hang on to what’s likely to be a final roster spot, serving as a reserve tight end and potentially Keith Smith’s emergency backup.
DL Nick Thurman
The Texans 2018 undrafted free agent joined the Falcons practice squad late in the season and actually logged significant playing time against the Bills. He’ll compete for a reserve role on what’s likely to be a re-tooled defensive line.
OLB Jordan Brailford
The former Viking and 2019 7th round pick for Washington appeared in five games for Minnesota in 2020. The Falcons are essentially starting over at outside linebacker, so a player like Brailford can probably grab on to a job with a strong summer.
OLB Quinton Bell
A Raiders 2019 7th round pick, Bell has been with the Falcons on the practice squad throughout the season. He put up six sacks in his senior season at Prairie View A&M and is still waiting for an opportunity to rush the passer in the NFL, and like Brailford, he’ll have the chance to compete for a reserve role this year.
ILB Dorian Etheridge
Another summer standout, Etheridge was a 2021 UDFA who made the roster out of camp and then spent part of the year on the practice squad. He was a tackling machine and a special teams contributor in preseason when given the opportunity, and with one of either Deion Jones or Foye Oluokun potentially headed elsewhere, there should be a reserve spot open for him. I’d bet on him getting it.
ILB Rashad Smith
A 2020 undrafted free agent with the Bears, Smith was very productive in college but hasn’t been able to carve out a real role in the NFL to this point. He’ll compete with Etheridge and any new additions for a reserve role in this linebacker group.
CB Cornell Armstrong
Armstrong was the first deal we saw announced, courtesy of his agent Brett Tessler. The 5’11” cornerback and former Dolphins sixth-round pick was on the team’s practice squad at the end of the season and will be competing for a deep reserve role in Atlanta this year if he sticks around.
CB Lafayette Pitts
Pitts has appeared in 40 NFL games, the last coming in 2018, as a defensive back and special teamer. Like Armstrong, he’ll be competing and hoping to hang on to a spot behind A.J. Terrell, Darren Hall, Avery Williams, and anyone else the Falcons add to the position group at corner this spring and summer.
DB Luther Kirk
The 6’2” defensive back got his first regular season action with the Falcons, playing five special teams snaps. He’ll be competing in an unsettled secondary for a deep reserve role.
P Dom Maggio
I overlooked Maggio initially, which is my bad. With Thomas Morstead heading to free agency, Maggio might get another shot this spring and summer to prove he can be Atlanta’s punter. He was the first free agent signed in the Terry Fontenot era, so the team clearly has some kind of belief in his ability.