Fortune favors the bold, unless the bold is sporting an Atlanta Falcons hat. In that case, the bold tend to be on their own, especially if they’re looking for wins.
The 2022 Atlanta Falcons offseason feels like a mystery wrapped in an enigma, with confidence at an all time low. For once, that’s not necessarily in the team, but in trying to predict what Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have up their sleeves for this roster in the coming months.
While it might prove foolhardy to predict a move like trading Matt Ryan, there seem to be any number of moves on the table the Falcons could pursue. The cap space has to come from somewhere this year, and the dramatic roster shaping we’ve all been expecting since last winter could finally be on its way.
The Falcons are bound to make some big moves this offseason. What might those be? Here’s three things I think might happen.
The Falcons trade both Calvin Ridley and Grady Jarrett
This one stings, but it feels like a very realistic scenario for a team that is slowly rebuilding beneath the surface.
A trade for Ridley isn’t a surprise, nor should it be a bold prediction. Rumors have been swirling for some time now about the possibility of Ridley being moved, and this predictions says it happens. Compensation will be tricky, but recent trades of top receivers (Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks) suggests a first-round pick is proper compensation, and that a team would be willing to send it Atlanta’s way. If the Falcons think it’s in their best interest to move him and Ridley’s amenable to a move, this can and likely will happen.
Jarrett also being moved makes this bold. Trading the best player on the defense would send shockwaves through the roster, but with Jarrett a free agent in 2023 and the looming question of whether the team can bring him back after down-to-the-wire negotiations on an extension back in 2019, the team could easily flip him for an early round picks. He’s one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. A team that feels like it’s close would no doubt take a page from the Super Bowl-winning Rams, who traded draft picks for proven assets to in part secure a Lombardi. The Colts trade for DeForest Buckner that netted San Francisco a first feels like the clean break a team would take.
In this scenario, Atlanta nets two additional first-round picks (I’m dreaming here, but never say never) and nets roughly $27.6 million in cap space. The team can continue to rebuild its roster with younger, cheaper talent (they’ll need to with these gaps), while Ridley and Jarrett can get fresh starts elsewhere.
The Falcons don’t re-sign Foye Oluokun and keep Deion Jones
This is a move that would cause real consternation among Falcons fans, but it’s bold simply because of how both of these players performed last year.
Linebacker Foye Oluokun was a bright spot on the Falcons’ defense in 2021, one of the NFL’s most prolific tacklers and easily the Falcons’ best linebacker on the roster. Deion Jones, once considered an elite talent, has cooled in recent years and was a liability at times this past season, with an albatross contract to boot.
While the Falcons are certainly likely to add at linebacker no matter what, it feels entirely possible that the team doesn’t get much trade interest for Jones and doesn’t feel justified and keeping him and Oluokun on the books. The team can’t cut Debo right now without incurring most of his deal in dead money, and a team would have to take a chunk of the money in deal. The team only saves $9 million in a trade.
In this scenario, the team drafts a young linebacker early to compete with Mykal Walker and potentially pair with Jones, who they hope bounces back in 2022. Oluokun heads elsewhere, potentially netting the team a decent comp pick. If Jones doesn’t perform, he very much winds up either cut or traded in 2023, far easier with the way his deal is structured. Losing Oluokun would stink, but as bold as it is to say, it feels possible due to the constraints of Jones’ deal.
The Falcons don’t add a de-facto replacement for Jalen Mayfield
Mayfield became a sour point for Falcons fans this season, his first in the starting lineup. At left guard, he showed some promise, but at other times was a revolving door. Some might feel that replacing Mayfield with a more proven option is all but certain, but not so fast.
The team isn’t likely to just give up on a player like Mayfield this offseason. Adding veteran competition might be a foregone conclusion, but going out and spending massive resources on a guard in free agency or the draft won’t happen, according to this bold stance. Is this bold? Maybe in some corners it is.
In this scenario, the Falcons give Mayfield every chance to hold onto his job against a veteran. If he loses, he likely will either take more time to develop behind the scenes for 2023 or the team will just slot him in as a reserve and a missed pick. Though, dreams of Brandon Scherff or a first-round guard are exaggerated. The team isn’t going to bail on Mayfield now, which means guard likely won’t be a high priority this offseason, sans adding someone to compete more financially reasonable with Mayfield for the spot.